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Five best practices for delivering a better employee experience to remote workers

We are living through extraordinary times. The necessity to work from home has seen a paradigm shift in the way many organisations now operate. But some companies have embraced home working better than others. Here are five ways to deliver the best experience for your remote working employees.
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The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that is currently sweeping the world has changed overnight the way that we do many things in daily life: from not shaking hands and applying ‘social distancing’ (staying at least 2m apart from other people), to only leaving the house in exceptional circumstances and to massive state intervention in the economy. It is no exaggeration to say that we are living through extraordinary times and suddenly ‘working from home’, for those who are able to, has become an ‘essential’, rather than a ‘nice to have’.

In recent years, many organisations have allowed, and even encouraged, working remotely for some individuals and roles. A UK Government survey in 2015 found that 54% of UK office workers were able to work remotely, with 30% feeling that their productivity increased when they worked away from the office. Forty eight percent of respondents claimed that their employers didn’t allow them to work remotely, with 23% saying that their business didn’t like them doing it, citing reasons such as data privacy and loss of productivity.

Technology such as instant messaging, video and online collaboration and shared network drives make location largely irrelevant, and with many services working over home broadband, it makes remote working cost-effective too.

Working remotely has undoubtedly been on the increase over the last few years. But few companies are fully ready to support a predominantly (or completely) remote workforce. And yet the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new government guidelines and company policies that require exactly that. For organisations looking to implement or expand their remote employee management infrastructure, let me present this quick overview of how to ensure engaging and productive remote work experiences.

  1. Enable Self-Service Support ASAP

A self-service IT support portal is critical for managing a remote workforce. The portal is there to offer self-service support options that reduce the need for human intervention and it’s your best guarantee that all other aspects of your remote infrastructure will be effective. An IT helpdesk portal should provide a full-service facility, albeit with the option of a human expert to default to if the query is slightly more complex, so the portal must be easy to access and easy to use. A well-designed portal provides a one-stop shop for both knowledge and support, reducing – and often eliminating – the time delays inherent in email and phone support. Popular requests such as equipment ordering and setup, network access/permissions, software updates, data recovery, resetting passwords and training requests should all be readily available at the click of a link in the form of a ‘How To’ article or video.

  1. Ensure Employees Have the Tech They Need

Although nearly 25% of today’s workforce already works from home (at least some of the time), many workers being asked to make the transition are not set up to be productive. To enable rapid and seamless access to systems and equipment, create service packages to facilitate ordering. Filter those packages by region, role, and other key criteria. Do they need remote software to access and control one PC from another, either over a local network or via the internet? You could then use PCs that aren’t just in another building, but if necessary, on the other side of the world. That in turn allows you to access files via a network share (e.g. the Z: drive) mapped to a drive on your work computer.  If you use a file hosting service such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Box, you won’t need to have a shared VPN. Most importantly, automate approval flows to get (and keep) your team up and running. For example, you may want to set up a system to send an approval request every time an employee uploads an expense report to a collaborative platform such as SharePoint which allows the approver to respond with one of three options: Accept, Need More Info, or Reject.

  1. Serve Your Employees with Knowledge

The lack of up-to-date information during an emergency situation leads to stress, anxiety and people doing the wrong thing. The situation with COVID-19 is changing daily, so too are government and company guidelines to respond to it. The inability to stay up-to-date with the latest information at work is a major challenge for remote workers at the best of times, but is only compounded during a crisis. Take the time to identify the right knowledge blocks to provide context for remote workers. Bolster your approach to knowledge management by tracking knowledge usage statistics to improve relevance. Your knowledgebase should be a complete self-serve online library about products, services, departments, procedures etc. or any other topic that your staff might need to know. Even blogs created by colleagues can often add to the skillset, expertise and proficiency of others. This is a huge benefit for the organisation if, for example, a member of the team leaves suddenly, because it means there’s less of a gap in knowledge. If someone else has been collaborating with them in real-time, they will hopefully have picked up some of their knowledge, skills, and information.

  1. Leverage Available Resources with Real-time Collaboration

A remote workforce is a distributed workforce, lending itself to different models of support from those traditionally used within a single worksite. Traditional ticket re-assignment is inefficient and breeds uncertainty in a time when anxiety is already running high. Give your employees real-time results by enabling virtual collaboration and team-based support. Instant messaging, chat rooms, video and audio conferencing and real-time collaborative editing of documents enables multiple users to sync their work continuously. There’s nothing worse than receiving a document to work on, making your edits and then finding out that someone else has made their own edits to the original document, creating two documents in circulation with conflicting comments. Real-time collaboration solutions ensure that the information you are working on, is always up-to-date. Remote collaboration tools foster efficiency and human interaction, reducing uncertainty.

  1. Extend Remote Services to HR, Facilities, Security and Beyond

IT is vital to worker productivity, but it is only one of several important service types. Providing a shared services portal leverages your employees’ familiarity with one service environment and extends it to other areas where they need support. Access your staff holiday planner, view employee files, change personal details and manage appraisals remotely in HR; manage CCTV, security systems, provide risk management and control audio systems remotely in facilities management. When an incident occurs, whether it’s a fire, a flood or an intruder, it’s essential that proactive steps can be taken remotely such as notifying the emergency services, activating sprinklers in specific areas, sealing off certain rooms and so on; Make sure your remote workforce gets both the knowledge and support it needs to succeed, whatever their function.

Despite many employers being concerned about the potential lack of productivity in work-at-home environments, many actually find the opposite to be true. Workers can set up a place at home where they are far more comfortable and devoid of distractions. With the right support and systems in place, it is likely to be a much more productive space than the average office with the noise and distractions of other people. Could this be a lesson we all take away from COVID-19? Will we be itching to return to our offices as soon as we can, or will the lockdown experience show many of us that we can not only work from home, but actually thrive from home as well? Even the darkest clouds can have their silver linings.

 

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