Greg Zweig of Ribbon Communications shares his advice on the best tools to help you work from home now and in the future.
While many of us have gotten used to temporarily working remotely in recent months, a number of high-profile companies have said they will continue to allow their employees to work from home even after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
Twitter said employees can work from home “forever” if they are in a role and situation that enables them to, while Shopify plans to extend its remote working policy indefinitely, with CEO Tobias Lütke saying that the days of “office centricity” are now over.
But what does it take to make the transition to a fully remote or hybrid company? Greg Zweig, director of solutions marketing at Ribbon Communications, gives some tips and tools.
What are the most important aspects to consider about remote working after Covid-19 ?
Employers need to really think about how they’re going to engage with the people they’re not seeing on a regular basis. It’s easy to do this when you have an existing set of connections with the people you’ve already been working with.
As more time goes by and organisations add new people or their existing staff change roles, the question of how to integrate everyone into a cohesive, communicative and productive team becomes more problematic.
On a technical level, employers need to keep in mind the infrastructure requirements that will enable successful remote work experiences. This includes considerations such as security, connectivity and document-sharing that make any work environment secure and operational. Not to mention, there’s a ton of IT factors to consider.
Just think about if an employee has an issue with their laptop – you’ll need a remote desktop tool to take control of their machine to try and diagnose the issue. If it’s a serious issue, you’ll need a spare laptop to loan them as IT fixes the issue.
Perhaps the biggest question is: who’s paying for what? In a typical office environment, everything associated with the IT environment is provided, down to the mouse and mouse pad.
Beyond a laptop, employees will need monitors, cables to connect to those monitors and so on. Employers will need to ask: what’s the dividing line when you work from home? Are you going to loan office equipment? Or, if you let people buy their own stuff, what are the policies for that? Are you going to pay for it or expense it?
Either providing the equipment or reimbursing for it is something companies won’t be able to get out of – if an employee’s company didn’t pay for the laptop, why should they let them apply all of their security policies to it or even have access to it?
And if companies don’t provide them with the tools needed to succeed – from hardware to the solutions needed to make remote work possible – that employee will continue to work with poor infrastructure. This will ultimately cost the company, even if they didn’t write a cheque.
Do you think many companies will continue to work remotely in the future?
Yes, I think many companies will continue to work remotely in the future. Numerous studies have shown that employees who work from home are equally, if not more, productive than their office-based colleagues.
Not to mention, Microsoft Teams announced in April that the number of daily active users was 75m, up from 44m in March. This means that 31m new daily active users were added in just over a month, meaning we’ve trained millions and millions of people how to work remotely who may not previously have been. All the barriers of working from home have been broken.
I think we’ll see more employers initiating flexible policies, as well as employees themselves feeling more empowered to tell employers they’ll be working remotely on days they have doctors’ appointments, need to take care of a sick child or even when they want to take advantage of a summer Friday.
What initial steps can employers take?
I think this boils down to two main things: productivity and what kind of culture employers ultimately want to create. If you lead an organisation that needs to be collaborative, you better think through what the impacts are.
By nature, remote work set-ups have the tendency to be less collaborative, just for the simple fact that everyone is spread out in their own workspace. There’s no office kitchen or water cooler to gather around that naturally give way to those face-to-face interactions.
Even open office environments don’t necessarily facilitate more collaboration, because people can just put their headphones in, tune out and zone in on their own work. It takes concerted effort to really create a collaborative culture.
In terms of productivity, managers should schedule some formal one-on-one time to compensate for the informal catch-up at lunch or in the hall. Using a task tool like Asana, Base Camp or Microsoft Teams to track actions can also help teams to manage the flexibility of their workloads if they know what’s expected and when.
Are there any common mistakes that they should be aware of?
In order to facilitate successful remote work scenarios, employers will need to think culturally about how they will retrain managers. There’s currently a gap that needs to be filled, centred around preparing managers to lead a workforce that’s no longer in the office.
Namely, managers must be trained to lead by example so they can instil the same level of engagement in this new environment as they expect in traditional work environments.
A common mistake is that senior leadership members don’t actually practise this level of engagement themselves. For example, if you’re going to have a meeting with your team, you need to have your camera on and participate with the same level of engagement you expect from your team members.
If you don’t establish that example at the top, you risk inadvertently creating a corporate culture you might not want.
What are some online tools that can help employers here?
There is already a slew of tools available that enable voice, video, screensharing, messaging and other activities to keep employees connected, productive and engaged while working remotely.
Some of the most helpful tools and applications for home workers include Dropbox, Google Drive, Carbonite, Backblaze and Evernote.
Remote access tools like LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, TeamViewer and Zoho Assist allow workers to gain secure access to their home or office computer files. MobileDay allows workers to join meetings directly from their calendars with one tap.
And apps like Covve or ContactsPlus allow workers to keep their mobile address book updated with pictures, corporate emails and more. Some other tools are shown in the infographic below.
Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.