In light of the coronavirus outbreak, most if not all companies have made the shift towards working remotely for the time being. Whether these arrangements become permanent or not is still up in the air, and is something that can only be ascertained once the pandemic subsides. There is much buzz on the internet (especially over social media) about how employees are getting accustomed to such a scenario; from screenshots of a team gathering through a video conferencing app, to guidelines on how to work across varying time zones, there isn’t a shortage of information and opinions out there.
As many scramble to juggle work responsibilities while adhering to social distancing, a number of crucial questions arise in the wake of such a shift. Is it productive and efficient enough? Will people work less or more than what is required (and monitored) in an otherwise conventional workplace? How about tackling tricky issues that absolutely require face-to-face communication? This has mostly been evident across industries that have functioned traditionally under 9-to-5 routines in brick and mortar offices and have had the potential to move towards remote working – but haven’t, due to a variety of reasons that can range from a lack of technical knowhow to sheer reluctance in providing employees such flexibility.
The tech industry, on the other hand, has long since embraced the remote way of working – and has continued to therefore thrive in its premise. What’s more, there have been no drastic changes to schedules, especially since teams have already been well accustomed to working remotely. As a result, the tech industry is now leading by example, giving other industries a strategy that has been thoroughly tried and tested through the years.
As a software outsourcing company in Sri Lanka, EFutures is also no different, as we have maintained well-functioning remote teams within our organization in order to cater to our overseas clients. These teams are strategically set to also adhere to varying time zones, while giving our employees the convenience of operating directly from home twice a month. In turn, this has provided teams like ours the advantage to continue working even during times of distress. What’s more, remote work also eliminates the need for office space, physical equipment and precious downtime while commuting – making it an effective means of collaborating, executing and delivering.
With our CEO placing high priority in creating flexible remote teams to keep business on as usual, it’s an endeavour that has since been perceived as a competitive edge, as opposed to a far-fetched possibility. With the right tools, techniques and mindset, the right balance can be achieved for a remote work environment that gets the job done while providing flexibility for team members.
If you’re new to this, you can take baby steps to make small changes, and scale as you go. Here are some fundamental tips to help you and your team get started.
First things first: decide on a video conferencing solution that will meet your team’s needs. With numerous SaaS based solutions available online, doing some research on which vendors can offer plans depending on the number of members you will need to host as well as your budget can be a great place to start.
Once you’ve signed up/purchased your subscription, send word out to all your team members by giving them clear instructions on what they need to do in order to attend their virtual meetings. Some solutions might require an app download and manual authorization by an admin to provide entry, while others might be directly accessible via a URL.
In addition to a video conferencing tool, make arrangements for your team to share messages throughout the day. While email can be used for official communication, personal chat apps can create distractions for your team as they may have to sift through personal and work messages. So subscribing to an instant messaging platform that can be used exclusively for work-based communication is ideal.
Similar to relying on SaaS based video conferencing and IM solutions, a plethora of Cloud based digital tools are available for use on a real-time basis, from project management to editorial calendars. What’s more, some of them, especially basic plans are available for free. While this makes collaborating much easier, it also maintains transparency between multiple members and teams via real-time access and updates.
Even though you may be working according to deadlines and many processes may be in the execution phase, it is still vital to connect with your team at least once or twice a week to stay abreast of what everyone is working on, and how. In spite of maintaining clear communication via email and IM channels, verbal communication still provides unprecedented insight towards deliverables, targets, issues and anything else in-between.
In addition to that, regular video meetings also help establish a sense of routine, by keeping everyone focused and involved. While remote work is sensationalized for its aspect of providing flexible work schedules that can be attended to from anywhere, it is also common for team members to experience isolation and loneliness due to the lack of social interaction. Virtual meetings can help alleviate this from happening, by keeping everyone on the loop and providing them with the chance to see and speak to their fellow colleagues on a regular basis.
Many organizations have now made the move to a remote work environment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – and very swiftly, at that. As businesses strive to stay afloat in the midst of social distancing, the technology to communicate and collaborate virtually is now being perceived through an all-new lens, thereby making remote work prevalent in industries other than IT.
For companies that have recently made the move in light of the circumstances, this is still uncharted territory. But doing what’s essential can go a long way in getting teams accustomed to the new style of working – such as regular meetings via video conferencing, and clear, real-time communication via various Cloud based applications.