Jun 24, 2020

Picking the right tools for remote collaboration

Workplace 5 min read last updated on: Jul 02, 2020

With a boom in remote working technologies, it can be difficult to know which tech is best suited to your business. Examining the issues facing you and your staff is a good place to start.

Regardless of the sector or size of an organisation, the coronavirus pandemic means organisations will have to find new ways of collaborating and working at a distance. While there’s no shortage of remote working technology to aid this, knowing which tools will be right for your workplace can be difficult. Luckily, there are options available to help ease the pressure of even the most significant business challenges.

1. Managing projects working from home

In the current climate, even the most diligent employees could find themselves feeling more distracted than usual. For some, working remotely could be a welcome break from the interruptions of the open office. For others, a lack of structure, caring responsibilities and financial pressures mean staying on top of workloads can be a challenge. Meanwhile, for senior employees and managers of large organizations, ensuring tasks are ticking along and communicating across departments can make larger projects more difficult without a physical workplace.

Managing projects with remote working technology might look different for everyone. For some, this could mean setting clear objectives and asking employees to log tasks. Increased flexibility over tasks for those with children could also be helpful.

Thankfully, there’s a number of different project management software tools available, both cost effective and have been successfully used by both public and private-sector employers alike. These technologies can give workers the autonomy to plan and track tasks, and enable employers to create daily check-ins that are both clear and non-intrusive.

2. Scalability and long-term growth

As organizations try to navigate how to stay afloat during the pandemic, scaling and growing businesses can feel overwhelming. However, innovative businesses and startups within the hospitality industry have shown that with the right remote working technology, it’s still possible to thrive.

The World Economic Forum has stressed companies that adopt cloud computing will not buckle under the pressure of the crisis. While larger supermarkets and food retailers have struggled with high demand and long queues of disgruntled customers, local restaurants and food startups have kept ahead through reinventing themselves as food outlets. For smaller restaurants trying to keep on top of long orders and rapidly changing business models, cloud computing has proved vital.

Once, to operate restaurant management software, restaurants were required to have servers on the premises to capture data, process transactions and measure performance. Cloud-based systems ensure that not only are these processes better aligned, but can also be beneficial for cash flow, as businesses pay for software as a service, or SaaS. This means small businesses can quickly scale up or down. Companies can add users, integrations and new features without the hassle of lengthy implantation processes or visits from technicians.

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3. Tackling isolation in remote teams

Protecting the emotional health of a remote workforce has been a concern for organizations long before the outbreak. Good employers recognize both the negative impact that loneliness and isolation can have on engagement and productivity, and that it can be prevented.

A study of 2,500 remote workers by Buffer found loneliness was the second biggest challenge for remote workers, affecting almost a fifth (19 per cent). Even sectors like IT, where a large proportion of employees have always worked remotely voluntarily, have recognized the need to keep teams motivated and engaged through regular contact.

Of course, video conferencing has helped with the logistical elements of carrying on with regular team meetings and providing quick feedback. But it could be just as important to allow employees to use these tools for more casual chats, especially for employees who are living alone and missing out on conversations with colleagues in the communal office kitchen.

The key to making remote working technology work, to better connect employees, is to find software that matches your company culture. If your business has a fun, social element, find technology with which employees can find it easy to chat as well as share fun images and videos. Employees who are finding new working from home arrangements are affecting their mental health could also be directed towards organizations offering virtual counselling and resources.

4. Overwork and e-presenteeism

While employees are often found to be more productive when working away from the office, they can also be more susceptible to overwork, bringing a host of business challenges. A recent study by LinkedIn revealed human resources professionals think working from home is encouraging e-presenteeism, which means they feel they should be online as much as possible. On average, those working from home were found to put in an extra 28 hours a month, equivalent to four extra working days.

Encouraging remote teams to turn off their notifications for messaging platforms outside working hours can help to put boundaries in place, but it can also be useful to empower employees to keep track of how they’re spending their time. Automatic time-tracking software doesn’t require any manual entry and detects when employees might be working excessively.

This sort of remote working technology can dig into working and non-working hours to find out how long you’re spending on specific tasks, such as meetings, on apps or on emails. It can also send employees alerts when they’re spending a significant amount of time working on evenings and weekends, and help employees to develop better habits.

5. Cybersecurity

An increase in email scams, phishing and the potential for third parties to spy on confidential meetings are just some of the risks associated with remote working. These can be all the harder to monitor when remote workers are using personal devices.

If organizations haven’t already done so, part of the solution towards this is educating employees about security breaches. Both employees and IT departments should be taught to be wary of unexpected queries and calls from people asking for passwords, codes or requesting virtual meetings.

For more advanced attacks, it can be difficult to know what to look for. The best way to stay ahead of cyberattackers is to implement technology that can spot patterns and quantify risks. Artificial intelligence is continually evolving to spot threats and risky behaviour online. While IT workers might be in high demand, autonomous response technology can intervene by stopping malicious activity in its tracks.

About this article

Rachel Muller- Heyndyk wrote this article for The Connected Business report.
Barco partnered with Raconteur and The Times on a trending report on how the pandemic forces business to find new ways to empower employees and stay connected with customers.

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