Is Working Remotely an Effective Tool?

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As the World battles with COVID-19, many organisations are working hard to ensure that their operations continue to function amidst all the chaos.  I have seen and heard many topics discussed over the last few months, but by far the most popular has been “Working Remotely”.  This week Trinidad confirmed two (2) cases of the COVID-19 virus on our shores and this seemed to immediately trigger a panic where some organisations are now working hard to put the necessary technology and procedures in place to allow their staff to work from home where applicable.  I have personally taken a few calls from my customers’ where I was asked to advise on the best strategy and subsequently provide the necessary assistance with the implementation of the recommended way forward.  During a few of our interactions there seemed to be an underlying concern for whether the transition from working in the office to remote work will yield effective results.  I wanted to focus this article on addressing this concern; Is Working Remotely an Effective Tool?

Is Working Remotely an Effective Tool?

As a company, we at BLU Networks Consultancy Limited have a culture where remote work is a huge part of our day to day operations. To us, the office is more of a place where work can be done rather than a place where we must come to be productive. Is Working Remotely an Effective Tool? To us, the answer is a resounding YES.  I would go further to say that it may not be the same for everyone.  Once managed properly, working remotely can be in some cases more productive than physically working from the office.  Our experience has shown that for optimum effectiveness to be realised, the following factors / guidelines should be considered.

1. Working Remotely Requires a Shift in Mindset – in my opinion, our culture is such that productivity can only be achieved by using people physically deployed in an office for a pre-defined period.  Though this may not be the view of everyone, let’s face it; the majority of our organisations, policies, and procedures are set up in support of this approach.  Our first recommendation as you transition to remote work is to shift your mindsetWe must shift our focus to one of results, making the location irrelevant in this equation.  

2. Have a Plan – this should go without saying, but you must go into your remote workday having worked out exactly what you are going to do and when.  A proper plan will help reduce the distractions that may come with being away from the office (in this case home).  This has helped us tremendously.  A suggestion is to operate like you were in the office; for example, sticking to your calendar /schedule.

3. Set Clear Expectations – working from home for some people may bring with it a difference in the way we can respond.  Let’s take the present case in point; schools are out for the next week.  Many parents will need to be at home with their kids.  This situation can present additional distractions that may even be visible to your customer, if not managed properly.  Life happens, and we recommend that you set clear expectations with your customer or whomever you need to work / interact with while working from home.  I work from home and other remote locations a lot, I am always transparent with my customers / colleagues by setting expectations for response times, potential background noises, etc.  Many customers will understand, the key is to let them know.

4. Use Video Where Possible – remote work can include situations where you need to convene conference calls, webinars or some sort of remote meeting using technology.  We need to understand that there is nothing to replace the effectiveness of a face to face conversation.  We have many options for remote meetings that contain video capability; we will always recommend using video when possible.  Our organisation uses Microsoft Teams as our remote productivity solution and we utilise video as a default.   Many of the perceived issues with remote working can be addressed by using video.  In our experience, video drastically increases the productivity of a remote meeting.  This recommendation also comes from industry leaders like Microsoft, Cisco, etc.

5. Stay Focused – this recommendation should not be confused with item 2 above (have a plan). This speaks to your ability to stay committed and execute your plan while working remotely.  It’s very common to work an entire day away from the office and not be as productive as you should be.  My experience has shown that this often has to do with focus and creating an environment that is conducive to productivity.  Do whatever you need to keep your mind on the critical activities at hand.  

6. Use Technology – productivity away from the office is something that has been tried and tested.  Many solutions support remote work and collaboration; I would recommend that your organisations look for a solution that will support optimum productivity. By optimum productivity, I am referring to more than just remote conferencing, video, remote access, etc.  I am referring to the ability to share files and documents as part of the solution.  It increases productivity and creates more context when all items required for a meeting or engagement are available even remotely.  The solution that we use for this end-to-end productivity is Microsoft Teams, integrated with Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft OneDrive.  This gives us the ability to create a virtual office space and have access to all files, folders, etc.  I have seen many instances where having to go to many different and isolated platforms when trying to work / meet remotely severely affects productivity.  This can be avoided by selecting the right technology and using it to its full capability.

The above recommendations have helped us over the last 8 years.  We have had many situations where we transitioned from different products / solutions because it did not support what we needed as an organisation.  This may happen to you as you make your way into the realm of remote work and productivity.  The key for us was the fact that we were guided by the above recommendations and our overall company strategy.  Once you have guidance and a goal, you will have a better idea of what technology is required.  I hope this helps as you transition your organisation and work towards doing your part in fighting the COVOD-19 situation.  I will post a subsequent article providing more specifics on the tools that we use at BLU Networks and examples of how it has impacted our productivity.

Give us a call at 1(868)2231576 or email me at sheldon.paul@blunetworks-tt.com if you need to understand more about options to move your organisation to support remote work / productivity.  We are here to help.

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