WFH can keep the business going, but unfamiliar security, cultural and communication challenges need to be kept in check.
The future workplace has arrived much faster than expected with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result, remote-work (also known as Work From Home, WFH or telecommuting) has become a massive experiment for companies this year. Businesses have been forced to make critical decisions and adapt very quickly to ensure the safety of employees. That means companies must train and empower them for such circumstances, without causing disruptions in operations and processes.
In the midst of providing prompt support to employees and customers, the most critical arrangements that businesses need to have in a continuity plan is the ability to relocate human resources or processes according to their priorities. Without severing business operations, the business continuity manager has to be resourceful to come up with the best workarounds to the situation. However, organizations have been caught off guard by the pandemic and many are unsure about how to initiate their plans and ensuring that they are effective.
According to Gibu Mathew, VP & GM, APAC, Zoho Corporation, a business continuity plan (BCP) that helps a business survive is very much dependent on data back up and availability. As such, smaller businesses, when ready to adopt software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools, can be as agile when transitioning into BCP mode for working remotely.
Technology solutions such as remote team communication and web conferencing tools; time trackers and secure data management software, can unify work communications and collaboration when physical interaction is difficult.
The right mix of software solutions, paired with proper execution, can reduce disruptions and allow business to continue. In addition, these eight tips from Mathew will be of help:
- Secure your data with informed teams
Data security is a top concern when employees are working remotely. Breaches are not only costly; they can also have an impact on customer trust, causing potentially irreversible damage to the company brand and reputation. That is why it is essential for company security policies to take into account the challenges that come with remote work and ensure that teams are aware of the consequences of any misuse of confidential data. Equip teams with robust privacy tools, such as a VPN, a secure browser, an ad blocker, and an anti-virus solution to protect company information. Employees should also be using the latest versions of all software.
Another recommendable practice is adopting two-factor authentication (2FA). Companies are already seeing the increasing need to have an extra layer of security that comes in forms of PINs and security questions. To take it up a notch, teams can also look at software vendors providing multi-factor authentication. Finally, companies should ensure that data backup plans are not insured by companies that intend to monetize your company’s data.
- Make the communication process seamless
In remote-working, communication among teams is crucial. Most shortfalls in collaboration arise from avoidable miscommunications such as non-contextual replies or delayed ones from emails. To achieve a clear and rapid flow of communication across multiple departments, it is best to use platforms where data resides in a central repository system, rather than alternating between multiple products that reside on cloud and on-premise. Instant messaging is also a useful way to support quick decision making.
- Develop a sense of camaraderie across teams
Whether the team is established or newly formed, managers must build their collective spirit to ensure seamless communication and knowledge-sharing. This is especially important when team members are situated in different places. Digital twinning, or a digital replica of assets, enables information to move in real time across functions, allowing for effective implementation of strategies. Leaders should create virtual water cooler moments and encourage teams to share casual conversation and news updates to help everyone connect.
- Maintain team productivity with clear metrics
A common belief is that when team members are working from home, they tend to slack off. To ensure that productivity levels remain high, establish clear, numerical performance metrics (e.g., the number of hours each support representative should work, the number of customer queries that should be resolved, resolution time, and the first-contact resolution rate). As more teams take their work online, the volume of tasks increases, with new ones overwriting older dated documents that are pending clearance. Regular review sessions are now more promptly conducted with push notifications being sent to relevant file managers. These documented areas of progress then become historical data that can be conveniently revisited to improve future workflow set-up.
Designated quality experts can still keep track of customer service interactions, to ensure that service quality does not dip.
- Encourage inclusivity through collaboration
For topics requiring group decisions, a more intuitive platform will break the virtual ice and help solve problems. Younger workers tend to be more familiar with social networks, so having consumer-like technology in the workplace helps keep them motivated. Companies should also encourage teams to publicize their accomplishments and introduce gamification to motivate the group.
- Use technology to manage customer queries and overall customer experience
One of the most critical elements of a BCP is customer service management. To ensure that knowledge is shared across the organization and customer frustration is minimized, implement advanced skills-based routing strategies to reduce unnecessary wait times or re-routing. Deploying a chatbot on the company website can also help reduce the load for teams so they can focus on more critical concerns.
Collaboration can also be useful in customer service. Consider sharing previous customer communications with the customer service team so agents can quickly review cases if a customer makes a repeat call. If needed, customer support training can also be carried out with a video conferencing tool.
- Set up an internal knowledge repository
Setting up a knowledge base using team data management software or a private wiki can help teams find the answers they need immediately to get work done. Allow team members to edit it so they can add questions and answers that they encounter taking customer service calls. This information can also be used to create FAQs and other self-service options on the company website for customers, and maybe a live-chat window.
Additionally, information about all staff regardless of location should also be easily accessible and kept up-to-date to ensure quick and easy communications between employees in an emergency. A simple online form is an easy way to collect information if a proper HR information system is not already in place.
- Foster a sense of self-discipline among remote workers
Remote workers can be more engaged than their on-site colleagues if expectations are properly set and they are made to feel as if they are making a direct contribution to the business. To achieve this level of productivity, employers must establish clear rules, addressing issues such as data protection, productivity, time management, and availability.
Cloud-based technology tools can help with getting employee contact info, viewing employee benefits and services, facilitating employee collaboration and supporting customers. With collaboration made easy, managers can groom passionate team members in an environment of trust and engagement.
As your employees embark on a sustained period of remote work, these eight tips can help company leaders ensure that important business operations continue without disruption.