Many of those who, pre-pandemic, had never worked from home have now enjoyed the pleasure of rolling out of bed to lead the 9am Teams call in their PJ bottoms topped off with a sharply ironed shirt. Our unique survey has shown us that, in the UK, the majority of employees are embracing the liberation, the flexibility and the overall improvement to their work/life balance. At Silicon Reef we call this Work Happy.
Although flexible working can be fantastic for your business – for employee engagement and well-being, and even keeping your fixed costs in check – there are some challenges that have to be addressed to ensure that you can reap the maximum benefit when supporting a remote workforce.
If you are now in the process of honing your organisational design to support your flexible or ‘at home’ teams for the long-term, there are three key questions you must ask:
One: Are the basics in place?
A fundamental challenge to working productively from home is ensuring that all individuals have the tools they need to do their jobs. As businesses rushed into establishing a work-from-home capability for the masses in the spring of 2020, many found that the technology they had to work with didn’t support their communication, collaboration and organisation needs. Many turned to a mishmash of free or hastily adopted apps and technologies, running the risk of inconsistencies, multiple data sources and – most worryingly – cyber security breaches. In fact, our survey showed a significant 72% of employees did not believe they had the appropriate tech to do their job effectively while working from home following lockdown.
To sustain a performant flexible working culture for the long-term, your employees need efficient, secure, and appropriate tools. These should smooth the path for them to deliver optimal work, keep channels of communication fluid and open, and allow access to all the resources they would have if they were working in the office.
The Microsoft 365 platform – including Teams, Stream, Office and Outlook, among many other apps – can provide just those characteristics. Scalable from small to enterprise in capability, the opportunities for sharing, building relationships and working together through Microsoft 365 are endless. Securely managed in the Microsoft Cloud, Planner and Teams work together to manage a simple to complex series of tasks. Using content-rich cards with files, checklists and labels on Kanban boards your employees can share a view of status and progress regardless of location – or time zone.
Two: Can you collaborate as well from home as you can in person?
Our businesses run on collaboration. Working together to a common project goal, sharing ideas, managing people through a series of tasks – it’s all essential collaboration to help an organisation perform and an individual to feel like part of a team.
With the right tools in place collaborative access can actually be opened up to significantly more individuals across your organisation than ever before, even with a large proportion working from home. Unlimited by location, time zone or even language, virtual working spaces such as Teams can provide a common area for pulling together creativity and organisation, in a measurable, productive, highly effective way.
Teams is unique in the breadth of its scope as a collaboration tool, providing a platform for people across multiple locations (now up to 300) to meet and chat, and for entire teams to view, share and edit documents from across the Office suite. Teams also aids collaboration by providing a view of the core functions of apps such as Microsoft Stream for running live events, and Yammer for community chat and share as well as Forms for pulling together data from across your organisation through polls and questionnaires.
Three: Do your WFH employees still have the opportunity to learn and grow?
For a percentage of individuals, working from home can potentially be isolating and lonely, not least because they don’t feel visible or that they have the support of their manager in developing their career path and continuing their personal development. 28% of the employees we surveyed felt training and development had actually become worse during the pandemic.
Microsoft 365 offers a range of opportunities for mentoring, coaching and training.
Build a training course as a Teams Channel, manage your course documentation – from PowerPoint, Excel or Word – within the channel, separate the content for the instructor from the participants, and create breakout groups as sub-channels so employees can chat amongst themselves or with an instructor. Just as relationships can form in the Holiday Inn on training course coffee breaks, so can connections be made in direct messaging and Teams video calls during Virtual Training.
En masse communication and broader training finds an excellent platform with Stream, where town hall style live video presentations can communicate time-sensitive messaging and keep employees informed and educated wherever they are.
On the other end of the scale MyAnalytics can help inform learnings about personal working styles, visualising – as it does – the way an employee collaborates, with whom and when.
From structured learning and on the job mentoring, to ad hoc communication and understanding of personal daily patterns of behaviour, Microsoft tools are available to keep the information flowing, your business performing, and your employees connected and collaborating regardless of where they are located.