With COVID-19 spreading across borders and news headlines, concerns are rising about how to best stop the virus. Given the disease's aggressive nature, WHO has recommended that every citizen do their part to keep things contained―whether it be more diligent hand washing, putting a temporary stop to travel, canceling events or just staying home.
"The bottom line is: we are not at the mercy of this virus." WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus maintains that, with global solidarity, coronavirus could be the first pandemic in history that is successfully controlled through individual caretaking measures.
Business across the globe are racing to do their part. In large part this means adopting a more remote work culture. And we see this happening in more frequency as news of coronavirus grows. Amazon has asked its Seattle employees to work from home. Seattle-based rock band Pearl Jam has postponed its North American tour. The University of Washington will close campus once staff and students leave for spring break, opting to continue classes online for the remainder of the semester. And in Austin, Texas, city health officials have cancelled the popular South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.
Although it appears that remote working is picking up speed, for many businesses this is bound to be more challenging than expected. In a recent webinar, analyst firm Gartner conducted a snap poll of the human resource leaders from Asia/Pacific who attended. Ninety-one percent indicated they'd implemented work from home arrangements in the wake of the coronavirus. However, they also said their two biggest challenges were a lack of technology infrastructure and discomfort from employees in remote working.
Like you, Mitel has been monitoring the evolving impact of the coronavirus and forming a complete understanding of how our customers will be affected. As part of our commitment to help you continue working with consistency and peace of mind, below we've shared some tips and guidelines that we use to make working from home more comfortable and effective:
Choose the right tools
An effective remote working setup is one that is just as good as at the office. And that requires the right combination of tools and processes. There's no one-trick pony; some days video is what you need and other times chat and file sharing are more productive. The right setup for remote working will give you an array of options along with a good connection to your team and contacts. Let's take a look at a combination that we find works well:
All too often, employees working from home find with dismay that the documents or information they really needed are saved on the computer back at the office. It's one of the most common challenges of working remotely. Yet when documents are stored in the cloud, employees can access them from any location. And it's not just documents that are easily accessible. With the cloud, remote workers can also tap into the organization's vast store of information, from team calendars and workspaces to a colleague's spreadsheet and the corporate directory.
The right meeting tool can transform remote interactions into natural collaborations. MiTeam Meetings, for example, functions seamlessly so it feels like everyone's working in the same room. One-click video calls allow for ad hoc, face-to-face conversations. You can all edit the same documents, stay updated on tasks, share screens and collaborate in real time.
An all-in-one workspace
Perhaps the most valuable tool for remote working is one that lets you access voice, video, messaging, presence, audio conferencing, mobility and team collaboration from a single application. With a communications experience that's consistent whether you're at the office, mobile or at home, it doesn't matter were you work. Connecting and collaborating becomes just as effortless and seamless.
Adjusting to remote working is simpler with this kind of persistent workspace. Capabilities like web chat and file sharing are always-on, so you can collaborate in real time. Team members can review, update and expand on project information. You can access project timelines, meeting notes, task lists and ad hoc project comments. Ultimately, you everything you need to interact and get work done without interruption.
Build the remote work culture
Although remote working isn't new, you and your team may not be prepared to work from home for longer stretches of time―possibly even weeks or months. Here are three ways you can help them adapt more quickly.
Help everyone get the proper setup
Having the right collaboration tool is the first step. It's a good idea to survey employees and understand more about their home offices and whether their work environment is set up properly. For example, do they have a separate space to work away from the rest of the household? Is the Wi-Fi speed adequate for connecting via video or downloading large documents? The survey results will help you make appropriate recommendations for setting up home offices as well as understand what gaps you might need to fill.
Set guidelines for communication
In the office, managers have an easier time monitoring employee activity. For example, they know when a member of their team steps away from their desk to get a cup of coffee. But in a remote work scenario, if a manager can't reach their employee she may jump to the conclusion that the work isn't getting done.
Remote work requires a certain degree of trust, and transparency helps build trust. Set expectations with clear communication guidelines. For instance, ask employees to set status messages each time they step away from their desk or agree on what comprises an adequate response time.
Practice ahead of a pandemic
The time to start building a remote working culture is now, before a pandemic infects your operations. Train your employees to work remotely by sending them home to work for a week or more. A mandated trial will allow you to work out the kinks, ensuring that your business will continue operating smoothly even during a crisis.
There's another benefit of adopting a work-at-home work culture: you'll be prepared for a future that is likely to involve a significant portion of the workforce working remotely. As Gartner points out, demand for remote working will increase as Generation Z enters the workforce.
You will need to build a culture and infrastructure that allows employees to communicate and collaborate effortlessly as if they're in the same room, even if they are miles or time zones apart. For this reason implementing a work-from-home model serves two purposes: it enhances your ability to weather a pandemic and it paves the way for the workforce of the future.