Mitigating Covid-19 workforce impact: Improving remote working with collaboration tools

How best to facilitate remote working? This has crept up the enterprise agenda in recent years, thanks to a mixture of factors.

First, organisations have been encouraged – and in certain contexts actively forced- to enable a more flexible approach to working, including remote or even home working. Indeed, for many businesses this is becoming essential to their survival. Second, in a globalised world, it has become increasingly important for professionals to be able to collaborate – whether with colleagues or external partners – with others all over the world. And third, growing awareness of climate change has encouraged organisations to be more thoughtful about business travel, and think twice about facilitating face-to-face meetings involving a drive or flight in situations when virtual meetings work just as well.

The Covid-19 Dynamic

In recent weeks, a whole new dimension has placed remote working front and centre in public consciousness – the global spread of Covid-19. And no, this isn’t an excuse to shoehorn the news agenda into an unrelated technology topic.

According to Cisco, Webex traffic connecting China-based users to their global workplaces has increased by as much as 22 times since the virus outbreak began. The company has also seen an increase of four to five times as many users in Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Clearly, no one can yet know how Covid-19 will spread and what the impact will be. But it does seem clear that remote working is going to become more important than ever before, both to restrict the spread of the virus, and to attempt to limit its economic impact. After all, the closer organisations can get to normal operations, even with staff working from home, the better.

Effective Remote Working

What does effective remote working look like? A few different factors need to come together seamlessly.

First, staff clearly need access to the same tools, applications and data from home as they do in the office. This is achieved with mobile devices, applications and data delivered via the cloud, and company intranets. With these in place, there is no reason why staff shouldn’t have the same desk setup at home as they do in the office.

However, the next element of remote working is considering how to recreate the collaboration and interaction which can take place so easily in an office. Whether popping over to a neighbour’s desk to ask for their advice on a particular problem, to getting a team round a table to review the status of a project, there are myriad different collaborative benefits to working in on-premise. Nowcomm’s CTO James Baly recently looked into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Microsoft Teams to share thoughts on all areas of the collaboration tools and the overall experience and how it can sometimes breakdown. Ideal for setting up groups and team project workspaces and sharing files for example, however some elements such as calling outside of groups were clunky and letting the experience down. How can collaboration tools be facilitated via remote working?

Perhaps one answer is emote working may require more high-definition videoconferencing, especially for those new to remote working who may feel isolated and want to feel more part of the team when working remotely.

Instant messaging platforms and applications which enable people to simultaneously work on the same project, sharing feedback, gathering opinions and inputting together are also a productive and useful way to keep team members on top of projects – however discipline is need to prevent them from becoming a dumping ground. Also, discipline is needed to encourage those who are not as confident to speak out and share their contributions – which some may not be as comfortable doing in such workspaces.

Technology has advanced enormously in recent years, with offerings from many major vendors which can genuinely make remote working as engaging and productive as any kind of face-to-face session. Cisco Webex Teams, for example, facilitates continuous teamwork through video meetings, messaging, file sharing, white boarding and group collaboration – all via a single application. Similar platforms include Microsoft Teams and more basic messaging platforms ideal for startup companies, such as Slack. These web-based services can be used in conjunction with Virtual Private Networks, which provide a secure encryption from the user’s computer to their company IT system. This is important when employees look to access files stored outside of the collaboration tools themselves, or indeed when sharing files outside of your organisation. Some of these considerations are included in our recent Cybersecurity blog discussing how your staff need to be conscious of what they are sharing and whom they give file access to.

It would clearly be foolhardy to make any firm predictions about the spread or impact of Covid-19 at this stage – but it does seem clear that remote working is only going to move higher up the enterprise agenda. Nowcomm can guide your organisation through every aspect of setting up a remote working operation, including the cultural changes that need to take shape and training required to create the right environment to make collaboration technology adoption a success.

Get in touch with us today and start your remote working strategy with award winning Cisco Gold partner, Cloud and Managed Service provider and Master Specialized in Collaboration.

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