Coronavirus has led to a huge rise in remote working, with companies big and small jumping into action to enable their teams to work from home. Indeed, in the past few weeks at Dragon IS, we’ve been working flat-out to support customers to do just that.
For businesses who were already geared up for flexible working, it’s been a simple enough transition; a few enhancements made to scale-up their remote capabilities, perhaps some extra laptops and training provided for team members, and they were away.
For others, who hadn’t yet acted on implementing flexible working – or who had actively discounted it as an option for their business – it’s been a steeper learning curve. Many have looked for a temporary solution or workaround to get them through the recent months. For example, having staff members go into the office alone on rota.
The problem is – life as we know it is unlikely to return to ‘normal’ any time soon.
There will be a new normal and the need and demand for remote working capabilities will just keep growing. So, while a temporary fix may be an answer today, it’s nothing more than a sticking plaster.
Finding a sustainable, long term solution to support flexible working is therefore crucial for businesses and now is the time to do so. This goes hand in hand with the digitalisation of working practices and there is already a huge shift underway in this respect, particularly among professional services firms but also within government (Making Tax Digital being just one example).
What is clear is that the need is there, the technology is there to enable it and flexibility is increasingly an expectation of the workforce.
So, what is holding bosses back from embracing remote working?
1 – Lack of trust in employees
One of the biggest issues raised about remote working is: ‘But how can I ensure that employees are working when they’re at home?’. For example, we are regularly asked what type of monitoring tools are available to track staff members’ activity, such as when they log on and off. But that is not the answer.
Flexible working calls for a different style of management. Instead of trying to police everybody, remote working should be about monitoring productivity based on outcomes then having open conversations to uncover any issues and better support employees to overcome them. This may mean providing additional tools or training where needed.
2 – Fears over cyber security
Another issue often raised by businesses – especially those who hold valuable and confidential data – is the safety of remote working. There can be some mistrust for new technologies, especially from teams who have traditionally relied on paper documents.
Cybersecurity best practice should rightly be a top priority. That’s why it’s vital to work with experienced IT consultants, who can ensure such systems are implemented and used in the most efficient and secure way. One of the main benefits of outsourcing this function is that it gives you access to teams who are always across the latest threats and how to combat them.
3 – Currently rely on paper records
For companies who currently rely on paper records, the process of digitalisation to enable remote working may seem like a daunting task. In the long run though, moving to digital records will be far quicker and more efficient, not to mention government agencies such as HMRC who are pushing forward mandatory digitalisation.
In these instances, it is better to undertake the transition over time. You do not need to copy every document right away. Instead, begin by implementing tools and processes to start making all new documents digital. Over time, the move from paper to digital will then happen. The paper records can still be kept and accessed as needed, their use naturally decreasing in time.
4 – Don’t want to lose the benefit of collaboration
Flexible working does not have to mean making a complete shift to homebased working, but it does mean allowing a greater amount of time out of the office.
One thing the current crisis has proven is that online collaboration tools can provide a perfect middle ground, when face-to-face communication is not possible. We expect to see such tools increasingly replacing voice calls in the future.
The process of implementing remote working
Another misconception is that introducing remote working will be a long and costly process. In reality, switching to remote working is often far easier to do than most businesses expect. Many companies already have technology in place that can support the transition, they just need to know how to use it and what it is capable of.
At Dragon IS, we act as trusted advisors, supporting customers to implement remote working in the following way:
Step 1 – Assess
We will assess your existing technology to understand what you have and what it can do, before making recommendations for the best and most cost-efficient way to move forward.
Step 2 – Enable
We will enable your employees to control their office PC remotely, giving them access to all their systems, files and applications, in exactly the same way as they would in the office.
Step 3 – Secure
We will ensure all systems are robust and secure. The PC being connected to will be vetted and antivirus and other safety measures extended to all new machines, such as any laptops being used remotely.
Step 4 – Educate
Additionally, our security procedures include looking at how individuals are connecting remotely and how safe their internet access is. We will educate and train employees where needed and add all safeguards necessary.
Step 5 – Design
We will help to ensure the safety of the environment and business continuity, by designing a remote working system that is as simple as possible for employees to access and use.
Step 6 – Evolve
On an ongoing basis we will then support you by actively maintaining your IT system, to ensure you are always protected from the latest threats and any potential downtime is minimised.
Step 7 – Consult
As trusted consultants, we will also work with you to enhance and develop your IT systems as your business evolves, offering expert recommendations that support your growth ambitions and changing needs.
Remote working may have been pushed into the spotlight as a result of the current pandemic, but it is something that has been steadily growing in popularity in recent years.
70 percent of workers feel that offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them and it can also be beneficial for increasing employee retention rates, according to research by Gartner.
With businesses now thinking about their COVID-19 recovery plans and looking to build sustainable working practices that will be robust, whatever the future may hold, remote working is rightly on the agenda.