Powering productivity from anywhere
Under the new working model, you need to invest in your tech to keep employees connected
If the events of 2020 had occurred ten years ago, the working world would have likely ground to a halt. Grappling with nascent video-conferencing technology and emailing an endless chain of ever-so-slightly different documents back and forth to each other, chaos and a sense of isolation would have ensued.
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Fortunately, in 2020 we are equipped with tools that have mitigated the disruption inherent in the COVID-19 pandemic. But the hardware and software that allows us to work anywhere is only part of the picture – for employees to successfully work across a distributed network, there are productivity challenges that need to be overcome that weren’t a concern when we were all based in the same office. Keeping these challenges in mind, and using the tools at our disposal in the right way to overcome them, is key to ensuring that remote working is sustainable in the long run.
Many will agree that one of the big costs of the shift to remote working is the loss of the chance encounter. How often did a conversation with a colleague across the desk or a casual chat in the kitchen help you arrive at a great idea that no amount of time staring at a computer screen or into space would have done? This kind of in-office collaboration – and even the simple act of walking over to a colleague’s desk to talk a problem through – has a value for creativity and productivity that is hard to quantify but is often missed when it’s no longer there. And with part of your workforce based at home, even if some employees have returned to the office, these benefits will at best be diminished.
Fortunately, there are various cloud-based collaboration apps available that allow us to share ideas and work closely together regardless of how far apart our desks now are.
For example Microsoft 365, which is available as a monthly add-on from O2 Business, offers a variety of ways in which you can collaborate on projects via the cloud.
With Microsoft mainstays like Word and Excel, you can invite your colleagues to read or directly edit your document, and Microsoft Teams and the cloud-storage app OneDrive also enable collaboration on a single file or document. You can help oversee or edit each other's work, or just use shared documents to throw around ideas. While not quite the same as a chance encounter, this does enable you to create spaces in which a similar collaborative magic can happen. You never know what might emerge.
File sharing is a way to keep employees working together, likely with more productivity than they would have in isolation. And making file sharing easy and organised (unlike those old email chains and their endless variations on the same document) will help to break down the barriers of distance and keep everyone on the same page.
Staying in touch
Of course, a conversation with a colleague while making tea in the kitchen was always about more than the sharing of ideas. It was part of the social side of our work lives, one that was instantly curtailed on the shift to remote working. As we continue under this new model, the reduction in regular interactions – easy to overlook at first – can grow more pronounced, and there are growing concerns that a sense of isolation for those working from home can have a material impact on our productivity.
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While remote working has been linked to increased productivity, there may be a flipside. A study by Names & Faces claims that this productivity may be linked to the existing relationships between colleagues that were formed before the lockdown. 75% of respondents who reported being more productive since working from home said that they knew at least half of their colleagues, while 64% of those who didn’t feel visible within their organisations reported a slump in productivity.
The more isolated workers feel, the more we seem to risk damaging their productivity, but there are various steps you can take to ensure that your employees feel connected to each other wherever they’re based. At the fundamental level, you need to make sure that they are properly connected. It’s important to also invest time in video catch ups where you can see each other’s faces and communicate verbally. Scheduling regular update meetings throughout the week is a good way of keeping in touch and making colleagues feel connected, but it’s also important to make time for tea breaks and other catch ups that aren’t explicitly focussed on work – the kind you would expect to have regularly in an office.
A quick and easy connection can be one of the biggest productivity boosters. According to recent O2 research, one-fifth of the UK’s business has been protected by mobile connectivity since lockdown – a powerful testament to the importance of being able to stay in touch. With O2 Business, you can benefit from the flexible data and contracts you need to stay connected.
Another way to boost productivity for remote workers and keep them feeling engaged is to set clear goals and expectations. For home workers, there is a risk that the working day can bleed into personal time, and so creating clear divisions can help to promote productivity and avoid burnout. You could try using an organisational app to help allocate and prioritise tasks, to ensure that employees are on the same page and understand what their duties are. Keeping everyone working in sync is key to maintain continuity under this new model.
O2 Business offers tariffs and devices that can be adapted to your business’ needs, along with useful collaboration tool add-ons that are a great boon in our new working paradigms. With dedicated account managers to help you find the right solutions, it delivers the connectivity and tools to ensure that your employees feel part of a team and are able to work closely together and achieve peak productivity, wherever they are.
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