The COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on the world economy is unprecedented. There has not been an event so disruptive and devastating to people’s lives and to businesses, since World War II.While many non-essential businesses have had to close due to their inability to respect physical distancing rules, others have had to adapt to new ways of working. Businesses that previously did not have a work-from-home policy have had to rapidly implement one if they wished to remain in business and try to stay profitable.
For many businesses, this hurried transition to remote working proved incredibly difficult. An employee, for example, who has never worked from home before would probably take a while to adapt under normal circumstances. When you add in the distractions of children in the house, the stress of a virus circulating, and anxiety from possible financial implications, it can prove to be a very challenging experience. Managers have suddenly found themselves managing a distributed team rather than an on-site team which, too, is likely something many have never experienced before.
Like anything new, there are hurdles to overcome at first, but as the world settles into a temporary new normal, those challenges should ease as a working rhythm is found.
Embracing technology to maintain, or even increase your employees’ productivity as they work from their own corners of the world during this crisis can help ensure your business makes it out of the global coronavirus pandemic as unscathed as possible. It’s been reported, however, 41% of employees work for companies that don’t provide remote communication tools. This is not only inefficient and unproductive, but can open your company up to security risks.
How Technology Powers Productivity for Remote Employees
“You cannot mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their best.” – Steve Jobs
Remote teams need robust, reliable tools to be successful. Providing your workforce with the tools they need to do their job to the best of their ability is the only way to help them be as productive as they can when they are working remotely with no direct supervision. The rest is up to them.
Technology powers productivity in many ways for remote employees, including:
- Enhanced collaboration
In most businesses today, productivity is not possible without collaboration. When everyone is working in the same office, collaboration happens in a multitude of ways, from formal meetings, to spontaneous water cooler chats, to quick conversations in the hallway. Rarely do people work in silos where no collaboration with other team members is needed. However, when working remotely, it’s not quite as easy as asking the person in the neighboring cubicle a question. Technology is a key driver of effective collaboration. Thankfully, the tools we have access to have all but eliminated the days of accidentally saving over someone’s edits or losing track of the latest file version! Documents can be worked on simultaneously by different users, with all edits saved. Users can see who is working on a document at the same time as them. Past edits can be reverted to if needed. Technology has made collaboration easier than ever before!
- Better communication
The lack of human interaction is often the hardest part of remote working. It takes a more proactive approach to keep in touch and to build upon relationships with coworkers. Tools that include chat and video conferencing can be incredibly motivating, and sometimes a quick video conference with a co-worker is all that is needed to lift one’s spirits.Additionally, project management tools help teams communicate while working more effectively on their own time and help managers handle project prioritization and documentation.
- More accurate time-tracking
Time-tracking tools allow companies to understand how much time various projects take, determine profitability, and invoice clients accurately. Many of the tools can track the time your remote team spends on different projects and clients in the background, without interrupting them, recording all active web and desktop activity – as well as mobile calls and GPS location – using AI to translate it all into fully accurate time sheets. It can be a very valuable tool to help remote employees master their own productive performance by revealing exactly how they use their time, how long different tasks take, where they get distracted, and where their process can be improved. This might prove to be a bit excessive for lots of businesses, but for those that rely on accurate time tracking for client billings, it’s critical.
- Improved organization
Technology allows for instant access to business information and data. Files can be shared quickly and securely, especially if an electronic document management system is already in place. No more rummaging through overstuffed filing cabinets. The documents you need are usually no more than a few clicks away.A prime example of how technology powers productivity is when it’s applied to the sales process. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution like Salesforce or Zoho can save your sales team vast amounts of time when it comes to following up with leads, communicating with existing customers, and tracking product sales—all from one cloud-based location. Not only will a CRM increase consistency in your customer relations, it will also increase the productivity and profitability of your salesforce through better organized data and information. Check out this blog about choosing the right CRM for your business: https://www.amaxra.com/blog/what-crm-is-best-for-your-business
- Increased automation
Technology means many previously manual tasks can be automated, and the more you can automate and systemize your business processes and the daily workflow of your employees, the more your workforce’s productivity is going to increase. Marketing emails, social posting, sales follow-ups can all be automated, taking those tasks away from the daily tasks of employees. Automation is already heavily used in most hiring processes to drastically cut down on manual tasks.
Tools To Keep Your Employees Productive
If your business currently uses the Office 365 secure cloud-powered solution, then you have all the tools needed to enable everyone to work from home. Office 365 is an incredibly powerful suite of tools that can be used to help a distributed team match the efficiency of an on-site team, and while the technologies can work as standalone solutions, they have been designed to be used as a suite.
Microsoft Teams: The Gold Standard for Remote Team Productivity
Microsoft Teams is one of the best apps for productivity in the entire suite, providing collaboration tools for every type of team. It has quickly evolved from a business-oriented chat to the premier hub for teamwork, providing employees with ultra-secure, real-time communication and collaboration methods, and acting as a convenient digital location for all the information, documents, and communication needed to stay productive.
- Microsoft teams allow for various types of communication so you can choose which would be the most effective, whether that’s a phone call, an instant message, a conference session, or video chat.
- The integration of Microsoft Teams with Outlook email enables remote workers to either schedule online meetings in advance or to instantly start meetings with full video conferencing with just one click. Teams also makes real-time collaboration easy by enabling anyone on the video conference to share their screen. Conducting meetings as video conferences rather than simply phone calls is another way to keep employees feeling connected to their co-workers, and increase their productivity levels.
- Microsoft is adding an integration feature that will allow you to share an email you receive in Outlook with a team in Teams.
- Microsoft Teams is also strongly connected with SharePoint, another app in the Office 365 suite. SharePoint is a central repository of information, a file storage and sharing product designed to help teams store, find, and seamlessly collaborate on files. SharePoint makes it easy for employees to harness collective knowledge, and to stay engaged, informed, and productive, wherever they are working. Every time you create a new team in Teams, you’re also creating a new Office 365 Group, Calendar, Planner, and SharePoint team site. For every channel you create in Teams, a folder within a SharePoint document library is automatically created for you.
Microsoft Teams is an incredibly powerful application, and is only going to increase in popularity and usage as remote working becomes more common, even after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Check out this blog to see what’s new in Teams.
The right technology can make or break your remote team. Employees need the right tools to help them be productive and succeed. Office 365 is helping teams cope with the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s such a powerful collaboration tool that this new way of working may continue for many businesses long after the pandemic has passed. However, it’s important to remember that not every new piece of productivity technology is going to fit perfectly in your already existing workflow or business culture. Choose the right tools that are going to make your employees more productive, not just the newest tool on the market.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:
- Enabling remote work is easier than ever (and good for your business)
- Working from home? These tips help you to thrive on your next video conference
- What’s new in Microsoft Teams?
Feedback and comments are always welcome. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also connect with me via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/jpodonnell2.
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