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Embracing remote working: what we have learnt?

By Simon Michie, Chief Technology officer

It’s been over three weeks since the government advised all businesses to work from home where possible and by now, most of us have adjusted to the switch in working practices. While many organisations have business continuity plans in place, not many will have been prepared for a change of such a magnitude in such a short period of time. However, if there’s one thing we can take away from this, it’s that the technology works.

The way businesses have successfully responded to the COVID-19 crisis simply wouldn’t have been possible even 15 years ago. But technology has evolved and solutions like video conferencing, cloud applications and collaboration platforms like Teams and SharePoint have made the transition smooth and seamless for many.

For CTOs, this is reassuring and a testament to the steps many have taken to accommodate flexible working and future proof technology systems. But if the technology works and organisations are finding disruption minimal, where should organisations be focusing their attention during this period of uncertainty?

A smooth transition

Above and beyond anything else, organisations that have made the transition to this new environment should be focused on looking after the wellbeing of customers and staff. And a key component of this is maintaining the social aspects of teamwork and collaboration in a remote environment.

At Pulsant, like many organisations, we have a cohort who already regularly work from home, so for them this has been business as usual. But for staff who are usually office-based, we have been working hard to ensure they feel comfortable in their new environment. This means not only ensuring that their IT is set up correctly, but also that they know when to take a break and that there are mechanisms to replicate virtually some of the interactions they are used to in an office environment. We’ve done all sorts of work here, from adding capacity to a virtual desktop platform to even building laptops on occasions.

Also, as a data centre provider and host of mission critical systems, some of our team are defined as key workers which means that they continue to work as usual. However, we have reduced access to our data centres and the work undertaken within them to reduce risk.

All-in-all, for us, the transition has been very smooth. But most importantly, our customers are happy – all satisfaction metrics have been maintained or exceeded throughout this change.

Advice for remote working

While for us, the move to home working has been largely pain free, there are some key things we have learnt from our experience and our work with others that can help improve the success of remote working.

There is a tendency in some organisations towards a ‘command and control’ attitude about how technology is used when working remotely, but one of the most important lessons we have learned is you need to be more agile – let people work how they want to work. Other advice that we can share during this uncertain time includes:

  • Think through at a detailed level how employees will want to interact with colleagues and put mechanisms in place to ensure they are properly set up.
  • Consider people’s wellbeing as individuals and try as hard as possible to make them feel part of a team and not lonely at home.
  • Support those employees who have never had never been used to the idea of working at home and perhaps don’t have the experience of maturity to know the best way to do it.
  • Don’t just rely on email. Good communication can be as simple as picking up the phone to speak to someone rather than emailing them so ensure all employees have sufficient phone equipment too.
  • Take the time to evaluate your end point security risk and posture.

A personal perspective

As someone who is used to working from home, the hardest aspect for me as a new starter at Pulsant is not having the chance to meet everyone face-to-face before the lockdown. As a result, I’m making sure I communicate with video calls whenever possible to ensure I can still build those face-to-face relationships that are so important in business.

In my opinion, the necessity to respond to the current COVID-19 crisis offers businesses an opportunity to improve the quality of their communications and collaboration between staff, across all levels. The key to success is regular clear, transparent communication, maintaining an open channel for feedback, and putting in place the right technology and applications to support.

The next challenge for organisations is securing the new perimeter and identifying any end point security risks in an environment when the majority, if not all, of the workforce are now working from home. By using this time to enhance their collaboration and communication channels and improve security, organisations can not only successfully navigate the current period of uncertainty but come out the other side even stronger.

For more information on advice on how best to support sustained remote working download our short guide here

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