In a recently resurfaced post from Microsoft of a similar name (read it here
, credit Microsoft/Jess Crandon) it is claimed that 47% of UK businesses don’t encourage any form of flexible working, and yet 70% of UK workers say it makes a job more attractive… That’s a huge disparity, and surely unsustainable? In reality, it leads to the most progressive and trusting organisations with the most flexible cultures and standards (flexible doesn’t mean low) attracting the best talent. The best talent in turn creates greater opportunity, efficiencies and innovations… which all lead to growth, right? Right.
So what does that mean – well, it means that you have to adapt or die… this has always been the case; just look to Darwin’s ‘On The Origin of Species
’ from 1859, where he famously stated ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’. Quite simply, if you don’t innovate, you won’t move forward.
So, if we are to change this dynamic, and we are to help the 47% see that remote working is possible, we must first look at the reason’s businesses cite for not wanting to offer remote working. These include:
- Company culture: “it’s hard to build a culture if your employees aren’t all sat in the same room as you. And if you don’t bump into each in the kitchen, or sit together during meetings, will you build the same kind of relationship as in-house employees do?”
- Communication: “what if you need to ask a quick question? If someone isn’t sat near you, it can take a whole lot longer. And what if they don’t answer their phone or reply to your email? You might not be able to complete your work on time.”
- Reliability: “trust is hard to earn, and if you don’t see someone every day, how do you know that they’ll produce a high quality of work for you? If someone isn’t coming into the office every day, could they just disappear without a trace, and stop answering your emails?”
- Management and accountability: “managing a team in-house can be hard enough, but when you add remote workers to the mix, things get even more complex. Similarly, if people don’t feel they’re ‘part’ of your company, are they going to hold themselves accountable for their work?”
- Productivity: “when someone’s working from home, you have very little insight into what they’re doing all day. You don’t know how hard they’re working, how long they’re working for, and whether they’re getting as much achieved as in-house employees are.”
- Security: “from lost laptops to hacked connectivity, security risks increase exponentially when you have remote workers.”
On the face of it, apparently well-founded concerns… other than the constant reference to emails – truly the scourge of productivity. But… we don’t live in a world where the only form of communication is via email, phone or face to face. we have ways to track and remotely secure laptops and smartphones. Connectivity is faster and more ubiquitous (4G/5G/Wi-Fi) and there are productivity apps aplenty, each professing to link remote teams and simplify collaboration. So, what’s stemming the flood of remote working businesses?
It’s down to traditional workplaces, where it’s perceived that this new way of working doesn’t fit with the traditional approach. That sounds very much like ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ – but it is broken, you will not attract the best talent with this mindset. Darwin nailed it for sure.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
The truth is, remote working is not for everyone – and that’s a good thing, but it works very well for others, and as always, a balance is typically the right approach. But don’t just look to what remote working does for those that opt-in, look at how it effects your office – do you need as much space? Think about productivity, morale, lack of distractions and best of all, happier and more fulfilled employees. Bury your head as deep as you like in the proverbial sand, but happier and more fulfilled employees will 100% deliver more value; they’ll change jobs less and you’ll have a better business as a result, and probably a clearer conscience too.
But, it’s not just a case of changing the way you think. That wouldn’t work either. Your approach needs to be systematic, and it’s the first step on the Digital Transformation journey. So, let’s take a look at the ways to combat the negative sentiments and comments against remote working outlined earlier.
First – Strategy.
What do you hope to achieve by going through Digital Transformation? More on the key steps your strategy towards a Digital Workplace should contain here
Second – Human Beings, and everything directly associated – People, Culture, Trust, Talent, Recruitment, Values. Studies show that around 50% of the entire working population want flexibility in their working hours or location, so it’s not a millennial thing before any of you jump on that old bandwagon. Recruit the right people, incentivise them well – and that’s not all about salary and pool tables – give them the tools to do their jobs and then… trust them.
Third – Tools. It’s poor systems and processes, or in some cases, the total lack of any systems and processes that lead to burn-out, loss of motivation, lack of communication, poor engagement, increased stress, sickness, mistrust, poor performance and a general dystopian dizziness in the workplace that is the catalyst for high employee churn and poor business performance. Seriously, the number of businesses that struggle because people are not happy is astounding. It creates a negative environment where people say things like ‘we can’t do remote working here because barely anything gets done as it is, so imagine if everyone was just sat at home’ – that is entirely nuts.
The First and Second points, Strategy and People, are relatively easy to address, to deliver is another matter and frankly, your business. However, both need to be right for your organisation and workplace. What’s your vision? Where do you want to get to compared to where you are now? It may seem counter-intuitive to step back and take an objective view – literally just ask yourself ‘are my employees happy?’ or better still, ask them! Remove barriers, get people talking, and be prepared to overhaul your approach, and your business will transform. You will lose people along the way, because that’s what happens with change, but follow our steps outlined here
, engage key individuals, give them the responsibility and ensure objectives are clear. Provided you have hired right in the first place, each one will impress you in some way you never thought possible.
The Third point, Tools – that’s also pretty easy, but it takes conviction and a detailed understanding of the First and Second points. Let’s look at the earlier concerns and objections around remote working, but this time, lets look at how to fuel and empower people to eradicate those concerns. They go a little like this –
- Company culture: “we’ve hired the right people, and they know we trust them to get the job done with the tools we have provided them, so we don’t care where they are, because we know they are doing their job. Our systems manage the metrics we manage business performance by and everyone knows our customers’ requirements because our vision and culture are inherent in everything we are; our people, our systems and our customers”
Tools: CRM, Microsoft Yammer, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams
- Communication: “we find communication has actually improved as a result of remote working. Because our systems are more transparent with automated processes and workflows which remove laborious admin, everyone has more time to collaborate, so we deliver more projects in the same time and with less stress. Everyone knows what each other’s role and responsibilities are, and by using the tools we have via desktop or mobile device, we can quickly see who is online and ask relevant questions, regardless of their location. It cuts down on banal chat as well, which is just distracting”
Tools: Oxygen Collaborative Digital Workplace, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams
- Reliability: “with the presence tools and the shared calendars we all have access to now, we can see who is where and also when they are online and their location or status – knowing a colleague is on a call or in a meeting means we can wait to ask questions until they are free – they don’t return to a barrage of stacked up emails which increases stress, and we don’t worry about where they are because we can see at a glance anyway”
Tools: Hiring the right people in the first place, and Microsoft Presence, inherent throughout Office 365 and Oxygen applications
- Management and accountability: “because of the visibility across our intranet of our sales leagues and performance tables, then everyone can see at a glance who is doing what, who is making their mark and the successes and wins that as-a-whole-company we are achieving. Not only has this made managements’ jobs easier, but because all data is now at their fingertips, automatically captured by our CRM as the deals are closed and projects are delivered, as well as support desk successes, then they no longer have to chase their teams on a daily basis. Morale is higher because people are coached and not bashed over the head now and the system treats everyone equally regardless of their reporting prowess because the system does it all automatically”
Tools: CRM, Intranet, HelpDesk all with integrated Dashboards
- Productivity: “Our business metrics are baked into our systems now, as a result it’s very very easy to monitor productivity and to manage the gaps when necessary. Enabling flexibility and providing employees with the option to cut-down on travel time on a weekly basis, thus giving them more time to be with family and friends means we have actually been able to give time back to our people and teams, which is incredible. Productivity has soared because of the systems, but also because morale and well-being are through the roof”
Tools: Oxygen Digital Workplace, Skype for Business, Teams, Yammer, Office 365, and a positive attitude that anything is possible with the right tools. You cannot build a tree-house with a paint brush alone.
- Security “Lost hardware and cyber-security threats have always existed, the difference now is that we have a world-leading technology company managing our infrastructure, which means our own tech team can concentrate on strategy and helping our other teams get the most from our new tools – the tech team have become proactive business enablers who we go to for ideas and help as opposed to a team of reactive stressed out folks who we only ever called when something went wrong. We also know that if something is lost or compromised, we can shut it down, wipe it remotely and secure our data in seconds”
Tools: Microsoft Office 365, 2-Factor Authentication, Azure and Microsoft InTune
At ISAAC, we’re big advocates of remote working. We know that everyone has their own preferences of where, when and how they want to work. But equally, we know that remote working presents challenges, and isn’t one size fits all. The key to making it work is striking the right balance; you need to offer employees choice and opportunities, and that includes privacy and team interaction. Getting this right enables productivity, creativity, deep work, innovation and team-building.
From our own transformational journey, and those of our customers, we know that technology plays a key role, alongside the human aspect which is why we have spent so much time creating the Oxygen Digital Workplace
and apps such as Oxygen CRM
and Oxygen Intranet
, all delivered rapidly and in a way that enables individuals to interact with one another and a single source of data in a variety of different ways, such as through Microsoft Outlook using our Oxygen for Outlook
plugin. It’s all about prioritising user-experience.
The entire Oxygen suite is designed exclusively for Office 365
which provides the infrastructure and additional tools you need to stay connected, secure and creative wherever you or your teams are (Migrating to Office 365
is easy and hassle free too). Microsoft Teams
, for example, is a hub for all team and project-based activities. From video calls and chatting over Skype for Business
with automated presence display, to sharing documents and co-authoring and collaborating from any location; it gives employees the sense of being in an office – wherever they may be. Fully integrated with popular applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint mean the experience is familiar and intuitive – accessing, sharing and collaborating on centralised documents, all at once, means teamwork can continue, even when the team isn’t together.
Microsoft designed platforms like Yammer
, which can be seamlessly integrated into your Oxygen Intranet, and Microsoft Teams specifically for remote workers. All applications on Office 365 are fully managed and provided ‘as a service’ that means they are always up to date with the latest security and features to ensure that you and your teams can concentrate solely on your work – equaling happier, less stressed and more productive people and businesses.