The past 12 months have seen some major changes in the way businesses operate, both nationally and worldwide. Many have transitioned to remote working during the current health crisis, something which has caused major changes in processes and practices and created many short-term fixes and ad-hoc workarounds to compensate for this new way of doing things.
When something like this happens, key factors like flexibility and control can fall victim to these changes and while some of this is positive, it needs to be managed correctly to ensure it does not become a problem.
The changes will fall mainly into two groups: personnel and virtual. ‘Personnel’refers to the people that now work remotely, and ‘virtual’ includes the tools you work with, some of which will only have been introduced as a result of remote working.
Your employees are now working from home
Firstly, you need to consider the people who work for you, as this will shape your other choices, especially in the long term. They have gone from a controlled environment in an office to working from home, and while this may seem on the face of it to offer more flexibility, they will have less control over their environment and you will lack the direct control you had over them while you all worked under the same roof.
As they are trying to work in an environment usually used for everything but work, there will be challenges. They may be working in a space that is used as a thoroughfare by the rest of the family, with all of the disruptions and distractions that brings. Alternatively, they may be alone and feel isolated without the interactions that would usually motivate them to work.
Either way, the level of input you have into their daily activities has diminished, as has your influence. You might think that this means without you keeping an eye on them they will spend all day watching daytime TV, or you might worry that without the office structure in place, they will forget to take regular breaks or finish on time each day, leading to overwork and burnout.
To combat this you will need an effective communication tool to exercise some level of control over what is going on, and so your team has the ability to share work with each other.
An easy snap decision, that might seem sound at the time, would be to use a tool like Microsoft Teams or Slack for this purpose. Teams because you probably use a range of Microsoft products already, or Slack because it is the market leader and many of the companies you do business with will have chosen it for the same reason.
However, both of these lack the control you might want as they are hosted on their own servers, and they also might lack the flexibility that you would get with something that offers open source collaboration. This would be hosted on your servers, so you would have complete control and the flexibility to develop additional features as you expand, rather than be shackled to the off-the-shelf capabilities of the other packages.