In a radically changed world where many workers may never go back to the office, new challenges are emerging for staff members and managers alike. Probably the biggest question surrounds how productive and safe people can be when working remotely with what Microsoft calls the Modern Workplace – and the good news is that not only are the tools there to make it happen, but you could even see improved productivity. It’s part of what happens next (or what’s happening right now) for many of our clients’ IT systems.
Of course, productivity in changed circumstances does depend on multiple factors including personality type (some folk are quite comfortable working alone, others less so) and the nature of the work being done. But many are likely to find enormous and reciprocal advantages in a dispersed workforce.
These advantages are reciprocal because they accrue to workers on the one hand and employers on the other. In an oversimplification, workers get flexibility and balance while employers have reduced overheads as demand drops off for office space and supporting services. In some cases, these aren’t even trade-offs, as suitably motivated employees can become more productive working from home, particularly if they are incentivised by outcome rather than time spent. In other words, employees will want to get it done fast and accurately so they have more time to themselves.
That why Twitter’s head of human resources Jennifer Christie told BuzzFeed News that “People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective.”
With this the future of how we are working, and how technology must support the way we work, here are our top tips for productivity with the Remote Workplace:
1. It’s ALL about security
The consequences of poorly secured IT systems are well known, and a new headline is never far away. That’s why our top tip is security, security and security again. Security doesn’t start with technology but a mindset, then policy, then people. Technology is the final, but equally essential component. The Modern Workplace implies working from anywhere, which means your systems must be secure anywhere – in the cloud, at the coffee shop and in your employee’s homes.
Microsoft has put a lot of work and a billion dollars a year into security across Azure right through to Microsoft 365 (which puts Office, Teams and other essential applications on your employee’s machines). Knowing your software and IaaS/PaaS solutions are secure by design is a crucial factor for peace of mind for the commonly used applications essential to every business. And the real beauty of Microsoft 365? It simplifies security while making it convenient.
2. Focus on inclusion
Some thrive on independence. Others don’t. Most work today is collaborative by nature and we’re generally organised into teams. When working from home or ‘anywhere’ getting everyone feeling like they are indeed part of a team is undoubtedly a challenge. That’s why a sharp focus on inclusion is our second top tip. This is where SharePoint and Teams really shine (supported by Planner and Outlook). SharePoint makes sharing and collaboration simple, especially with larger files or jobs requiring multiple inputs, while Teams does a great job of putting everyone within easy reach by video, voice, chat or email. With Planner, you can easily see who’s available and when, too.
3. Have regular meetups
In a similar vein to inclusion, having regular meetups are important in helping everyone feel like they are part of the company. These should be ‘face to face’, using Teams with video, because that’s the best human interaction. Brainstorm, engage, share company news and views – an open forum facilitates a sense of cohesion and belonging. Set weekly (or more regular) meetings where everyone should attend. A further good idea is creating a digital ‘pinboard’ where your people can share anecdotes, updates, memes and other light-hearted content. It all goes towards creating camaraderie and building company morale.
4. Know what you have…and how best to use it
We’re all aware that most users of say Word access just a tiny fraction of the capability it offers. The same can be said for Microsoft 365. It incorporates the usual Office applications along with Teams, but there’s a LOT more. For example, there are multiple add-ons in Outlook which can enhance productivity and convenience.
And then there’s the more sophisticated apps included in some subscriptions, key among them PowerBI and PowerApps (or available as paid extras in other subscriptions). Knowing the full scope of what you’ve bought and paid for is the first step to using it all to your advantage – and this is where an experienced partner can help your Modern Workplace truly be YOUR Modern Workplace.
5. Recognise achievements and ‘new’ behaviours
Many companies started a slow but steady transformation to the Modern Workplace before the term was even a thing. However, others have transitioned rapidly owing to force of circumstance – and that means a lot of change in a short space of time. In spending the past 18 months equipping many businesses with Modern Workplace solutions, it’s clear that those who succeed bring their people along on the journey – and one of the best ways of encouraging a successful and productive transition is identifying, recognising and rewarding appropriate behaviours and uses of those solutions.
There is a great advantage, of course, in Microsoft’s solutions because they are so familiar to most, while also incorporating all the advantages of modern User Experiences (that’s a fancy way of saying Microsoft 365 is easy to use). But finding great examples of people maximising their value from for example Teams or Outlook, at the lower end, and PowerBI and PowerApps on the more sophisticated side, provides encouragement and support for those who need it, while also giving everyone else ideas of what’s possible.
6. Support your remote workforce
It’s not all about technology and mindset. There are some physical aspects to a successful remote workforce which include work spaces and furniture. Some will have a study or spare bedroom already set up for that purpose, others won’t. Exercise some sensitivity here and see how you as an employer can assist your people towards the best setup for their personal circumstances.
Business as usual, just not in the office
For those who have moved to Microsoft 365, the benefits are abundantly clear, particularly in the present climate. We’ve done it ourselves and as a result, Mercury IT staff are working, connected, and engaged.
Along with flexible licensing which allows installation to up to 5 devices (recognising the fact most of us have several gadgets we use together), Microsoft 365 is affordable, powerful, secure and to many, ourselves included, indispensable.
Author- Sally-Ann Bird
Chief Sales Officer