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How to Develop a Sustainable Remote Workforce

May 12, 2020 at 10:15 AM / by Ramsey Oklah

Remote work is now a must rather than an option for many businesses.  Businesses already leaning on remote work have adapted their mobile workforce management to keep operations connected and in communication. On the other hand, COVID-19 forced many businesses to make swift and abrupt changes to processes, and some businesses were left guessing at how to properly move to remote working. 

Digital solutions enable workers to access the processes, tools, expertise, and information they need – when they need it. However, creating those solutions requires careful consideration of all business functions that a remote workforce needs. Mobility impacts processes and infrastructure in fundamental ways.

Yet, no company needs to go at it alone. Work with a managed service provider to gain the critical infrastructure and insight needed to empower field and office teams. Here’s a closer look at how managed services support operational efficiency even when no team member is in the same room.

The Benefits of Establishing a Remote Workforce

Even before COVID-19 and the immediate need for a largely remote workforce, mobile workers were becoming more common. When deployed strategically, a remote and mobile workforce represents a major competitive edge for an organization. Digital technology has changed everything it touches, including the modern office. Traditional offices no longer represent the sum of a company’s operations, and in a post-COVID-19 world, the idea of office life will forever change.

A remote workforce offers unique benefits to businesses, including:

  • Cost-savings: Fewer employees in the office mean less need for office space. It also means less absenteeism and a decreased need for commuting.
  • Access to a wider talent pool: Remote positions allow a company to open positions to a wider range of applicants, making it easier to find the best talent.
  • Increased scalability: With digital solutions, scalability becomes much easier and a company’s infrastructure can keep pace with its growth.
  • Improved business continuity: As we’ve seen over the last two months, with unrestricted locations, mobile workers can continue operations from home

The benefits of remote work are substantial. However, for businesses forced to go remote without a plan or strategy in place, developing a remote workforce will come with significant struggles unless those businesses lean on the expertise of remote work partners to assist in the transition.

Developing Your Remote Work Processes

For those businesses who aren’t remote ready, how do they move forward in short notice when gaps in technology and methodology limit remote work capabilities.

How do you ensure newly remote employees are functioning effectively? How do managers modify their communication strategies to be effective without physical supervision? What metrics do businesses monitor when tracking time is no longer as simple as clocking in and clocking out, and what accommodations are companies prepared to make when employees have unavoidable interruptions in their home environments throughout the day? What expectations and boundaries do employees make, or even think to establish, when suddenly given this newfound freedom in a stressful situation where distraction or obsession over the news is a much more enjoyable activity.

Rules for the Employer:

1.  Communication and clear goals come before all else.

2.  Be prepared for change.

3.  Understand that what has led some employees here demands accommodation.

4.  Rethink your processes, starting with the physical aspects.

5.  Stop clock-watching your remote employees.

How to Use Managed Services to Support a Remote Workforce

While companies may have once relied on paper documents and carbon copies to facilitate business, today’s world moves too fast for these manual processes to remain effective. However, to ensure every employee can access the information and tools they need, businesses require robust digital infrastructure to support work from afar.

Yet, effectively constructing and managing that infrastructure may prove challenging to many organizations. That’s why a technology expert providing managed services is a valuable ally when it comes to supporting a mobile workforce. Consider:

Managed IT Services Maximize Uptime

A mobile workforce relies on the company’s digital assets, and operations quickly grind to a halt with any downtime. Managed IT services – which outsource the creation, maintenance, and oversight of a company’s IT infrastructure – ensures this doesn’t happen. A managed IT service provider supports a mobile workforce with:

  • The right cybersecurity strategies to keep data secure, even when employees are remote
  • Properly configured platforms, servers, or accounts to keep operations running smoothly
  • Tech support for hardware or software
  • The creation of internal communications infrastructure

Enterprise Content Services Mean Secure Accessibility – Anywhere

Enterprise content management (ECM) refers to the use of software to handle a company’s content – its emails, physical records, electronic documents, videos, etc. – digitally. For a mobile workforce, it’s the single most important tool that a company can leverage. With ECM, a company can create a data ecosystem that is secure yet accessible from any device with the right credentials.

Enabling Your Staff to Work Remotely: Technology Must-Haves

1. Chat Platforms: For Replacing Water Cooler Gossip

Many managers may view “water cooler gossip” and the breakroom as the place where work and focus go to die. However, in many corporate cultures the 'water cooler' is where the backchannel communication that drives business occurs. It's where employees can give each other a heads up on incoming issues or learn about changes that will impact them in other departments.

Solutions: Microsoft Teams or Slack
Applications like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow employees to have a casual interface to communicate with their various groups of employees, even those outside their immediate supervisory or functionary circles - and that's a good thing!

2. Project Management

Managing a project is easier when everyone involved can see the moving parts and tasks related.

Solution: Online Project Management Team Views like Trello or Asana
Project management software like Trello and Asana gives everyone attached to a project visibility into which team members are handling each task, progress so far, associated deadlines, and related content.

3. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems

Add structure to the unstructured.

ECM systems are a cornerstone to process digitization and automation. Most of the workday is spent sifting through, managing, and processing unstructured content (emails, documents, forms, videos).

Solution: Laserfiche ECM
A content management system like Laserfiche creates a structured, secured, audited, and managed document workflow, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks and that communication is automated, allowing users to focus on the content of their job above all else. Laserfiche’s system is easily adapted for fully remote teams to access all the same processes they have at the office.

4. Telephone Setup and Migrating to VOIP Services

Legacy phone systems make it difficult for employees to access telephone systems while away from their desks.

Solution: Intermedia
Using a cloud-based phone system like Intermedia gives teams access to telephone systems no matter where they are.

5. Digital Fax Services

While fax may seem like an ancient relic to some, many industries still rely on secure data transmissions in faxing.

Solution: XMedius SendSecure
Moving to a digital system fax system like XMedius removes legacy costs, legacy equipment, and allows remote and mobile employees to access and send faxes through an application on their computer, phone, or MFP.

6. TelePrint 

For those business processes that require paper.

Many tasks still require paper. From sales proposals to return labels, many of the daily functions of business need paper. Remote employees, therefore, require access to printing from home.

Solution: ImageNet Teleprint
We’ve put together three different printer, toner, and ink bundles to make it easier to get your employees the equipment they need to print from home.

Rules for the Employee:

Even when your business is backed by the best technology and the most capable employees, transitioning to remote work can be difficult for employees. Providing a set of best work-from-home practices will keep your staff secure, motivated, and communicative.

1.  Set boundaries for both your work life and your personal life.

2.  Set up a productive workspace.

3.  Follow your employer’s IT security policy.

4.  Wake up and get dressed like you're going to the office.

5.  Schedule breaks.

6.  Determine the best fit hours and verify them with your employer.

7.  Stay in communication with your coworkers.

ImageNet Helps Businesses Enhance Employee Mobility

A well-oiled remote workforce is a strong asset in today’s working environment, and even more so now with COVID-19 continuing to shape the way business runs. By having fewer employees in the office, businesses can offer a safe, more comfortable setting for employees, use a wider pool of talent, and benefit from a more agile workforce that can better respond to consumer or market demands.

However, creating an adequate ecosystem for a remote workforce requires substantial digital infrastructure. Managed Services help you develop that infrastructure and help optimize operations - no matter where they occur.

ImageNet Consulting is thrilled to help companies embrace a remote workforce. Contact us now to get started.

Topics: Managed Services

Written by Ramsey Oklah

Director, Sales and Software Architecture – ECS Division

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