With many businesses and teams seeking ever greater flexibility and work/life balance we look at some key technology considerations when enabling effective remote working for your business. Focusing on 3 key areas: Productivity, Team Collaboration and Security, learn how technology can help support a smooth transition from the office desk to working on the move.
Our team has had to adapt to constantly changing technology over the last 15 years including the birth of the smartphone and moving to where we are today, where more than ever before Technology in some respect, rules and dictates some aspects of our lives.
Remote working is not new – since the advent of internet and servers we have been able to access out internal systems remotely and work relatively effectively. Indeed, since smart phones, many of us remote work without thinking about it – work email on your phone is an obvious example.
However, technology can both help and hinder this working freedom especially when we look at businesses with small teams and we will cover some of these elements and look at some chosen solutions throughout this article.
Some personal experience of remote working
When we think about remote working many of us dream of being stretched out on a beach effectively communicating with our teams and fulfilling a day’s work. But sometimes the reality of it is actually sat amongst a pile of housework to-do’s, childminding and distractions.
From personal experience there are few small pointers you going to need to sort for yourself ahead of planned remote working:
- Give yourself some space especially at home – Remove distractions that may limit your productivity e.g. That pile of washing, or last night’s dishes that may niggle you as your day goes on. If possible, set yourself up a dedicated area in your house where you can function without distractions – your office within your home.
- Internet – you’re going to need reasonably good and reliable internet; poor internet is going to affect both productivity and team collaboration and could be frustrating for both you and your remote teams that need your answers and support.
- Finally, good software solutions – there are a huge array of software and applications on the market for almost every purpose, make changes that integrate this software for every single day whether you are in the office or out on the road, that way you move seamlessly between local and remote and have to suddenly adopt change just because you are not in the office.
Team collaboration software for effective remote working
One the biggest challenges of being remote is being present, team collaboration is hugely important for well-functioning businesses to work and communicate effectively wherever their staff maybe or reside. So, let’s look at 3 options…
1. Slack – Free up your email – We use Slack personally within our business and can vouch for its impact and what it replaces is countless email threads within our teams.
- Slack is more like super organised chat where you can organise topics of chat via Channels for example you can have a channel for budget with just your directors and finance teams or a channel for a particular project or client.
- It keeps discussions focussed, searchable and available with anyone with access to that specific channel.
- You can share and upload files and documents
- Slack also enables private one to one chat with team members
- It comes with a host of integrations to expand its functionality including video calls and phone calls and links with much of your favourite software.
- More importantly unless you want supercharged amounts of chat, much more configurable roles or more storage, Slack’s free account is generally sufficient.
2. Microsoft Teams – Microsoft has recently announced their venture to challenge the huge growth of Slack and it is called Teams. Microsoft seems to have given up on getting their popular Skype model to work for business and instead have thrown their efforts into Teams.
- Like Slack, Teams offers organised group chat within channels.
- They have cleverly though integrated their most popular applications such as Word and Excel within the application so you can live collaborate on files within teams without having to download and re-upload files like you do with Slack, keeping a single document.
- They have also integrated many good features of Skype such as Conference Calling, Video Meetings etc… Perfect for when you are out on the move.
- Teams is offered as part of an Office 365 subscription with additional calling plans offered as extra so you can effectively run an entire phone system through teams and transfer calls to your remote workers via the mobile app as if they were sat at their desk.
- Looks like it could be a powerful option for the future and Microsoft is moving more and more implementation towards teams.
3. Facebook Workplace – If you’re a highly social savvy organisation you may want to consider Facebook Workplace
- Workplace is like having your own internal Facebook wall for your staff and teams and utilises much of the same functionality as your own personal Facebook so it feels very familiar.
- Share global announcements, offer congrats for a birthday and more on your newsfeed which is announced to everyone.
- More detailed chats and discussions can be organised into groups – much like Slack and Teams.
- Workplace also adopts some technology from Facebook messenger so expect video and WiFi calling like your already used to.
- Workplace offers both free and paid plans based on your requirements.
As already mentioned, if you are still relying on email to communicate with your teams then move to these more modern collaboration tools for every single day they have benefits for both in-office and more obvious remote working allowing you to seamlessly switch between the two and keep in touch.
Cloud file sharing solutions for easier remote working
Productivity on the move can be quite specific dependent on your exact business sector and indeed the software that you use but what we all need to stay productive is Data and Files. If your office has an internal server getting to your files can be a bit of a mission and no doubt many of us have been in a scenario where we have said to a colleague “Can you just email me that file?”
If you find document handling a trial, here are some alternative ‘Cloud’ options that you may want to consider increasing your productivity and indeed enhance your collaboration too.
1. Box – Box has been designed specifically for businesses offering effortless file access and sharing across virtually any device.
- Secure – expect enterprise level security around your files, you can specifically lock certain files or whole folders and box offers an intuitive dashboard to manage everything and see detailed insights into who accesses what.
- Sharing – Share files with ease to both your staff and customers
- Collaborate – Box works with Office 365 (Word, Excel, Outlook etc) / Google Suite / Salesforce and others to integrate directly into those applications.
- Box Drive – Let’s you work on your files offline and sync automatically up to the cloud as soon as it is available handy for those on flights or long train journeys.
- Great for Devices – If you switch from laptop to tablet to phone frequently the box App works great cross device so things are a lot more seamless, meaning you can get more done if you away from your laptop for example.
2. Microsoft Sharepoint – Microsoft has evolved its long-standing collaboration tool and its new cloud offering is bundled with their popular Office 365 plans on selected tiers.
- Collaborate – Create announcements, share updates and more with your own team intranet.
- Share Files – Share files, data, news, and resources. Customize your site to streamline your team’s work.
- Create Workflows – Accelerate productivity by transforming processes. From simple tasks like notifications and approvals to complex operational workflows.
- Useful Search – With Sharepoint you can utilise search across your organisation for files, conversations, knowledgebase articles and more.
- Cross Device – Remote working with Sharepoint is made more seamless with Apps available for PC’s, Macs and most devices.
3. Citrix Sharefile – If you handle sensitive data then this enterprise level file share and productivity tool from Citrix could be a great option. Available cross platform and cross device.
- Share – Access and share all your files and documents in a few simple clicks with limitless storage
- Plugin – Integrates with Outlook and offers encrypted email and attachments – plus send large files up to 100gb without clogging up your email.
- Workflows – Set-up workflows that notify other team members automatically once you have completed a task.
- Protection – Sharefile offers bank level encryption for your data and detailed reporting on who is accessing files and when.
- Client Portal – A great feature of Sharefile is the ability to securely share and receive files from a third party, with everything detailed and protected in transit.
- Expensive but good – Sharefile isn’t cheap but if you handle sensitive data and want the best, this is a good option for reliable top-grade data security and peace of mind.
Security considerations for remote working
More and more security’s a major factor and no more so when you are remote working. Our office environments typically have, or should have, a much more robust and stringent set of security protocols than we would typically adopt at home so here is some top tips and considerations for keeping secure when remote working…
- Home Internet – Generally your business internet will be well maintained, monitored and filtered, but can the same be said for your team’s home internet connections? Business owners may want to enforce some specifics or better device control so they can ensure that the companies data remains secure or that malicious malware or viruses aren’t brought back into the office from home.
- Public Internet – This is a huge area of risk and whilst free WiFi hotspots and internet everywhere seems a great thing it can be a hacker’s playground. Be wary of public internet in hotels, cafes and public transport. Take steps to ensure your devices are protected and ringfenced from unwanted snoopers ready and waiting to steal data or pounce on vulnerabilities.
- Device Security – What if your laptop or phone was stolen whilst you were working on the move? Could vital data be stolen? Ensure that any devices which contain work data or indeed personal data for that matter are well protected.
- Encryption – ensure your storage drives are encrypted
- Remote Deletion – Get the ability to remote wipe your device in the event of it being stolen.
- Data Storage – Do you need to store the files locally on your machine? Why not use one of the secure cloud file storage solutions already mentioned.
- Multi Factor Authentication – Whilst these can appear a bit tiresome they do work and multi factor security for certain software’s or indeed devices can be a great idea.
- Strong Passwords – Still the single most common point of entry is weak password, enforce a strong password policy across your devices. It’s simple and obvious to mention but often not enforced.
With today’s technology the ability to work anywhere is totally achievable, it comes down to the what works in your company and indeed your work/life balance you want to achieve., Also some individuals may respond better to remote working than others that prefer greater structure, so think about your individual teams.
Hopefully we have presented today some considerations
- To help you collaborate you’re your teams easier from wherever you maybe.
- Access your work, wherever and from whatever device utilising the power of the latest cloud platforms which offer better flexibility.
- And finally, and in some ways most importantly, ensure that you’re keeping your data safe and secure whilst you are on the move.
If you need any further advice, please talk to our teams about getting your business teams seamlessly remote working.