Below is part 4 of our 6-part series aimed at helping you Stabilize your business where we focus on Business Continuity in this post. To read part 3 of the series, click here:
“Working from home is stupid. They will just goof off!”… “Working from home is brilliant. It saved my business!”
The same person made the above two statements within four months. The first statement was made as I had coffee with a customer discussing our recommendation that they should consider moving some of their technology to a cloud offering to enable employees to work remotely. This was about three months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Boston, MA, area and resulted in a total lockdown. During this time, companies faced unprecedented challenges as they had to adapt to new operating methods to survive.
The same business owner made the second quote approximately one month after the lockdown began. The statement was shared with us shortly after the company implemented a remote workforce strategy. About a week after, we went live with the key technology to support their employees working from home. This was a new and unfamiliar experience for the business, as most of their staff were now working remotely, never having that capability before.
It’s not all good.
I share this story to illustrate the dramatic shift in mindset when a business successfully implements a remote workforce strategy. While there are many benefits of working from home, such as the time saved from not having to commute, increased efficiency, and the ability to spend more time with family, there are also downsides. These downsides include a lack of community with peers, the loss of physical meetings, and the distractions and multitasking that can come with working from home.
Additionally, there are more complex issues to consider, such as whether a business still needs as much office space when only a fraction of the team is coming in or the local economic impact on surrounding businesses.
What is a Remote Workforce Strategy?
A remote workforce strategy is a plan that outlines how an organization will manage and support employees who work remotely, either full-time or part-time. A remote workforce strategy includes policies for communication, collaboration, and productivity; guidelines for technology and equipment; and processes for onboarding, training, and supporting remote employees. A remote workforce strategy aims to ensure that remote employees have the resources and support they need to be productive and effective in their roles while maintaining the necessary level of control and oversight for the organization.
Why a Remove Workforce Strategy is important.
This blog post will focus on why a Remote Workforce Strategy is important for any business. There are two important primary reasons for investing in a Remote Workforce Strategy:
Enables Value and Competitive Advantage
A well-implemented Remote Workforce Strategy in today’s marketplace has become an important trait of most businesses that attract talent, as many employees have become accustomed to or prefer to have the option to work remotely. Allowing employees to work remotely can increase productivity, job satisfaction, and employee retention.
Provides Resiliency and Stability
A well-implemented Remote Workforce Strategy is essential in any Business Continuity Plan as it provides resiliency and stability. Enabling services to be available to employees outside of the office can ensure less impact on the business operations when the office is offline due to an interruption.
For more about Business Continuity, read our blog post “The CornerStone of Success for Stabilization.”
Implementing A Remote Workforce Strategy.
Implementing a remote workforce strategy requires careful planning and consideration of various factors, including the nature of the work, the needs of the employees, and the available technology and resources. It may also involve adapting business processes, policies, and culture to support remote work. A successful remote workforce strategy can help organizations attract and retain top talent, increase productivity and flexibility, and improve overall business operations.
A remote workforce strategy plan is a comprehensive document outlining an organization’s steps to manage and support remote employees effectively. Here are some key steps you can follow to implement a remote workforce strategy plan:
Determine the scope of the plan.
Determine which employees will be included in the plan and the work done remotely. In some types of businesses, for example, manufacturing, some roles, and functions are impossible to conduct remotely. We encourage everyone to challenge preconceived assumptions to see if 100% remote is possible and work backward from there.
Identify the necessary tools and resources.
Identify the tools and resources your employees will need to work remotely, such as communication and collaboration software, hardware, and access to necessary files and data. Also, consider the processes in which collaboration and innovation are curated within your business.
Establish guidelines and protocols.
Develop guidelines and protocols for remote work, including policies on communication, productivity, and security. These guidelines should aim to support a remote workforce instead of only setting restrictions and limitations. Also, be sure to get acknowledgment from employees on these protocols.
Train and support employees.
Provide training and support to ensure that employees can work remotely effectively and have access to the resources they need. Centralize the documentation and training resources necessary to provide employees with the support they need and ensure that these are accessible remotely.
Monitor and evaluate the plan.
Regularly monitor and evaluate the plan’s effectiveness, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that it meets the needs of your organization and your employees. Be sure also to establish a program to gather valuable employee feedback for continuous improvement of the remote work program.
Enable your Remote Workforce Strategy to enhance, empower and harden your business resilience.
Let’s use the example we started with of the COVID pandemic. The transition through the pandemic taught us many lessons. Small to Medium sized businesses that implemented a Remote Workforce Strategy had the benefit of reducing the impact of lost revenue compared to those without a Remote Workforce Strategy. For some, it helped coast them long enough to reach a stable state. For others, it was an operational shift so sudden and so powerful that they couldn’t adapt or stay in business.
If SMBs purchase cloud-based tools and let their employees work from home, shouldn’t everything be ok?
When we talk with business leaders about Remote Workforce Strategy, they immediately think, “I have Zoom, or I have Microsoft TEAMS, or we can VPN and tunnel into our network. I should be ok”. These tools may be components in the toolbox and are necessary, but it’s the plan that goes along with the bigger picture of your needs that make up the strategy’s foundation we already covered above.
Furthermore, you must ensure that the Remote Workforce Strategy is implemented to enhance your business operations and not just flashy tools. If done correctly, the tools you select and how they align with business processes should empower your employees and not hinder their effectiveness. Most importantly, you will want to make the Remote Workforce Strategy the norm and not just a fall-back option that you pull out as part of your Disaster Recovery Plan. Having tools and processes that are only enabled “when in case of emergency break glass” will be just as foreign to your employees as starting a new job.
For more details, read our blog about Stabilizing your Business by preparing a Disaster Recovery Plan.
Ensuring success in your strategy.
We have found businesses that succeeded the most through the pandemic had truly embraced their new working model and accelerated the adoption of what they found successful in propelling their teams forward.
Organizations that equipped their customer service, IT, sales, finance, and marketing teams with tools that streamlined their processes and enabled remote collaboration, discovered that they no longer had to maintain large office spaces. These organizations adapted by downsizing or subletting their office spaces but did not have to lay off employees. Many organizations find it advantageous to keep their existing employees and allow them to work remotely permanently or partially. This shift also enabled the organization to offer new services and support models and change how their operations were managed.
There is a balance.
The leadership of some companies believes that employees working remotely will just mean a reduction in productivity. Good employees who have a sense of pride in their work and respect for their peers will do good, honest work, regardless if they are in the office or at home.
Most employees have found that working from home means longer hours or more pressure to deliver in some cases. That said, we think a balance is needed. There is a trade-off that serves both parties “the employee saves time from their dreadful costly commute and gets to have more time to eat a proper breakfast, pick up kids from school or adjust their day at their pace.” In contrast, the company “gets equal if not more committed hours, a sense of always at the ready, and offset some hard capital costs that are no longer necessary therefore cutting costs for physical office space.”
As you can see, and this has been from our perspective, there is a sound investment in having a Remote Workforce Strategy in place for any business. The value presented is meaningful to employees and a business’s bottom line and should not be tied exclusively to when a disaster strikes. It should be the norm if applicable to your business operational model.
How StrataNorth can help.
Are you thinking about investing in the stabilization of your small or mid-sized business? Do you need help defining your Remote Workforce Strategy? Let us help you. If you are ready to transform your business’s operational efficiency and are looking for experts to guide you, StrataNorth has Security and Technology consultants with decades of experience. We can help you reach Operational Stability and help establish a Remote Workforce Strategy. Reach out for a no-cost, no-obligation chat with an IT Consultant or Security expert today.