Tips to successfully work remotely
There will be substantial pressures on organisations to rapidly adopt the new remote working model so that organisations and economies can continue to operate. While technology is available that supports this goal the measure of success in working in the new environment will be people transacting and delivering output across the entire value chain.
A range of factors must be considered to successfully implement the new working model.
Technology decisions made about the Modern Workplace are strategic and transformative with long-running organisational impacts post COVID-19. The process can be accelerated but your technology decision must be considered with regard to your Enterprise Architecture and at a strategic level. This will minimise the risk of making a wrong decision and its negative impacts.
Contextual hindsight: Maintain the discipline of capturing and documenting the logic and decision-making data. Future reviews of decisions will need to consider the circumstances upon which decisions were made which may be forgotten or misconstrued.
Technology will be impacted across the spectrum. There are multiple technology options and paths that can be taken to deliver the tools for your teams.
Cloud-adoption: Software-as-a-Service solutions are available to meet remote worker’s needs; however, cloud migration requires careful planning and consideration. To enable rapid implementation of remote worker access, hybrid environments can be constructed that take the pressure off migration activities. End-users will be able to access and send emails, file-share, report and gain data access.
Network Infrastructure and Remote Access: Options exist to rapidly deploy or extend VPN by using an appliance-based VPN solution coupled with end-point software. An appliance-based solution will enable scaling up and down as demand changes and provide appropriate security while enabling rapid deployment.
End-user Compute and Devices: if your organisation has limited access to flexible end-user compute devices like laptops or iPads, BYOD can be quickly enabled through Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), coupled with Endpoint Device Management.
- End-users will require a device that can access this virtual desktop infrastructure.
- Any compute device that can access cloud services can be used to access the VDI, and in most cases the end-point software that is required can be as simple as a web browser.
- For those situations where VDI is not a viable solution, the Endpoint Device Management services can reduce the time to deploy new physical devices as security policy and applications can be deployed to the device through the cloud.
WAN and Bandwidth: Reliable WAN connectivity is needed. IT must review existing capabilities against potential load that the new remote end-users will have on this link and remediate. Redundancy of the WAN links should be investigated with a preemptive redundancy validation exercise completed.
- Implement proactive monitoring of this link.
- Investigate a flexible arrangement with your organisation’s telecommunications provider to support adjusting the bandwidth requirements as demand changes and requirements stabilise. This will assist in controlling costs.
Security: Remote access to on-premise capabilities and the introduction of cloud services increase the risk of security vulnerabilities. For cloud-based services the emphasis is on personal security – identity, credentials and information sharing, while for on-premise capabilities the emphasis, while still on personal security, extends to remote access vulnerabilities. Proactive monitoring should be implemented.
Costs: Solution vendors have stepped up to assist in this challenging time. The majority of the vendors have released trial periods for their solutions. These can be used as tests as well as keeping immediate costs down. Assess solutions within the context of your architectural direction and current licensing arrangements to ensure you have the best architectural and licencing fit for your organisation.
Adopt and embed new ways of working
Expend effort to understand where the changes are going to occur and what remodelling of processes is required to fit those changes. Leverage new technologies to automate these new processes where possible. Automation enables people to create positive new habits when they conduct their work. The good news is the best time to create and embed change is during major change and disruption.
Information Management: A dedicated focus is required for Information Management. It is a critical component of your new working model. Individuals and teams will be creating, developing, managing and storing information in new ways in new technologies. Information Management practices must be modelled to ensure that IM structures are setup to ensure you are not left with a morass of disassociated information with no home, no classification, no security and residing in individuals heads as to how it was created and where to find it. It will be a mess that no-one will have the energy to solve.
People & Change
How people use the tools, interact and deliver output is the true measure of success. Teams and individuals must deliver their work-product, complete their function and role and contribute positively to the organisation operation while working in new models of delivery. This will be challenging and there will be disruption however there are actions that can be taken now that minimise the level of disruption. Equally, learnings must also be captured and applied to improve as the new working model takes root.
Productivity: This is the fundamental goal (and concern) of working remotely. How is productivity achieved if people are not co-located and that organisational pressure to deliver output that comes with co-location doesn’t exist. There is an entire subject area that questions how productive individuals truly are on a day to day basis. Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes. The Industrial Revolution designed 8-hour workday is ripe for disruption. While this isn’t a focus for the current emergency response don’t completely discard this thought.
There are actions you can take to assist in delivering productivity for remote working:
Be granular in output: When developing projects, time is allocated directly to task completion. A version of this needs to be done for individuals within teams and structures to ensure output is achieved and work is done. This can be easier for project work where there is a direct relationship between activity and time. For general, ongoing operations, ensure teams and individuals understand what they are working towards, their role in its development and the milestones required to achieve it. This output can be developed collaboratively with teams to ensure all parts of the organisation are aligned to output.
Ensure individuals can use the technology and tools: There will be different levels of maturity amongst team-members in using tools. Ensure training is conducted for all to bring the organisation up to a baseline level of skill.
Support is available when confronting technical difficulties: There will be increased demands on support services, particularly service-desk during the change. Estimate and quantify the extent of increased demand. Enable sufficient manpower and tools to respond to the increased activity.
Be granular in productivity measurement: Distractions stifle productivity and these are stronger when working remotely. There is no “herd” that keeps an organisation moving by being co-located. Establish measurements and develop tools that assist individuals to remain on-task during remote operations. These can be formal time measurement tools or as unsophisticated as tracking hours and keeping lists.
Communications: How should we stay connected and what medium will we use to communicate for what circumstance? With the limitations on face to face, new communications structures must be established that replace the ad-hoc but high value communiques such as the meetings, water cooler chat, leaning over the petition and grabbing a coffee. Develop a plan and cadence for communications and align your outputs to the best communications mechanisms that suit. These can be regular team-meetings via an audio-visual tool, group phone calls, Whatsapp, instant message, wikis or collaboration boards. It is better to over-communicate than under-communicate, particularly in the early learnings of remote working. Aside from remaining aligned on output, it is important for social and mental health. Our human natures value interactions and this must be considered when developing communications plans and structure. Develop processes and electronic spaces that enable human interaction outside of work.
Groom like you are going to work: Hoodies, 3-day growth, PJs, towel post-shower; they are not the best attire. However, we also need to recognise that this model is about productivity. We all must accept that the veneers we adopt when co-located don’t have to rigidly translate to a remote working environment. Adopt a sensible policy.
Surroundings: Note that team meetings involving cameras will provide a view of a private dwelling. Some technologies such as Microsoft Teams do allow you to blur the background for scheduled meetings.
Be respectful of people’s private residence. Remote working is about bringing work home with all that it incorporates. The organisation discussion must be about productivity. It is inconsequential if we see our colleague’s kitchen, dining room or office. Note though – the shower and bedroom are not meeting rooms.
Keep customers top of mind: While there will be a tendency to focus on your own internal operations, consideration and learnings must be gained by interacting in the new working model with customers and ensure you are still delivering value. All participants in a value chain are committed to commerce and improving the current state. They too will have similar stresses. How we go about adopting new practices and working with clients will play a large role in determining who will be successful at managing their way through. Consider each project, customer obligation and servicing from a remote operations perspective and develop a plan. Have conversations with your clients early so all parties can still transact and operate. This includes the medium you engage, the processes for delivery of your value and how people and technology will work together to deliver your targeted outcome.
Test, Learn, Remodel: This is a substantive change to the working model, a model that has been in place since the Industrial Revolution. The new working model is about what value is being delivered. Innovators have been preparing, advancing and delivering on this model for some time. Embrace this change and test, learn and remodel your processes and operations. Use this time to capture what works and what doesn’t so it can be applied, not only during this time but post COVID-19.
All these factors need to be considered and acted upon to some degree for the new working model to be successful. The technology will work. It’s considering all the elements that will determine the success of the new technology. As CIOs will often lament, the success of technology projects has little to do with the technology but all to do with people operating in a better place than they were before. This cannot be achieved by technology alone.
Lastly – There is good news………truly
Fundamentally, the new model of working will generate change. Decision makers will be forced to confront what productivity truly means. People will rethink the industrial revolution driven 8-hour day and output will become king. Flexible work options will become feasible reducing the need for co-location which will flow to reduce office rental costs, reduced demand on transport infrastructure (reducing government costs) and reducing emissions.
The technologies that underpin the new, modern workplace are transformative. If considered, then implemented correctly, your organisation will be in a better position as we emerge post-COVID-19. There will be significant, unharnessed potential with your organisation to leverage your upgraded technologies and a workforce’s understanding of how to deliver new and increased value.