Many organisations have had to quickly transition a large percentage of their workforce into a remote working arrangement. And the trend has been exponential: in Australia, daytime usage of the NBN increased 70 to 80% in March 2020 as thousands of employees around the country logged in from home, while New Zealand has seen a similar surge. And it’s a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon – a recent Gartner survey of 5,000 employers revealed that at last 41% of employees are likely to continue to work remotely at least part of the time after restrictions have eased.
With many organisations new to remote working, making the transition in such a short period can seem an especially daunting challenge. Robert Half asked some experts to share their tips on how to make the technology work to the benefit of both your company and its employees.
Adapting to a remote working model
Being able to rely on remote working technology has proven to be critical to maintain business continuity, yet not all companies were ready for the rapid transition. Richard Raj, Digital Consultant at Knights Move Consulting, discussed remote working and collaboration as being not only beneficial, but essential for companies to continue their operations.
“Teams that can function remotely today are able to keep their business open, even if it means productivity being lower to start with.” He emphasises the need to continue to assess and invest in optimising the technological infrastructure. “As time goes on, these teams will adopt techniques and tools that will allow them to further harmonise this new way of working en-masse.”
Raj realises that taking that first step can be a challenge as it requires a drastic shift for some in the workforce. “Connecting remotely is not new for the majority of IT and digital teams as they routinely work from home or off-site or are on call after hours. Some teams, however, like sales and marketing, may prefer to work with customers face-to-face and are now forced to do so virtually. They may be skilled at using online tools like Salesforce, but need further guidance and support on how to interact with customers online and remotely.”
Teleconferencing tools like Zoom and Skype are often the first tools that organisations turn to as a way to preserve that vital connection. But these free tools can come with their own risks when used professionally. “We’ve seen the news about some video conferencing tools, where people didn’t realise their conversations weren’t private. So, making the right decisions about security and functionality is very important.”
Setting up remote working quickly
Another potential hurdle which organisations need to overcome is the cost of getting the whole team online. Head of Platforms, Cloud and Automation at OSS Group in New Zealand, Grant Olliff, specialises in the delivery of emerging technologies, including advanced remote working tools.
With social distancing likely to remain the norm in the foreseeable future, organisations simply need to be able to meet their employees’ remote working needs both quickly and securely. “For example, a bank might be able to give its IT contractors a secure, dedicated laptop for connecting to their customer environment,” says Olliff. “However, SMBs are less likely to have invested in such capabilities – yet will still need to be able to connect and collaborate with employees, contractors and customers.”
That’s where cloud-based tools come to the rescue. Many organisations already use them to bolster their business capabilities without the burden of on-site IT. This now extends to remote working, where these tools allow teams to effectively take their entire desktop environment with them wherever they go, as long as they have access to internet and a web browser.
“[With these tools], the small accounting business down the road, for example, now has the ability to work from home as if they were in the office sitting beside each other,” says Olliff. “The only thing missing is the customer being able to walk in the door and speak with a receptionist.”
The advantages of cloud-based workspaces
The cloud allows an organisation to set up what’s essentially a virtual office that gives remote employees the flexibility to connect to the business anywhere, any time. Its key benefits include:
One of the challenges of allowing employees to work remotely from their own or company-provided devices, is maintaining a clear and secure separation between their personal and business data. While large corporations generally rely on their VPN or other private network, other companies – generally SMBs – often do not have the resources to invest in strong data security measures which in turn hinders their ability to work remotely.
Raj says that for these organisations, a secure cloud-based remote working platform is the best solution. “With these tools, you can simply create a secure session inside your personal device or PC, so data can’t leak back and forth. That’s only going to become more important because people won’t want to have to use two or three separate devices for business and personal use.”
Olliff says the ability to keep business data secure in the cloud is a big change from how things used to be, when each employee device needed to be set up individually by the IT department. “When customers needed a very secure environment, we would have to secure their laptop, lock it down and put our own antiviruses on it.”
“Today, with our customers who work with virtual workspaces, we recommend that instead of giving us a device to manage their environment, they just use virtual desktops where the security infrastructure they need is already present and standardised.”
A major benefit of using the cloud for remote working is that it removes the requirement for on-site hardware inventory or capital expenses.
“With most DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service), you can dial up or dial down your consumption so you’re not spending more than you need,” says Raj. “It allows your employees to go to one place and access almost everything required, like online meetings, collaboration and document sharing; it even enables you to run your customer contact centre from employees’ home offices.”
The need for effective remote team capabilities means organisations that are less experienced in this area risk falling behind competitors if they can’t deploy the right tools quickly and easily. “The main reason for choosing a cloud-based solution is that it’s easy to set up and, due to many technology companies in Australia and NZ now specialising in it, provides strong customer support,” says Raj.
Andrew Bain, CEO of Recreo, which recently launched a cloud-based superannuation platform, said the company had no hesitation in moving to remote working. “If it wasn’t already part of your strategy, you’re probably underinvested. Fortunately, we are completely cloud-based, so have no reliance on hardware.”
Bain says that supporting BYOD is an important part of their remote working strategy. “BYOD allows our people to use their own devices to dial in remotely to their laptops in the office. Because we use the cloud-based approach, we don’t need to have clunky software installed on our PCs, so we were able to make the transition easily.”
While virtual desktops come with some very good setup guides and helpdesk support, every team will have different needs. In particular, teams which don’t have previous experience in remote or cloud-based working technology may need external help in the initial stages, so that they can return to being productive as quickly as possible.
“If you need to make the switch quickly, then I’d recommend hiring someone who understands the pitfalls and can give you some do’s and don’ts,” says Raj. “They can help you assess your capabilities as they stand now, and then guide you to the best solution. When you’ve got that secure gateway established from outside to your internal systems, from then on it’s usually pretty straightforward.”
Robert Half has already assisted hundreds of clients source and onboard high-quality talent remotely. Find out how we can help your organisation meet its remote working needs. Contact us today.