For much of 2020, the world has been dealing with the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, which drove the need for socially isolated working to avoid mass transmission of the virus. For businesses all over the world that meant a sudden shift to remote working as suddenly employees needed to stay at home, and then find a way to continue to work.
However, while that global incident is an obvious cause of a rush to remote working, the reality is that businesses have been slowly working towards that model, and many would likely have got to this point over the next few years anyway.
Tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack and a range of social media platforms have allowed easy filesharing and collaboration for teams wherever they may be, with more sophisticated options appearing that add automation and a single dashboard for ease of use.
With reliable communications, reduced commutes being good for green credentials, lower overheads for offices and more, the concept of distributed teams is attractive for both employers and employees alike, and while there are issues that need addressing, now the shift has actually happened, remote working will continue to expand in use, taking the concept to the next level.
5 ways that Management Software help facilitate Remote Work
No matter how popular remote working is with business and employees, it does bring with it new challenges. With tools as Management Software at our disposal though, it is possible to streamline the processes of a remote team even across time zones in a relatively easy way.
One of the key essentials for effective remote team operations when every team member is in a different location is the ability to communicate effectively in real-time. If there is no easy-to-use tool in place, innumerable hours will be lost just finding ways to maintain the necessary dialogue between the team members working on a collaborative project, or worse, leaving team members feeling isolated and without direction. We know that there are software solutions such as Zoom available for video calls, but by opting for specific tools for every need remote team members can end up with a cluttered and confusing workspace.
Management software can help with this, by providing a clear, easy to use platform for communications. This helps new employees quickly acclimatize to the remote working process and have everything they need for remote meetings and other communication and messaging needs in a single collaboration tool.
In a management solution that also incorporates time management, capacity planning and effective functionality for fast approval and markup of documents, the advantage is that it offers a single interface work environment that covers all the essential needs in one place. This reduces training requirements and inspires confidence for new team members.
These other aspects of the management software provision can make a significant difference to productivity and performance too.
One area where remote workers can find a challenge is in effective time management. This is increasingly true with a team collaboration dealing with complex projects where it can be easy to become too focused on one particular problem at the expense of tasks that can push the project towards completion.
A time management component within project management software suite allows project managers to understand both individual and team progress in more detail. This helps identify and manage inefficiencies in use of time across the team, leading to increased productivity and improved project management performance through superior teamwork. The ability to automate warnings for scheduling issues and more provide project managers with an additional aid in delivering the results expected.
As a follow on from that time management, deployment of tasks to maximize team capacity is another area where project management can become challenging. However, with regular communications and the data from project management software available, managers have data and insight that can help improve capacity planning effectiveness for all remote employees.
Through effective use of a project management tool that integrates all these things into the workflow for all team members, management have the work tools available to accurately balance workload and resources to ensure projects are delivered on schedule and as efficiently as possible.
Approvals and markups
Finally, one area of work that can be lost in the remote model is urgency. With each team member in their own work bubble away from others, prioritizing tasks can be an area of the home office operation that they struggle with. If a document arrives for approval or markup, it is very easy to put it to one side while another task is finished, but in some cases, such situations could be delaying work for multiple other team members.
In a face-to-face meeting, these things are easy to discuss and deal with, but on a remote team the disconnect can lead to problems. With the right project management software tools, not only can ideas be shared quickly, so can responses, with reviews and markups all delivered through the same familiar work tools. By reducing the number of different software in use, it allows for easier onboarding and less time training, and helps new team members build confidence faster, letting them focus on the task, rather than the tools used to accomplish it.
As such, by integrating all this functionality within the project management software, we can help remote workers acclimatize quicker, while the system encourages teams to deal with these important tasks throughout the working day through efficient filesharing methods.
5 benefits of Remote Work For Companies
We have mentioned that both workers and businesses see remote working as a positive, and while it can be easy to see where the benefit for employees are found, it may not always be so obvious where the benefits for employers come from. In fact, some may surprise you.
A recent article from Forbes highlights benefits in several measurable areas, and one of the key figures is a 35-40% increase in per-worker productivity compared to office-based personnel. This one often shocks, as one of the more common challenges to the idea of remote working has been that without the oversight available in an office, workers would not maintain productivity.
Not only was this incorrect, but the exact opposite is true. There are many reasons for this, but with a minimum 4.4% increase in output, businesses that adopt a remote working approach are seeing significant gains.
With higher productivity, workers feel like they are achieving things and as a natural result become more engaged with both the team and the work. As a remote worker, the team becomes the key aspect of human interaction during work hours, and that aids focus brings the team together perhaps more so than when in the same office. The result is fewer sick days and higher engagement with the work from all. How much? Statistics show 41% lower absenteeism, which is a significant cost saving for any company.
The flexibility and desirability of remote working for employees have another impact. They like working for companies that offer that work environment, and that means increased retention. With the cost of recruitment, training, and so on increasing year on year, the ability to retain talent within a team delivers cost savings across the company, and a reduction of staff turnover by as much as 12% is a very good argument for remote working.
If your workers are more productive when working from home, you have reduced staff turnover and higher engagement, then the inevitable outcome is an increase in profitability.
That is the case, with 21% higher profitability per remote worker compared to their office-based counterpart. That is a significant increase, but those savings may only be the beginning. With remote working becoming the norm, the need for extensive offices vanishes, and many businesses will be able to reduce costs even further with smaller offices located away from the expensive commercial sectors that they feel necessary for brand identity today.
With SaaS solutions for their project management tools, and a system of unified software package for screenshots and templates that bring easier onboarding, management costs are lowered too.
As those overheads disappear, profitability will inevitably rise even further, and the level of increase possible through widespread adoption of remote working has not yet been reached.
One of the areas most challenged by a shift to remote working, but also something that can benefit greatly from its adoption. Your work culture is a reflection of the values, ethos and trust within leadership. In an office environment, onboarding and training are used to guide and educate new employees on the culture in place within an organization. This is usually accomplished through extensive micro-management to ensure compliance with initiatives and processes. However, this can be intimidating, stifling and hurts confidence with the feeling of needing management direction in everything they do.
Remote working prevents this of course, which does take away the worst aspect of onboarding where culture is concerned, but also brings up a new challenge, how to instill the business culture remotely. The remote onboarding process itself can introduce culture effectively and without the overpowering need for micro-management, but more than that the process of remote working itself engenders a culture of trust and confidence. The onus is on the individual to get the tasks done not just correctly but within a suitable timeframe, and for both leadership and fellow team members, performance here builds trust among all stakeholders, with trust being the foundation of culture.
3 Challenges your Remote Team can use management software to overcome
For established remote teams and new employees, the remote working concept brings many advantages, not least the removal of the need to commute, which can save them hours a week. It also brings an inherent flexibility to the work environment that allows a better blend of work and private life, among others, but there are downsides. Managing the issues that come with remote working is definitely important, it can transform the experience and help workers manage their experience much better.
As with anything, as individuals we may find some aspects of remote working that don’t appeal, and they will be different for everyone. For instance, some of us hate video conferencing, others love it, but in general there are three main aspects of remote work that cause issues for workers across the board.
Too Much Work
In a traditional office, you arrive at work, have a chat with colleagues, do some work, maybe chat over lunch, and you finish work and go home. You may stay late a couple of times a week to meet a deadline, but in general, that is the routine. For a remote worker, it can be very different.
With no commute there is no separation between breakfast and work, you get started and get on with the day’s tasks. With no distractions and no one to interrupt them, work becomes the sole focus, and it can be very easy to end up doing many more hours a day. Workers can put pressure on themselves to get tasks done and end up overworking, leading to fatigue and mistakes, then ultimately burnout.
Management software is crucial here, offering time tracking and hour logging integrated into the normal daily workflow. Through these daily timesheets, each individual has a work tool to help them self-regulate, but also give management insight so they can spot problems early and take measures to help the individual involved.
With complex projects, each team member will be assigned a number of tasks according to their skills and abilities, but without quality oversight it can be easy to prioritize the wrong work and leave essential tasks incomplete, delaying the project and costing money.
With project and task dashboards within a management software package, leadership can ensure that work is prioritized in the right order to maintain scheduling and efficiency throughout the project.
Clear, easy to understand and effective such dashboards provide the glance information your team members need for effective prioritization.
Effective communications are essential to an effective team, but even when all members of the team are in the same building, that is not necessarily straightforward, so with remote working as you may expect it can be challenging. There are numerous tools to communicate across distance and potentially time zones too, but communications protocols need a unifying approach to avoid confusion.
The goal is to have an established solution for real-time and other communications that are both easy and effective to use, and they also bring in an established process that removes confusion. Management software that offers effective communication tools for both audio/video and text-based communications, integrated alongside the task management tools makes it easier to align discussions with the specific task under consideration.
This is crucial, as putting conversations in context with the current tasks provides a better understanding of the issues at hand. In addition, having access to real-time and delayed communications matters too. In a remote team, it may be common to have a team that spans multiple time zones, where real-time communications may only happen once or twice a week. Having tools that allow interaction at the recipient’s convenience are crucial in maintaining effective working even if team members are not necessarily at their desks at the same time during the day.