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The rapid shift to remote working life

Paul Jarrett, Founder and Managing Director of digital product agency Sonin, looks at how remote working presents a valuable opportunity for businesses to evaluate existing operations.

Offices up and down the UK remain deserted as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the world. Despite an outstanding effort from people all across the country, COVID-19 still poses significant risk, forcing lockdown to be extended and the majority of UK workers to maintain their makeshift office from home.

This in itself has presented a fresh set of challenges, ranging from reduced productivity to incorporating new means of communication with colleagues and clients alike.

However, remote working life doesn’t have to be marred by frustration and inefficiency, and if anything, businesses should view this as an opportunity to re-evaluate their existing processes and make improvements for years to come.

Solving the remote working problem

From an operational perspective, firms must ensure that they’ve covered off the necessities for remote working. This means accommodating real-time collaboration by providing access to integral cloud-based tools and shared-access folders.

Daily goals should be set to keep teams focused and help managers evaluate performance and communication must go beyond telephone calls. You need to see your co-workers to better understand the context behind what they’re saying, which is where video tech platforms like Microsoft Teams have proven invaluable.

At a time when day-to-day communication is impaired, it’s important to over-communicate through apps. Simple things like setting Slack statuses to ‘On Lunch’ – saying when you’ll be back – ‘On a Call’, or ‘Grabbing a Drink’ can really help to keep colleagues abreast of your movements and when they might be able to contact you. Recreating your normal office routine should be encouraged wherever possible. For example, the ‘3pm slump’ when everyone usually gravitates towards the coffee cupboard should act as your cue to put the kettle on for a short, deserved rest.

The app Hangouts is also a great way to catch up with each other, whilst offering a social space for team members in lieu of
the break room.

An opportunity for reflection

On a strategic level, remote working presents a valuable opportunity for businesses to evaluate existing operations. While in the office, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision and go through the motions day after day. However inconvenient the circumstances might be, now is the time to take a step back and assess what does and doesn’t work.

The focus for any forward-thinking firm must be on the value that it can bring to its customers, and remote working has likely forced many to adapt their traditional processes to maintain a high standard of service.

Business leaders must evaluate if the tools and processes introduced have improved operations, and whether they will remain when things return to ‘normal’.

Ultimately, it’s easy to view a working life in lockdown as a negative one. Yet, the business leaders who don’t spend this time resting on their laurels and think proactively about the future are bound to be the ones that find themselves ahead of the curve in a very different, post-Coronavirus world.

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