Apr 15 2020

How Businesses Can Build a Culture of Remote Work

Communication and collaboration are key to ensuring business continuity as workforces stay home.

It’s been a tight turnaround for businesses to get their employees operating from home. They’ve distributed laptops, monitors and mobile devices to ensure their workers have the physical tools they need to perform their duties remotely. 

While for many this is a relatively temporary shift, for some, it will be a permanent one. A chief financial officer survey from Gartner found that 74 percent of CFOs intend to move at least some employees to remote work full time. 

“CFOs, already under pressure to tightly manage costs, clearly sense an opportunity to realize the cost benefits of a remote workforce,” says Alexander Bant, practice vice president of research for the Gartner Finance Practice in the survey’s press release. “In fact, nearly a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20 percent of their onsite employees to permanent remote positions.”

For long-term remote work to be successful, communication and collaboration need to be ingrained in a company’s culture. Optimizing existing tools, making necessary upgrades, and maintaining guidance and support from organizational leadership are all key in ensuring business continuity regardless of where the workforce resides.

Businesses May Already Have the Collaboration Tools They Need

The shift to remote work hasn’t really changed the way businesses are thinking about collaboration, says Mike Murphy, collaboration solution architect team lead at CDW. What it has done is increase the urgency.

“We're having all the same conversations about collaboration that we normally have,” says Murphy. “But instead of crawl, walk, run, we're being forced into ready, aim, fire.”

Despite the time crunch, many businesses already have a solid foundation of communication and collaboration solutions they can tap into.

“We usually start with evaluating what you have,” Murphy says. “You may not have pulled some levers that you already have in your system. For instance, in your PBX and your unified communication system, it may be as simple as looking into enabling call forwarding.” 

Mike Elrod, principal field solution architect for CDW, says that the rise of productivity suites and web-based tools has made the transition easier for some organizations.

“With tools like Office 365 or Google G Suite, we're seeing some opportunity for our clients to get their employees more productive quicker,” says Elrod. “They can really use those tools as a day one deliverable as they figure out how to extend resources behind the scenes or behind the firewall.”

Investing in Higher Quality Solutions Makes a Big Difference

One of the biggest drawbacks to remote work is not having workers around to collaborate face to face. In order to re-create that experience, businesses may want to invest in high-quality tools. 

“If we want folks to really feel connected, especially if we're going to be in this work-from-home situation long term, you’ve got to up the level of collaboration tools you're giving employees,” says Murphy. “High-quality webcams and headsets provide a good experience for the user, but they also provide a good experience for all the others you're collaborating with.”  

Nathan Coutinho, director of collaboration solutions for CDW, says that even the technology at employees’ fingertips can make a big difference. 

“Use your iPhone's camera, use your iPad's camera,” says Coutinho. “Whatever device you have that has a camera, use it.”

While built-in options may be a good place to start, Coutinho says that upgrading could pay dividends during long-term remote work.

“Use what you have, but ultimately, long term, you need to think through whether this is going to be a normal thing,” he says. “How much do you want to get everyone completely engaged during those video calls?”

WATCH: Experts break down what businesses need to have to power successful remote work.

Embed the Right Tools in the Company Culture

Having the tools is important, but it’s equally important to make sure they’re being used, and used properly, across the organization. Craig Radloff, enterprise collaboration consultant for CDW, says that management needs to take the lead when it comes to integrating tools into company culture.

“We want to effectively let our users know what they should be using, how to use it, and how to get help,” says Radloff. “Communication should come not only from IT, but also down from management. Managers need to say, ‘Hey, here's the tools you should be using. Here's why you should use it, and how to get help.’” 

Radloff says that making sure employees have what they need to use the tech properly and troubleshoot problems is just as important as strong leadership.

“With the number of people who are working remote, your support centers are going to be overwhelmed with calls,” he says. “Use frequently asked questions pages and internal websites on how to get training to leverage what the vendors and partners have to offer.” 

Keeping employees engaged with their work while working remotely will be key for businesses to ensure continuity through disasters. With the right, quality collaboration tools and the leadership to integrate them, organizations can be prepared to weather any situation.

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