Apr 01 2020

Q&A: How Businesses Can Successfully Move to Full Remote Work

Collaboration is key in ensuring productivity, says Cisco Webex’s Aruna Ravichandran.

In a matter of weeks — and in some cases, days — businesses have had to shift to a fully remote workforce. It’s a big transition that requires a new IT approach in order to maintain productivity. BizTech spoke with Cisco Webex Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Marketing Aruna Ravichandran about how organizations, as well as their employees, need to adapt to what she thinks will become the new normal.

BIZTECH: Many companies are expanding their remote work options right now. What’s the biggest challenge they seem to be facing?

RAVICHANDRAN: When you think about remote work, previously that meant work from home, right? Many employers around the world had the capabilities to allow their employees to work from home, but what they would not actually provide for was to basically have their entire employee base work from home. So, that's one particular change we're seeing. 

BIZTECH: What kinds of technologies are businesses using to make this adjustment?

RAVICHANDRAN: One is, people need to be able to connect through their VPN. Having the right connection through a VPN so that you don't compromise the network as you dial into your company’s main data center is important. You also need to make sure that the right security practices are in place so that you don't compromise confidential information from your company, because while people are doing remote work, you don't want to compromise on the security side. And last but not the least are the tools and technology that will help employees collaborate with their coworkers, their partners and their customers around the world.

BIZTECH: Let’s talk more about collaboration technology. When most people think of collaboration tech, videoconferencing is the first thing that comes to mind. What else should companies be considering?

RAVICHANDRAN: Being able to have video meetings is extremely important, but in addition to that, you also need to have collaboration technologies that let people collaborate by sharing documents and using whiteboards. I recently spoke with a very large customer who was looking to send their entire design team to Korea. They had to stop that, given COVID, but work needs to continue. When you think about design, that conversation usually has to happen face to face. But because there are some collaboration technologies right now that are really advanced and they actually provide those capabilities, they were able to do complete whiteboarding and continue their design conversations remotely. 

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How small businesses are utilizing collaboration tech.

BIZTECH: This isn’t only a big adjustment for businesses, but also for employees. What are some things they can do to be professional and productive at home?

RAVICHANDRAN: As you actually work from home, you want to make sure that you have dedicated a space in your home that is for work, that is comfortable and that enables you to be productive. Make sure that you can remove any kind of noise in the background so that you don't distract people when you join meetings. 

We also tell employees to minimize the distractions you get when you're doing the meeting. When you're working from home, you could have a dog barking in the background. You could have somebody play video games in another room, so there could be a lot of background noises. Even though the doors are closed, the best way to keep out the background noise is by putting yourself on mute. Noise-canceling headphones or headsets are a great way to keep your focus so that you can continue to work.

A third thing is, take care of yourself. While you're in the office, you probably will take a restroom break, you'll go get yourself coffee, you'll talk to your coworkers, so there is a lot of social interaction that happens when you work in the office. But when you are working from home, it's very easy to get grounded in your home workspace and not take those breaks, which are very much needed. So, be sure to schedule time to basically stretch your body and schedule virtual coffee chats, so that you can continue to have that personal interaction with your coworkers.

DISCOVER: Find the right tools to drive your organization's work from home strategy.

BIZTECH: As you mentioned before, businesses generally used to have only portions of their workforce working remotely. Do you think that might change now that organizations have experienced it on a larger scale?

RAVICHANDRAN: I absolutely think that remote work is here to stay. As IT organizations start to build the infrastructure, that necessary set of collaboration tools and security tools, they're absolutely going make sure that they are not only ready for the pandemic but also that this is a part of their underlying culture.

If you think across the board, enabling remote work has a lot of benefits tied to it. A study that was done pre-COVID basically found that working from home increased productivity quite a bit.

Also, the tools and technology are out there today so that people can still feel connected, regardless of whether they're working from home or working in the office. I think that post-COVID, this remote work concept is going to be embraced by all organizations and universities, so they'll find that this becomes a way of life.

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