The demand for remote work, as well as the companies that allow it, has steadily been increasing over the past few years. In 2019, Upwork released its third annual Future Workforce Report. It found that 69% of younger managers (who will take up a bigger share of management when the previous generation ages out of the workforce) have team members who are working remotely. The study predicts that by 2028, 73% of teams will have employees working remotely.
This trend has gotten a massive boost in 2020 because of the pandemic. As many businesses cease physical operations because of both the virus and the measures put in place to fight it, many companies have been forced into remote work setups to continue operating.
Many of these companies are now dealing with the challenges of remote work, to which, fortunately, there are tech solutions available.
Remote Work Challenge 1: Communication and Collaboration
One of the biggest challenges facing companies who have made the shift is communication and collaboration. In Buffer.com’s State of Remote Work report in 2019, they found that collaborating and communicating are one of the top challenges encountered by remote workers. There are, of course, email and chat programs out there. Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams app downloads and usage have predictably skyrocketed as company operations have gone online and employees have had to work from home.
But there is a need for more than just a way to talk to each other and hold meetings. Teams have to manage projects, coordinate with other departments, and make sure that goals are hit.
The following apps have also seen heavy usage during the pandemic:
Project management software. Trello, Airtable, and Coda are all great ways to organize team tasks and set goals clearly. Of particular note is Trello, which follows a Kanban framework for project management. Project components can be broken down visually into components. It is clear at a glance who is responsible for what and what progress has been made on which fronts. It makes collaboration easier, with the transparency of work and collaboration.
Note-taking apps. OneNote and EverNote are excellent tools for taking notes. EverNote has been one of the most popular apps even before 2020, with robust features that let users take different kinds of notes (text, audio recordings, images of documents, drawings). It works across different platforms. So the notes on your mobile can be synced with your laptop. With a Business account, it can be used in collaboration with your coworkers.
Remote Work Challenge 2: Supporting Department Operations
Productivity. One of the challenges of remote work is distractions around the house, especially for those who aren’t used to working from home. Productivity can be affected, which many struggling companies can ill afford at this point. Enter apps such as Desktime and Time Doctor, which combine features such as time tracking, employee monitoring, and project management. Time Doctor has several nifty features such as creating auto screenshots to make sure that your employees are being productive during work hours. It also has payroll capabilities based on hours the tracked employees have worked.
Business continuity. When companies are in operation, the support departments (IT, HR, Accounting) also have to keep going. There are programs out there that are specific to these departments’ functions. Skillfuel is web recruitment software that also serves as a project/recruitment management tool, letting your recruitment team continue recruiting and hiring online. Xero is accounting software that works off the cloud, allowing the accounting team access to the company’s financial data and records from different locations. Because of the sensitive nature of the information that accounting handles, Xero features heavy security and tight control, with which employees have access to which data.
Remote Work Challenge 3: Employee Engagement
The biggest challenge remote workers struggle with, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work, is isolation and loneliness. With companies now doing remote work at scale, they must now deal with their employees’ well-being, exacerbated by the general anxiety caused by the lockdown. To cope, companies have been rolling out a few initiatives:
Community building. Employees accustomed to seeing each other at work and being able to talk to their colleagues during breaks and after work may struggle with the isolation of working from home. To keep their morale up, companies are considering how to simulate the office environment at home best. They’ve created team activities and forums, where employees can connect with each other for non-work-related matters.
GitLab, for example, has been working remotely for many years and has team members in different countries. Part of their company culture is the virtual coffee break, which gets people to interact with each other.
Employee recognition. Recognizing employees for their achievements is a great morale boost. Newsletters and virtual awards ceremonies, paired with online rewards platforms such as Vantage Circle, let you track achievements, set incentive budgets, give points as rewards so that employees can choose their own rewards from a pool of prizes that you set. It’s a great way to say thank you to employees, who can be feeling burnt out as they try to manage both their work and home life without the release of being able to go out.
As the world grapples with the many changes brought about by the pandemic, it’s important to note that there are solutions out there. With remote work set to become a fixture in many companies even after 2020, it’s high time businesses planned how they would be able to adapt.