It’s reasonable to assume that the COVID-19 crisis that’s recently hit the business world is going to leave a lasting impact on virtually all businesses.
Sadly, many will not be able to weather the economic storm that’s surrounded the pandemic – but for those who have a business model that’s been able to adapt, it’s almost certainly relied on employees working remotely.
Hopefully, we won’t see a pandemic of this nature again – but if we do, will we be better prepared? And could we shift more of our workforces to remote positions to safeguard our businesses?
What kind of changes will businesses need to make?
As many businesses rush to make it possible for employees to work from home, we’re getting a better idea of what’s needed to make sure your business can be run safely, securely, and effectively under employees’ roofs.
Generally speaking, it’s IT systems that prevent people working from home in many roles, so it’s a good idea to look at what kind of IT infrastructure is needed to make working from home a more realistic proposition.
An internet connection
Above and beyond all other considerations, your remote workers are going to need a way to connect to your network.
Fortunately, more and more businesses are opting for cost-effective 4G network designs that can be adapted to allow for 4G (and soon 5G) routers based in other geographical locations.
The good news is, many 4G and 5G routers are becoming capable of carrying multiple SIMs – which mean business-level data connections, even if you’re working from a property that only has a domestic internet circuit installed. These highly portable routers are simply used too. Generally, a router will be set up by an IT provider on-site, meaning they’re ready to be fired up at home and ready to use.
There’s little technical knowledge required either – so you don’t have to worry about employees being especially well-versed on network security. In fact, connecting to the network created by the router would be very similar to connecting to an office-based wired connection.
A remote desktop
Although bring your own device policies have some merits, there’s nothing that really compares to the concept of sitting down in front of a work machine and accessing all your familiar applications and systems – and this is where a remote desktop is enormously helpful.
A remote desktop service means you can access your work machine from anywhere you can get a suitable internet connection – and since the machine you’re working with is ‘virtual’ – you don’t run into any of the security issues that you would if you simply brought a work device home and used it on your own network.
A communication system
In the absence of being able to talk across the office to coordinate your working day with the rest of your team, it’s useful to have an application that keeps you in touch.
This is where a service like Slack comes in handy. Rather than rely on multiple conversations in your email inbox, you can set up a workspace and invite your colleagues. When they arrive, they’ll find a virtual workspace, where you can set up different conversations about projects – including as many of your colleagues as you wish – and even limiting access to certain topics if you want to set up different departments or contractors on the system.
Communication tools like this reduce the chance of workers feeling disconnected from the team – and while they’re not a perfect substitute for standing around the copier having a quick chat, they do have their merits. It’s shown that collaborating online is likely to increase a team’s productivity by around 10% – which isn’t to be sniffed at.
A cloud-based CRM
Being able to securely access all the information a business holds about its customers can be the difference between being able to support and sell to those customers or not.
A good CRM system can be used to organize every interaction you have with every customer – and even potential customers. In fact, it’ll help you maximize every interaction you have – and since it’s cloud-based, you’re not relying on your employees being able to pick up paper files in your office.
Studies suggest that this ultra-efficient electronic way of handling leads will send conversion rates through the roof too. Some industries report 300% increases in customer conversions simply because they implement a CRM rather than relying on a suite of other applications.
The good news is, customers tend to approve too. From their point of view, the experience only ever gets better – and, as a result, some industries report 70% increases in customer satisfaction – simply because interactions become more streamlined and effective.
Working with freelancers, contractors, and third parties
Of course, a huge percentage of the world’s workforce already considers home as their primary place of work – so having employees working from home doesn’t have to just involve sending your current staff home with routers – it can also mean you open your doors to people who already have the work-from-home infrastructure in place.
If you’re relying on recruiting people who can commute to your office, you’re narrowing your talent pool significantly – whereas having a remote working infrastructure in place means you can open the door to talent from the other side of the world should you so desire.
This also means being able to outsource your IT support too. Increasingly, companies are turning to managed service providers (MSPs) for their IT requirements. It’s useful to think of a managed service provider as an external IT department – but without the legwork and cost required to recruit an in-house team.
By working with a remote IT team, you unlock a huge amount of technical knowledge and potential. For your monthly cost, you’re likely to get round the clock support (without having to employ people around the clock!) and a world of knowledge that’s honed on hundreds of other company’s IT provisions. If you’ve got the infrastructure in place to work with a team remotely, IT is a great place to start – and if you don’t have that provision just yet, a good remote IT team can help you put it in place.