There’s no denying that we are experiencing one of the most difficult times in a generation, especially for business. With the Coronavirus pandemic at its peak, many industries have already been forced to make major changes to the way they operate in order to survive an unknown period of recession. With approximately 44% of UK businesses now operating a skeleton structure while 20% have chosen to completely shut down, (some even going out of business), the key workers and essential industries are adopting huge shifts in their operations.
In manufacturing, medical and food & drink there have been limited choices available to move to remote working, due to large machinery, demand for services and limited resources to transform traditional bricks and mortar stores into delivery-only.
What we have seen is an unprecedented transition to remote working for many businesses that have traditionally operated from an office environment, and already there is speculation that working-from-home will become much more of a norm following this forced rollout of changes.
While there are many cost-saving benefits to be had from this transformation, there are challenges to face for those who are passionate about staying the course, but technology can help bridge the gap.
One of the biggest challenges employers face is knowing that their remote staff are as productive as possible. While Google Calendar works well for ‘general meetings’ featuring their unique ‘hangouts’ video conferencing, the time spent in between departmental catch ups and brainstorms requires a little more granularity.
Online apps such as Float, Asana and Monday offer task scheduling that allow teams to generate lists and sublists that can be assigned to individuals and ticked off when done. For tracking productivity and time spent – Toggl or Timedoctor are simple chrome extensions that allow you to stop/start when working on a task. For an all-in-one solution, Clickup has many of the features you’d come to expect for scheduling, tracking time and maintaining efficiency amongst teams – remotely or in-house. All of which help you monitor, record and report on daily activity from your remote team.
Image src: https://clickup.com
Managing staff & technology
With many staff new to home-working, there is often a steep learning curve for some that have never used video conferencing, virtual private networks or cloud-based apps. Corporations large enough to have their own in-house IT department are now making the shift to remote IT support using bespoke and off-the-shelf applications allow many fixes to be remedied without the need for on-site visits. Detailed analytics software can show you the types of issues raised and resolved.
Img src: https://ctm-it.com
Creating documents online via cloud tools like Google Docs or even just storing existing files in Google Drive, OneDrive or DropBox is becoming widespread. While tricky for some to adopt, cloud-based tools go a long way in reducing the ‘I forgot to save’ moments that previously warranted hours of tricky restoration and recovery.
Find one person in your business to lead the way and champion new software, create documentation or training slides and allow you to upskill multiple departments at once. If you want to be able to measure performance and reward staff to maintain morale, apps such as StaffCircle or Clearview may be worth exploring.
When the chips are down, you have to make big decisions and those usually involve finance. Customers aren’t buying, suppliers aren’t operating, there seems too many unknowns to make data-driven decisions. Marketing is usually one of the first ‘expenses’ to get cut and upto 60% of UK businesses have already done so. Particularly across leisure and hospitality industries such as pubs, airlines and hotels, this has been necessary to avoid catastrophic loss.
“Amidst difficulty lies opportunity” – Albert Einstein.
While some of the biggest economic challenges can often reveal opportunities, they are not without risk – or investment.
As lockdown drives much more traffic through social media, ad spend is set to increase 22% and you’ll require additional effort to stand out amongst your competitors, however the rewards are there to be had with upto 670% increases in sales of some ecommerce categories according to ecommerceguide.com.
“Video (31%), paid ads (31%) and broadcast (28%) are all expected to ride the crest of a new digital boom.” – The Drum
Investing in SEO is also a great mid to long-term investment that if started now will show dividends in the coming months – especially while everyone else cuts back on paid ads.
WHAT YOUR BUSINESS CAN DO TO ENSURE REMOTE WORKING IS A SUCCESS
- If you’ve not already done so, map out your existing processes and identify where some of the bottlenecks are likely to occur with the switch to remote working. A free tool like draw.io should do the trick. Given that we’re a few weeks in, you may have already identified these!
- Ensure remaining staff are all fully versed in introducing your phase 1 software tools; conferencing and time management. You can create slides explaining how to use them at slides.google.com and present them via google hangouts which is simple and free to use.
- Any phase 2 software tools should be tested and evaluated to ensure you and the team have full visibility over the tasks in hand and the deadlines you need to meet. Clickup or Asana work well and both offer free trials and walkthroughs.
- Hardware, software, servers and networks can all be administered remotely – even the laptops that staff have taken home. This will go a long way to ensure everyone has the right access to resources and you can see who requires the most IT support time. If you’re on a shoestring budget and know how to fix your own IT, TeamViewer app lets you ‘remote in’ or use a professional company.
- Analyse every aspect of your marketing before you cut all budgets. Social media is great for B2C short-term gains if you’re on a budget. Paid ads and TV advertising for bigger budgets and SEO for mid to long-term gains. This could be the best time to compete.