The working culture of today is a far cry from the one I would have started working in 25 years ago. For me, back then it was about doing a job and doing it well, but it was always in that one stagnant place. This one place provided a grounding, a sense of familiarity and stability for your working life, separate to the one you had at home.
However, 25 years on this is very different. Most people now work remotely. They can still carry out their workday functions but this can be carried out from any location. In fact, I remember being part of a company many years ago that had the foresight to remove the cost associated with having expensive buildings on their books and get as many people working from home as much as possible. Therefore, in the case of any eventuality such as a building fire, earthquake or pandemic, it was ready to continue working and not have any impact on the business, its employees or its customers. A good Business Continuity and Recovery Programme (BCRP) has always been paramount.
This is all very well and good, but how do those small to medium sized companies get to that level? It’s not just having someone work from home, it’s about setting up a whole infrastructure which the company has to invest in to enable this. There are 5 key items I’d like to discuss which will give you a better understanding on having a holistic end-to-end infrastructure and yield the highest performance from every employee.
- Employees Home Office Set Up
In order to be successful, you need to invest in your employees who will be working remotely. You need to ensure that if they are working away from the building, they have sufficient broadband, conference phone system set up and online meeting options such as Zoom/Microsoft Teams. You also need to ensure that those working remotely have the correct level of ergonomics so as not to impede their performance. Set the employees home office in the same way they would in the main building, therefore ensure they have a proper desk, chair and monitors. Now the basic level of remote working has started, let’s look at the next item on the list.
- Flexibility on hours worked
We see more people logging on earlier in the mornings as they don’t have to do that morning commute but they may have to go pick up kids or drop them to activities. They now have the flexibility of doing this because they can start earlier and also work later – again the gain from the end of workday commune not being required. The requirement for global calls has increased significantly over the last 20 years. In Europe we have the benefit to be able to attend Eastern calls early in the morning and American calls in the afternoon. This can mean a longer working day but the employee has flexibility during the day for family needs. This works well because you have eliminated the “guilt” of being away from the family but also gained happier employees who have the best of both worlds, working and still being there for the family.
- Strong IT infrastructure
One of the biggest and more time-consuming exercises is the IT infrastructure as a whole for the company. You need to ensure that now, as we move more towards cloud-based applications, your data is secure. The company needs to ensure the correct firewalls are in place (controls what’s coming in and out of the network) and antivirus (if someone did manage to get into the network, the antivirus has a chance to avoid corruption). Password Protection Policies need to be documented, adhered to and audited regularly.
Once this is set up, you also need to ensure the employees computer at home is set up with the correct VPN Access to allow them access the network for files and programmes they need in order to do their job well.
- A strong ERP/Business management system in place
The next key activity that needs to happen to keep the business running successfully is for employees to continue to process their jobs, orders, purchasing, selling and finance. In order to do this, the organisation needs to have a good Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)/Business Management System in place. Each employee who has input to the life of creating and selling goods or services should be set up to carry out their function through the ERP package. ERP packages can be on premise (server based) or in the cloud and both can work very well remotely once the IT department has it set up and secure. The benefit of a good ERP system is that it is cost effective and generates significant cost saving in the long run. You can keep everything in one system without the need for integrating other systems which can cause performance issues. The ERP system is live and you can tell immediately where a particular order is and if the employees are up to date with all activities. The system can tell you immediately if something has stopped or you can push notifications to employees to do something even before it’s needed. All these are leading indicators and create a proactive, as opposed to a reactive, approach for a company yielding to significant performance improvement across the board.
- Remote inclusion/motivation activities
Finally, we must remember that our staff are the backbone of the company. We can put all the systems in place, but if we don’t apply the human element it all fails. Working remotely brings societal challenges such as feelings of loneliness and isolation. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses remember to have lots of online activities, whether that’s 1:1s between manager and employee, team calls and fun activities. Morale is all the more prevalent while people are remote. This has to be included in the company’s strategic objectives, again leading to greater output and employee performance.
Written by Sonya Browne, Finance Project Manager at Hybrid TP.