Preparing for a mobile workforce.

Ian Flynn
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On: 5 Mar 2020
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Remote Working

Remote working is rapidly gaining momentum and growing numbers of Irish businesses are facing a shift from an office-based to a remote workforce. A number of factors are contributing to this, from staff looking to improve their work-life balance, not enough desks being available in companies where the workforce has outgrown the office space, or as we’ve seen in recent times in the event of extreme weather conditions or other unforeseen global events.

These types of incidents impede companies from being able to do business as they normally would and from a business continuity perspective, this presents a set of challenges if a company is not set up for remote working or hasn’t done so on a large scale basis.

In an ideal world, events would simply trigger a company’s crisis management process so it can meet the challenge of providing employees with access to the fundamentally important systems they need to do their jobs. For companies that don’t yet have these policies in place, here are some points to consider.

Check if your technology model is adapted for remote working: are you using collaboration tools in the office and do you have a way to let staff use them from other locations?

If employees will be working from home for an extended period of time, this is where collaboration tools like Webex, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are very useful. Holding video conferences, which you can do on almost any device, is a great way to work remotely but still work together as a team.

The communication challenge.

If a business decides, or is told, that its employees must work from home for a potentially extended period of time, it needs to let them know urgently – possibly even out of regular business hours. How can it ensure that every member of staff has seen the message in time and knows what to do next?

For internal staff, email is one option for sharing important messages but not every employee will have access to it on their mobile phone – or company policy may dictate that email is only available on laptops.

Then there’s the critical element of customer communications. Will support arrangements change if there’s a remote working policy in place? How will you notify customers about outstanding orders? During any business interruption, minimising the impact on customers is vital. Businesses can send a very strong message – literally and figuratively – if they are able to tell customers that it’s business as usual even while staff are working remotely.

How to ensure your message is delivered.

We have found that SMS is by far the most effective way to reach employees and customers directly with urgent messages. Text messages are native to all phones, don’t require any specialist apps, and with an open rate of 97%, businesses have a reliable way that all but guarantees people will see the message.

Next comes the question of enabling people to carry on working productively from home. Suppose someone gets locked out of their account, or needs a new login; how can you communicate passwords securely? SMS is a highly effective channel for this kind of communication, as cybersecurity experts recommend never sending passwords by email. SMS is encrypted in transit and it goes to an endpoint – a device in its recipients’ possession.

Working from home requires internet access at a minimum, while applications like video need high levels of bandwidth. If you are planning for the next business interruption, consider mobile broadband for workers who don’t currently have good-quality internet connections at home.

If important company information is saved on a server that’s physically located at the company offices, will staff who are working remotely be able to access this? One way is to have shared folders saved on a cloud platform that employees can log into instead. Using cloud-based tools gives you resilience and redundancy compared to accessing a physical system on a closed network.

Connectivity considerations for home workers.

What do you do if your staff does not have access to reliable broadband services from their home address? Businesses can avail of mobile broadband on 30-day rolling contracts that provide additional upload and download capacity. This way, connectivity is no obstacle to productivity.

Unlike the old idea of fully equipped ‘mirror’ sites that needed to be paid for and maintained in case of a major emergency, remote working from home and cloud-based collaboration tools are available when needed and you pay for them as you use them.

Other parts of a remote working plan have less to do with technology and more to do with culture: the business needs to have a clear strategy behind its remote working communication practices. There should be consistency and accuracy and important communications should come from the same source.

Whether you call it crisis management or business continuity, it is not just a short-term fix but a plan that can withstand potential interruptions – whatever form they take. If a company has considered a range of scenarios and developed processes to ensure that staff can work from home productively, then it really can be a case of ‘business as usual’.

For more information about Three’s communications and collaboration solutions, visit here.

If you would like advice with setting up remote working in your organisation, call our Business Advice team on 1800 200 017 or