The business world has shifted in recent months, with the global pandemic causing people to rapidly transition to working from home whenever possible. And there are signs that this revolution will not be easily reversed, with companies beginning to see the value in remote work.

When done correctly, remote work could be a means of boosting productivity, with workers happily giving up wasted hours lost to the daily commute and finding the possibility of a better work-life balance.

It had previously been predicted that up to 60% of office-based employees would work regularly from home by 2022, and the coronavirus situation has only accelerated that, as companies scramble to implement the technological solutions they need to make home working possible. And offering remote working is easier than many companies first imagined, with many positive benefits, including:

  • Increased staff productivity
  • A drop in absenteeism
  • Better employee engagement
  • A better work-life balance
  • A valuable perk that helps attract top talent to your organization

So, remote working has been shown to act as an effective means of bringing together the most suitable people and resources to tackle a project. When done correctly, it can improve communication, increase collaboration and attract the best fit workers. Not bad for something which can be easily implemented using the right digital tools. So, what do you need to create a productive remote work environment that will last?

1. File and Data Sharing Tools

The first step towards working effectively remotely is creating your shared digital ecosystem—the tech solutions you put in place to allow your business processes to happen at a distance.

This is where cloud-based solutions prove their value, both in giving remote access to files and data and for enabling collaboration on projects. Cloud-based systems can be accessed anytime, anywhere and provide a high level of security.

It’s also important to remember that fostering a team culture should remain a priority, even more so when people are working at a distance. A Globoforce survey found that 89% of workers state that their working relationships are crucial to their overall quality of life.

That is where programs such as Microsoft Teams are instrumental in the success of distance working. Not only do they enable seamless collaboration across platforms such as email, presentations, documents and spreadsheets, but they link with CRM solutions to enhance data management, and provide social tools like instant messaging boards that allow people to stay connected to their coworkers.

2. Real-Time Communication Capabilities

Creating a chat room or a thread of messages related to a video conferencing call is a way to not only share ideas but also for teams to bond remotely. This casual interaction—the stereotypical “water cooler chat”—takes on heightened importance when workers cannot physically meet.

Project teams have been utilizing tools such as Zoom or Google Hangouts to great effect, while Microsoft Teams is a premium option for combining all of these capabilities in one interconnected forum. Leaving webcams on during meetings is also a good way of making the individuals in an organization feel connected.

There is definite value in seeing each other’s faces, working environments, and even pets who have unknowingly wandered into shot; it’s these little, seemingly trivial details that actually contribute to team bonding by creating a better understanding of who people are and what motivates them.

3. A Welcoming Culture

Of course, what every company should be aiming for is a welcoming, inclusive culture that encourages people to be open with ideas.

The removed atmosphere which working remotely brings can have the effect of making it easier for employees to share ideas without the immediate fear of ridicule which sometimes stops people sharing in person, as long as your company communicates its acceptance of all ideas in the first place. But conversely, if employees don’t feel their ideas are needed or welcomed, they may use a remote workplace as a justification to stay quiet. Show your desire for everyone to contribute, both by explicitly inviting employees to engage and by responding encouragingly when employees do contribute thoughts and ideas.

Using your digital tools to collaboratively create, share, and embed a vision and values for your work is a great place to start. Channels like this allow you to do things like create short videos showcasing the work of different teams within your company, or publishing blog posts which explain an individual’s role or a team project in greater depth. With the right tools on board, there really are no limits to what a focused team can achieve.

An experienced IT company can help you get the tools in place for remote communication to thrive, but it’s up to you to create the open, inviting culture that unlocks truly productive remote collaboration.