Making WFH Effective

Last year, around this time, we were contemplating how to shift our office to remote work. It’s going to be a year soon and it’s unbelievable how comfortable we are now with this new setup. I remember some of my colleagues worrying about the new rules of remote working. They had never worked from home before, even for a day. They believed that with family around, home is a place of distractions. Most of them worried about how they would participate in distraction-free meetings, concentrate on their work, and be productive.

A few days back, I asked how are you dealing with the ‘new normal’. And I was surprised to hear that they have started liking this new way. They even expressed a little hesitation in coming back to the workplace.

I totally get it. As Robin Sharma says-

“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and so gorgeous at the end.”

Last year, the work-from-home culture was barbaric for everyone. And now that all of us have adjusted to the humdrum of the WFH routine, going to the office seems like a hard task.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the coming days, office spaces become obsolete. Buffer and AngelList even released a State of Remote Work report where they shared insights on how the workplace of the future would look like.

Now that we know what the future of work looks like, shouldn’t we prepare ourselves for this new change? Absolutely. So in this blog, I’ll share what individuals and leaders can do to make WFH more effective and productive-

What can individuals do?

8 ways to build a future-proof organization | McKinsey & Company

In the remote setup, one of the most important things is setting up a work desk for yourself. You don’t need an elaborate arrangement to make way for that. Just a table and a comfortable chair in a corner where you can work without any disturbance.

This and a robust internet connection. Now that remote work is going to stay, investing in this setup should be your first priority.

Next on your priority list should be– create a routine. 

Why, you ask? Because the only thing we miss about the office is a routine. A routine of commuting to work, reaching our desk, participating in team rituals, working on individual tasks, taking breaks when we need them, and then wrapping up the day to come back home to family.

In the remote world, building a routine will help you wade through endless distractions (from home or mindless internet browsing) and the guilt of under-achieving your planned tasks. So create a To-Do list and plan your day in advance. Dress up as you would do for work and have a start and end time, just as before.

The next thing that you can do is make meetings interesting. Now that you can’t see your team in person, switch on video calls to maintain that human connection. In my team, we have this unsaid convention to be on video everytime we call each other. And we always start our team meetings with casual chit chat, asking questions about how everyone is doing. Even if we have nothing new to share, we just keep it casual for a few minutes before jumping on the agenda of the meeting.

Ask yourself– what did you do in the office that made it easy for you to go there everyday? When you have your answers, recreate the same atmosphere for yourself at home.

What can leaders do?

Exercising Thought Leadership in B2B Marketing - ExoB2B

Get things in order: The remote work culture puts additional responsibility on the leaders. Now, you have to figure out the what, how and where of everything– what will be the new way of doing things? How will the communication happen? Where will the team collaborate? How to arrange for access to client networks on personal laptops? What would happen if someone’s laptop breaks down? How would your IT-support team interact with those facing software issues?

It would have been much better if we all had got the time to prepare for these infrastructure changes. But, as they say, problems don’t matter, solutions do. So, as a leader, your first responsibility is to get things in place for the remote setup.

Check on the mental health of your team members: The next thing that leaders have to make sure is that people are focused, committed, and happy in their work. Remote work can be harsh for people who live alone or who only have workplace colleagues as friends to keep them company. Help them wade through this time by guiding them on how they can take care of themselves. All they need is a caring and empathetic leader who understands their point of view.

Don’t let productivity take a dip: The biggest advantage of remote work is the time you cut down on commuting. With more time on hand, there is no reason for productivity to take a dip unless there are some serious issues. Of course, there will be some changes in the work-schedule. Afterall, your home is a makeshift workplace. But that shouldn’t affect productivity for the long-term.

So, constantly keep a check on the quality of deliverables and raise flags whenever anomalies appear. When you see someone doing extraordinary work, or someone slacking off, share your feedback immediately.

In case you have to do some intense conversations– be it work-related or behavioral– come prepared with incidents to back up your observations. Ask them what they need from you in order to succeed. There is a chance that your team members wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking up on video call. In that case, give them the freedom to share their feelings through email or voice call.

Communicate transparently: Share everything with the team even before they begin to realize something is amiss. It’s natural for your team members to feel intrigued about what’s going on in the organization– when would the office open up? How long will they be working remotely? When the office opens up would they all be required to join or can they continue to work remotely if they wish? How is the sales and hiring pipeline shaping up? Has pandemic affected revenue streams? If yes, how bad is it?

All of these questions and many more are bound to crop up in their mind. As their leader, you need to answer to everything so that they feel connected to the organization.

At times, all of this can be a little overwhelming for the leaders, especially the new ones. In that case, just hold on to your values and lend an empathetic ear to your team members. Give them the benefit of doubt. It’s a challenging time for everyone. The best you can do right now is trust them (not blindly) and ask them to trust you.

There is a lot that we can do as individuals, leaders and organizations to better deal with this pandemic. But if you want to continue with remote work even after the pandemic is over (is it ever going to be over, I wonder?), this is not the time to do everything in one go. It’s the time to take things slow, experiment and see how we can expand our capabilities.

Opening gates to remote work gives opportunities to organizations to tap into the global talent pool. And if that’s what organizations are looking for, this is the right time to invest in creating practices and guidelines for the team members and set them up for success.

IT – The remote worker’s toolkit

IT the remote worker's toolkit

Enterprise clients have looked to automate IT support for several years. With millions of employees across the globe now working from home, support needs have increased dramatically, with many unprepared enterprises suffering from long service desk wait times and unhappy employees. Many companies may have already been on a gradual pace to exploit digital solutions and enhance service desk operations, but automating IT support is now a greater priority. Companies can’t afford downtime or the lost productivity caused by inefficient support systems, especially when remote workers need more support now than ever before. Digital technologies offer companies innovative and cost-effective ways to manage increased support loads in the immediate term, and free up valuable time and resources over the long-term. The latter benefit is critical, as enterprises increasingly look to their support systems to resolve more sophisticated and complex issues. Instead of derailing them, new automated support systems can empower workers by freeing them up to focus more on high-value work.

Businesses can start their journey toward digital support by using chatbots to manage common support tasks such as resetting passwords, answering ‘how to’ questions, and processing new laptop requests. Once basic support functions are under digital management, companies can then transition to layering in technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence and analytics among others.

An IT support automation ecosystem built on these capabilities can enable even greater positive outcomes – like intelligently (and invisibly) discovering and resolving issues before they have an opportunity to disrupt employees. In one recent example, DXC deployed digital support agents to help manage a spike of questions coming in from remote workers. The digital agents seamlessly handled a 20% spike in volume, eliminated wait times, and drove positive employee experiences.

Innovative IT support

Innovative IT supports

IT support automation helps companies become more proactive in serving their employees better with more innovative support experiences. Here are three examples:

Remote access

In a remote workforce, employees will undoubtedly face issues with new tools they need to use or with connections to the corporate network. An automated system that notifies employees via email or text about detected problems and personalized instructions on how to fix is a new way to care for the remote worker. If an employee still has trouble, an on-demand virtual chat or voice assistant can easily walk them through the fix or, better yet, execute it for them.

Proactive response

The ability to proactively monitor and resolve the employee’s endpoint — to ensure security compliance, set up effective collaboration, and maintain high performance levels for key applications and networking – has emerged as a significant driver of success when managing the remote workplace.

 For example, with more reliance on home internet as the path into private work networks, there’s greater opportunity for bad actors to attack. A proactive support system can continuously monitor for threat events and automatically ensure all employee endpoints are security compliant.

Leveraging proactive analytics capabilities, IT support can set up monitoring parameters to match their enterprise needs, identify when events are triggered, and take action to resolve. This digital support system could then execute automated fixes or send friendly messages to the employee with instructions on how to fix an issue. These things can go a long way toward eliminating support disruptions and leave the employee with a sense of being cared for – the best kind of support.

More value beyond IT

Companies are also having employees leverage automated assistance outside of IT support functions. These capabilities could be leveraged in HR, for example, to help employees correctly and promptly fill out time sheets or remind them to select a beneficiary for corporate benefits after a major life event like getting married or having a baby.

Remote support can also help organizations automate business tasks. This could include checking on sales performance, getting recent market research reports sent to any device or booking meetings through a voice-controlled device at home.

More engaged employees With the power to provide amazing experiences, automated IT support can drive new levels of employee productivity and engagement, which are outcomes any enterprise should embrace.

Why is remote software development expensive?

Why is remote software development expensive?
While we are speaking to our prospective clients about their product development plans, one comparison that often gets discussed is why they should even outsource to us and not hire an in-house team?While there are many other factors in comparing remote vs in-house software development, one of the important factors in this comparison is the overall cost.Though seasoned entrepreneurs may understand this very well, as a first-time entrepreneur, it’s easy to miss out that when you are hiring a company for your software development, you’re paying for a finished product.

And a “finished product” is a lot more than the code that gets pushed on your servers. Here’s what all goes into building successful software:

  1. Team salaries: The salaries paid to the team working on your product is the most obvious expense and hence this is the first item on this list. Duh!
  2. Office space: A clean, well maintained IT office at an accessible location with all amenities including Internet connectivity, meeting rooms, projectors, whiteboards, pantry, etc. is a constantly recurring cost borne by the company.
  3. Hardware and software licenses: The employee’s laptops and networking equipment, both of which require routine upgrades as per market standards is an important recurring cost an IT company has to bear. In addition, many software licenses and SaaS tools and services (ex. email services, testing servers, OS licenses, etc.) have to be paid for on a month to month basis.
  4. Admin overheads: Admin and maintenance staff and office supplies needed for day to day office operations may seem like small expenses in isolation but quickly start to add up.
  5. CA and Accounts: Any software company will need an accounting and CA services to handle their routine compliances, taxes, and payrolls.
  6. Hiring and training costs: Hiring and training people is a stressful, expensive and time-consuming task. Not only is the hiring process difficult, but every organization also has to deal with the problem of employee churn. Every IT company also needs to spend considerable time in training and upgrading employee skills as per current trends and market expectations.
  7. Team activities: A happy and satisfied team is much more than just offering market-rate salaries. Today’s workforce looks for perks, team activities, etc. and as an employer, these are important team building and retention strategies.
  8. Operating profit: Over and above these costs, the software company will keep a profitability margin which will make the business sustainable over the long run.

If you are starting up, it may be a better idea to simply outsource all of the above to a software company so that you have only one thing to focus all your attention on – Your product

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