Working from home (WFH) has become the “go-to” method for companies to develop a productive workforce that extends beyond the physical walls of the company offices. WFH isn’t a new approach; employees, business owners, contractors, consultants have been doing this for years. 2020 is the tipping point year that working from home went from being a secondary approach to a mainstream capability for businesses of all sizes.
While WFH models usher in new business opportunities and serve as a new cornerstone for the global workforce, making the transition into this new model can be tough – for businesses and employees. As with anything new, change can be hard – but everyone settles into the “new normal,” the possibilities for innovation are limitless.
The most common type of working from home is remote access. Employees are given laptops, cell phones, and access to the corporate network to enable them to perform work and attend meetings outside of business hours. In this setup, the employee spends most of his/her time working in the office, and WFH is something they do only occasionally. With remote access, there often isn’t a dedicated home office workspace or equipment, and the employee simply finds a quiet place in the home to work (such as a couch or kitchen table).
Telecommuting is when an employee occasionally works from home during business hours. Some companies allow their employees to WFH one day/week as a routine practice. In a telecommuting setup, the employee typically has some sort of designated workspace in the home, although it often isn’t a full home office (perhaps just a desk in a guest room). Because the employee is expected to interact with co-workers as if they were physically in the office, workers that telecommute typically have higher speed internet connections, an office phone (or voice over IP (VoIP) set up on their computer) and external monitors in their home workspace. They may not have all the equipment and resources available in the office (such as printers, scanners, and ergonomic furniture) because they aren’t expected to be WFH full time.
There are some companies with job roles designated as full-time teleworkers (while most employees work from traditional offices). Full-time teleworking is most common with sales, consulting, and field service roles where primary job responsibilities are outside the company’s offices at a customer site. What makes full-time teleworkers different from telecommuters is that they don’t typically have workspace assigned in the company offices. Full-time teleworkers typically have more complete remote work setups enabling them to WFH, from a hotel room while traveling or from a customer site. For those teleworkers that WFH primarily, they often have a dedicated “home office” space (a separate room in the home) that is equipped with all of the office furniture, supplies, and resources that one might find in a company office building. Examples include things like dual monitor setups, fax machines, full-time access to the company network, and a separate office phone line.
The virtual workforce type of working from home is similar to full-time teleworkers but at a much larger scale. In this setup, entire business functions work from home full time. Some companies are entirely virtual with no physical office at all, or maybe just a small space for company leaders to meet. Other companies leverage a virtual workforce setup for functions like customer service (answering phones and emails). In contrast, other functions like product development, finance, and administration work in traditional office settings. What makes this situation different from the other WFH types is that IT systems, business processes, and management practices are optimized for a distributed workforce. Meetings take place via conferencing systems instead of in conference rooms. Documents are shared electronically instead of printed. Workflows are enabled via IT systems instead of physical interaction.
The type of WFH scenarios that a company embraces will be dependent on a combination of factors including company culture, nature of the industry, type of work that needs to be performed, availability of IT systems to support productivity, and comfort/skill of managers to coordinate remote work. It is common for some companies to have WFH policies that vary greatly by business function or job role. For example, managers and IT staff may have remote access, professional functions (like finance/hr) may support telecommuting, sales staff and consultants may be full-time teleworkers, and customer service may be set up as an entirely virtual workforce. It is also common for companies to adjust their WFH policies by region or in response to business disruptions (such as a natural disaster or health emergency)
Like any business or operating model, working from home is something that requires thoughtful planning and careful implementation to achieve maximum value, productive workers, and mitigates business risk. The following are a list of best practices for companies in establishing WFH practices
For employees working from home, there are a lot of benefits such as flexible work schedules, the ability to balance personal situations better and reclaiming time lost commuting to the office, and avoiding office distractions (such as co-workers stopping by to chat). WFH also comes with its own set of challenges, such as access to tools and information, personal distractions while you’re trying to work, loneliness/isolation, and a tendency to lose focus on work tasks. Here is a list of WFH best practices for employees to help you become more productive in the WFH environment
Working from home is a powerful capability that companies can leverage in times of business disruptions to enable business continuity. You don’t have to embrace a full-time virtual workforce model to have remote work as an available option in case of an emergency. In essence, you just need to plan and make sure you have the policies, processes, and tools in place to support “contingency mode.” You also need to have a clear process to shift your workforce into WFH mode and transition them back to normal operations when the situation is resolved. If you plan to use WFH in your business continuity toolbox, here is a list of things your IT department should put in place ahead of time.
Working from home requires a different set of tools than working in the office. Physical processes, in-person meetings, and printed records just won’t work if the people aren’t there. The good news is, there are quite a few modern IT services available to companies that can enable employees WFH to be more effective and also help the staff in your office too! All of these are cloud-hosted services distributed across data-centers around the globe giving high-availability (even during times of crisis) the ability to scale to meet the needs of large numbers of employees WFH at the same time and a set of robust yet easy to use features that your remote workers will love. This is by no means a complete list, but it is a great place to start!
Zoom is the leading provider of online meeting and video conferencing solutions to enable your employees, suppliers, and customers to conduct video conference calls, share their screen and record meetings with ease. What makes Zoom most helpful is it’s the ease of use. There is no training necessary – just schedule a meeting and go. If you are looking for a best in class solution for online meetings, Zoom is a good choice.
Webex is Cisco’s video conferencing and collaboration solution. It is used extensively by large companies and includes support for secure communications and Cisco Telepresence, a high definition video conferencing solution. Webex is great for internal meetings within your company and bridging between employees working from home and those working in the office.
Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of products provides an integrated set of tools for your entire company to collaborate, whether in the office, working from home, or at a customer site. Office 365 is more than just the desktop tools that people recognize (Excel, Word, and PowerPoint), it also includes things like Microsoft Teams (formerly Skype for Business) which provides voice, video, and desktop sharing both 1:1 and for small groups as well as discussion and chat features, OneDrive for storing and sharing files and Sharepoint for supporting team collaboration. What makes Office 365 a powerful tool for WFH is that the different pieces of the solution all work well together, across desktop and mobile devices.
Freshworks is a suite of cloud-based business solutions to support your various business processes. Offerings include things like Freshservice (ITSM), Freshteam (HRM), Freshdesk (customer support), and Freshsales (sales enablement). The offerings from Freshworks address the challenges of business process orchestration – routing work across a distributed team, tracking transactions through a workflow, and enabling process-centric team collaboration. In WFH situations, the more you can automate and orchestrate your business processes (think digital transformation), the more productive your remote employees will be.
LastPass is a password management system from LogMeIn (the makers of Go To Meeting). LastPass provides a centralized, secure password repository for your company to store and usernames/passwords and share them securely. A big problem with WFH setups is how to prevent end-user devices, text messages, and email from exposing sensitive system credentials with potential hackers. LastPass helps solve that problem. It also provides an easy to use way for employees to use strong passwords without having to remember all of them.
You can deploy and manage these services centrally, and the only thing your employees will need to add in is a reliable internet connection to their home office (some of these don’t work so well over dial-up). Top ISPs and mobile providers provide affordable residential broadband services, and most of your employees likely already have them set up.
A successful WFH program requires both companies and individuals to adjust their behavior and mindset to this new way of working. For companies, additional policies, processes, and IT systems may be necessary to give employees the capabilities they need to be successful in a WFH environment – either part-time or as a permanent arrangement. Employees need to develop a new set of work habits to be productive in a work from home environment, including having an appropriate workspace, establishing a routine, and putting additional focus on building/maintaining professional relationships. With the right planning and the right preparation, WFH can be a powerful tool to help companies address business disruptions like natural disasters and health crises, as well as develop a highly productive, engaged and resilient workforce.
WFH has become the go-to technique for organizations to build up a productive workforce that reaches past the physical walls of the company offices. WFH/remote workforce isn’t a new approach; employees, business owners, contractors, consultants have been doing this for years. 2020 is the tipping point year that working from home went from being a secondary approach to a mainstream capability for businesses of all sizes. Working from home (WFH) is a situation where employees perform work tasks remotely (from their home) instead of being physically present in a company office building. In a WFH setup, the employee typically has a dedicated home office workspace equipped with a computer. There are many reasons why companies may be having their employees work from home, ranging from participating in after-hours meetings with global clients/team members to accessing a distributed workforce to supporting company operations during a crisis. Employees that work from home often report higher company loyalty, job satisfaction, and morale because they are better positioned to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Remote work collaboration is increasingly in demand. Freelancing, digital nomadism, and remote work, in general, have been on an upward trajectory for a few years
Digital Transformation – The Current Status. The COVID-19 pandemic is now a global crisis. Businesses all over the world were caught catching up when countries