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Remote work best practices emphasize UC collaboration tools

Maintaining business continuity in times of crisis requires following remote work best practices that provide a consistent experience and keep employees productive.

Most organizations take business continuity for granted under normal conditions, but those same capabilities get put to the test when adverse conditions strike. To varying degrees, every business needs to ensure continuity for those in three areas: customers, employees and the supply chain.

While a proper business continuity strategy addresses all three, let's focus on employee needs. To maintain business continuity for employees and keep them productive, organizations should consider two best practices. Ideally, IT should use these as building blocks for a more holistic approach that also addresses customer and supply chain needs when conditions shift from normal to abnormal.

Treat remote work as the new normal

Some adverse scenarios are quite short in duration and have limited impact, so organizations can usually manage them by being reactive. Businesses need to plan as conditions become more unpredictable and have longer-term impact. The coronavirus is just one example of a disruption where the duration and impact are totally unknown. While this particular threat will pass, future public health outbreaks can't be ruled out as economies become increasingly global. The same can also be said for extreme weather conditions, which can disrupt the routine of working in an office in many ways.

While remote work can't eliminate the disruptive risks of a pandemic or natural disaster, it can certainly mitigate them.

These elements bring new forms of risk into any business and are outside its control. IT decision-makers need to focus instead on factors they can control, such as encouraging or even requiring more remote work. While remote work best practices can't eliminate the disruptive risks of a pandemic or natural disaster, it can certainly mitigate them. For many employees, remote working is welcome, even preferred, but it's often viewed as the exception rather than the rule.

The remote working trend, however, is accelerating, so businesses would be wise to have more workers in this mode. Many workers will embrace remote work as the new normal, as long as they view it as happening for the right reasons. Rather than position remote work as a cost-saving move on office space, it's better to focus on the health and safety of employees, as well as to better accommodate today's digital workstyles.

Recognize the need for a common set of collaboration tools

An important remote work best practice is to provide collaboration tools. Working from home has its benefits, but it's not easy to work in isolation or without direct supervision to stay on track. Collaboration platforms, like unified communications (UC), only have value if people use them, so IT needs to adopt best practices that drive adoption among end users. The applications need to be intuitive and provide better UX from the tools workers are already using.

As organizations become more distributed and as workers become more restricted to their locations, the greater the need for a centralized platform that provides a consistent experience and set of tools for collaboration. For remote workers to be productive in team settings and ensure business continuity, the tools need to work just as well as when in the office.

A starting point to standardize on collaboration tools would be for IT to track current usage of various applications based on network activity. If network reporting tools are limited, IT could also canvas end users or team leaders to compile data on which tools are most helpful for collaboration across all settings, including desktop, mobile and remote. One approach would be using an online survey of all employees. IT can supplement surveys with more qualitative approaches, like hosting lunch-and-learn sessions to talk openly about collaboration needs.

This is core to the UC value proposition, and IT must make that clear to employees and encourage adoption through approaches such as personalized training, how-to resources, team training webinars and even gamification. Whatever approach businesses take, the objective should be for workers to see these tools as the best way to be productive when working remotely, as opposed to using a patchwork of applications that may or may not be the same as what office-based co-workers are using.

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