Business continuity can no longer be anchored to physical workspaces. Here are some tips to improve the virtual-working experience for all.

In what must be one of the most unprecedented work-from-home experiments the world has seen, the importance of a secure digital workspace and seamless work-from-home experience has become key to business resiliency.

Respondents from the 2019 VMware Digital Employee Experience survey by VMware and Vanson Bourne consider remote work capabilities one of the top five most important aspects of the overall digital employee experience. Yet 46% of the 1,600 employees surveyed from Australia, Japan, India, Singapore and China remarked that IT did not provide them with the digital tools they need in order to be successful in their job.

According to the study, employees in the region cited reasons including the lack of understanding of what employees want and need (42%), lack of funding (38%) and lack of technical skills (35%) as factors for them not having the digital tools needed. Also, 80% of APAC employees surveyed indicated that they would like to see improvements in having access to applications for their three most important work tasks (outside of email) on their smartphones or tablets—which is also one of the top three digital employee experience factors that they would most likely see as very or somewhat important. 

Organizations tend to take a reactive approach to remote working, but the unpredictability of the business environment demands that companies pay attention to the urgency of providing a seamless, secure remote working experience. Ignoring the importance of remote working risks sacrificing business efficiency, data security, compliance and employee retention in today’s competitive talent marketplace. 

As organizations start realizing the importance of business continuity, here are some tips to improve the remote working experience for both employers and staff.

1. Put a remote-working policy on paper

No matter where they are, all employees need to communicate and connect with co-workers. They need to be able to find and offer support, and they need to engage in the company culture. Channels provide spaces where workers can feel connected, valued, appreciated and successful. Channels can include digital handbooks, virtual stand-up meetings, collaboration software, enterprise social networks, annual off-site meetings and more.

Building employee channels helps prevent isolation. Social isolation is different than professional isolation. It is not about missing the presence of people but rather missing access to answers, feedback, praise and camaraderie

2. Put a remote-working policy on paper

Too often, organizations are less than clear about policies surrounding remote-working. Usually, employers only allow it on a case-by-case basis and do not make it public.

That lack of transparency can cause problems for the company. Employees discretely working off-site could unknowingly expose sensitive information over public WiFi. They may accidentally introduce security risks to the company’s network, or they may mistakenly fail to comply with privacy and security requirements for customer data.

Therefore, organizations should and must create an addendum to an employee contract that outlines what is expected from remote employees. Remote-working policies typically include guidelines such as:

  • Requirements for a proper work environment
  • What devices employees can use
  • How and how often employees should communicate
  • When they should be available
  • How to secure networks and data from outside the workplace

3. Foster a results-oriented work culture

Employees do not need visual supervision or to be physically accessible to be productive. They need the right key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKR) for tracking the progress of their collaborative objectives.

In order to have a successful remote work program, managers need to move away from micromanagement towards a culture of respect and trust. This opens a door of trust and autonomy if we, say, update our OKRs and KPIs to be based on results. Companies need to be able to tell employees that “we don’t care where or when you work, as long as the work gets done.”

4. Structure the work day and define boundaries

Now that work can be done anywhere and at any time, it may also be easier for employees to work everywhere and all the time. Employers need to be aware that without structure and boundaries, remote workers can burn out. Remote-working may not have geographic boundaries, but it certainly needs to have logistical boundaries.

Those boundaries—when, where and how employees can work off-site—should be outlined in a remote-working policy. Additionally, leaders can continue educating employees on achieving remote work productivity and work-life balance. They should also celebrate benchmarks, so remote workers do not feel they need to overcompensate for being out-of-sight.

Making the remote-working experience a priority

About 86% of all respondents say the ability to remotely work with ease is important to the overall digital employee experience at work. It is not just about the benefits for employees—some of the greatest benefits of remote work go to the employer.

  • Employee retention: Many employees consider remote work a perk and are more likely to stick around, saving employers the cost of onboarding and training new hires.
  • Productivity: Studies show time and again that empowering employees to work when, how and where they prefer, boosts overall productivity.
  • Environmental sustainability: By foregoing a roundtrip commute to the office, workers help strengthen their organization’s environmental sustainability.
  • Global impact: Additionally, companies can help nurture diversity and inclusion and stimulate local economic development by hiring virtual workforces.