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The workforce transformed in 2020. It brought up many challenges, but also many potential benefits for the employees and employers willing to adapt. Will Richards, Senior Territory Channel Manager at GoTo LogMeIn gave a great virtual presentation at the UC Summit Annual Conference & Expo. He dove into what you need to make the most of anywhere working. In this blog post we dissect his presentation and build on the four critical elements required for a permanent shift to flexible working.

The Four Critical Elements of Working from Anywhere:

In his presentation, Richards explains that there are four elements that are critical to flexible work. These four elements all come together to create the perfect environment when moving towards flexible work.

1) Strategy

Working from anywhere requires a decent amount of strategy from the backend. It isn’t necessarily a lot, but it does need to be well organized in order for everything to run smoothly. This goes for both employees and the company as a whole. You need to have organization within your office facility, and provide a strategy on how your employees will be welcomed to come and go. Do you want to organize your office so that employees are welcome to come and go for work as they please? Maybe you want to divide it so employees can only come into the office on certain days of the week.

Whether you have in house IT or you outsource your IT, make sure your IT team is comfortable remoting into computers. They’ll have to help employees with issues while working from different locations. You’ll also have to make sure your Human Resources department is vetted with dealing with virtual onboarding. Your communication team will also have a difference in role as opposed to in-office only employers. Your communication team should make sure everyone on the team feels connected and comfortable. If you’re moving into a new anywhere work solution, your communication team will be front of line for all mailings. They’ll be in charge of all communication regarding the change. They will need to be well-informed and ready to take on any questions.

Finances are a big part of moving to an anywhere working strategy. You will have to consider your budget and decide if you want to allocate any money to your employees. This would be to make their at home office more comfortable and inclusive. Depending on your budget, you might consider allocating $500-1,000 per team member as a starting point. Some basics that your remote employees might want include a desk or table, comfortable chair, computer, webcam if not on computer, headset with mic, and fast and reliable internet access.

2) Technology

Technology is of course a very critical element of flexible working. You have to make sure that your technology is three things: secure, private, and easy to use. To start, you have two options when it comes to your employees’ technology. You can supply technology such as a laptop to your employees. They can use this both in the office and outside of the office. This is a great option for ensuring your employees have the equipment they need to be flexible.

Having secure technology is essential when it comes to working from anywhere. One way to secure data as it moves between your core systems and externally based employees is to deploy a VPN. These services provide an additional layer of security, which (in simplified terms) provides hiding the user’s IP address, encrypting data transfers in transit, and masking the user’s location. Most larger organizations already have a VPN service in place. Check that you have sufficient seats to provide this protection across their employee base. Smaller enterprises may need to appoint a VPN provider. Make sure up-to-date security protection is installed and active on any devices that will be used for work. That means virus checkers, firewalls, and device encryption should all be in palace.

Having privacy and protection on your technology is another essential. Your company should conduct employee password audits. That doesn’t mean requesting people’s personal details. It does mean passcodes used to access any enterprise services are reset and redefined in line with stringent security policy. Alphanumeric codes and use of two-factor authentication should become mandatory. You should ask your people to apply the toughest possible protection across all their devices.

The technology that you deploy to your employees to work from anywhere also needs to be easy to use. You don’t want an overcomplicated system with too many layers of protection. If you over complicate your technology, your IT department is going to become overloaded with tech calls. Your employees will be less productive because they’ll be wasting too much time trying to figure out their technology.

3) Culture

Maintaining existing culture while also building new culture is hard. If you decide you want to start deploying a flexible work from anywhere workstyle, you’ll need to gather a team to discuss culture and what moves you need to make going forward. There are three main issues that newly flexible working employees said they felt with the new culture of their workplace. 40% of employees said their challenge was poor team communication. 37% of employees said their challenge was lack of human interaction. 30% of employees said their challenge was losing motivation. There are a few ways to adjust your culture to combat these specific challenges.

When making any type of change, but especially a change as big as moving everyone to flexible working, you should reset and revisit your company guidelines. Make sure everyone is clear with your expectation and what they can and cannot do. Set guidelines around company tools. Say for example you give all employees a laptop when you move to flexible working, you’ll have to make sure you set guidelines on how to use and proper care and instructions for the laptops. It’s always good to be more clear than not. It is very helpful to train on the nuances of remote performance reviews for anywhere workers. Performance reviews are an important part of company culture. They give your employees a good benchmark of where they are at and how well they are fitting the culture. Training your higher up staff on how to perform these reviews and how to make them as affective when dealing with remote workers is key.

Your upper management should always encourage goal alignment that is directly connected to the company’s strategic initiatives. By being able to build off of your company’s goals, your individual employees will be more directly connected and supported. You should also outline when your employees should solicit help from upper management. By giving clear instructions and points where they should be reaching out for help, they will be more likely to feel comfortable with reaching out.

4) Behavior

A huge part of successfully deploying a working from anywhere environment is the management driving the right behaviors. Behavior starts with management. It’s more likely that employees will feel comfortable with working from anywhere if their management team is leading by example. There are a few problems that many employees vocalize when explaining why their motivation is low when working remotely. One problem is that there is a lot going on at home and they find themselves being distracted. As a manager, you can combat this by scheduling structured daily check-ins to try to help keep your employees focused and on task. Another problem is that many people find themselves working more when they have the ability to work from anywhere. Checking your email on your laptop while on vacation, or working after hours and eating dinner at your desk is much more likely than someone who usually works 100% in the office. Working too much will cause burn out and lost motivation. Managers should encourage their team to sign off after their day is done. They can also lead by example by not sending emails late at night, or calling on the weekends.

All in all, the work from anywhere era is here to stay, It’s not a temporary thing, and it’s definitely something many offices are going to have to get used to. Focusing on the four critical elements of working from anywhere will help your team stay on track and give everyone the tools they need to succeed. Flexible work is happening already, and it’s time to lose the commute.

Bonus: Check out our post 5 Steps Towards Creating Work Flexibility for more tips on moving over to a flexible environment.