How to stay connected when you work remotely

There are plenty of businesses where employees work remotely. Making sure this distributed workforce remains connected is key to making sure your business flourishes. There are various ways you can do this; Viva Energy's talent acquisition lead, Nick Jones, discusses some of them here.

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The programs

There are many different programs you can use to make sure your business is more efficient, and also much more connected. Messaging, notifications and collaborative documents ensure people who are working and living remotely not only feel part of the company, but also feel part of the conversation.

Skype for Business

A messaging tool designed for the corporate environment, Skype for Business (previously known as Microsoft Lync) allows colleagues to easily communicate with each other in real time.

The program allows for audio and video, and gives you the opportunity to share your screen. You can have a presentation with colleagues who are in different locations without having to book a conference room.

The instant messaging (IM) function means communication is efficient and you’re not wasting time waiting for a response via email, or driving to and from meetings. If you need to know something really quickly, it’s a great tool. For example, if you’re on the phone with someone, you can send a message to someone else through Skype for Business and quickly get the answer for the person who’s on the phone, rather than having to call them back. It’s even useful for contacting people within the same office when you need to know something quite quickly.

Yammer

An internal, corporate social network, Yammer is the perfect way to cascade information through your organisation. You can share announcements with small groups or with the whole company. When you have an important date coming up or an important notice to send out, the whole company can be notified at once, even those who aren’t physically in the office. Documents, images and videos can be shared within groups, and you can search within groups to find specific conversations and information.

You can create a group within Yammer for a team, project or area of interest. Teams can also create their own groups so they can collaborate and discuss important topics, and group members can answer questions or comments in their own time. It means you don’t have to bore the rest of the company with your department’s discussions in a company-wide email.

Google Docs

Then, of course, there are online programs such as Google Docs and Google Sheets. These options are fantastic because they allow people to work on the same document at the same time. Colleagues can go to one place online and see a live working document, as opposed to emailing 30 different versions around and running the risk of someone working on a different or outdated version.

It’s all about time management and quality control; it works better having a document stored in a single place that’s actually the live and current version.

The benefits

Using innovative ways to stay connected not only provides cost benefits, but also ensures employees are happy and included, no matter where their desks are.

People sometimes say a face-to-face meeting is more valuable than a phone call, but those meetings may be geographically impossible. However, you will get a lot more out of a conversation when you can see people’s facial expressions. So, when it comes to employees, business partners and even clients who work in different locations, video conferencing and programs such as Skype for Business mean you can see people’s reactions, rather than just hear their tone of voice.

Staying connected also means accessing information as easily as possible. While emails are often delayed because they’re sitting unread in someone’s inbox, the messaging functions such as those on Skype for Business and Yammer mean you can access people, and information, almost immediately. Obviously, communicating in real time reduces the chance of error.

Messaging tools generally mean you can see whether someone is available to talk. With Skype for Business, if someone’s profile is green, they’re available. If they’re busy or in a meeting, their profile goes red. It can save you from getting up to go to a colleague’s office when they’re not actually there, so you can be more efficient with your time. Plus, the great thing is the program can be linked to your calendar, so it updates automatically if you’ve set up calls or meetings.

For companies that want to encourage flexible working and inclusion, or companies that are spread across the country or the globe, having adequate software and the ability to connect is essential. You need to provide platforms for collaboration.

Anything that can bring people together, especially when there are people who work remotely, is definitely something to be excited about. Everyone in the company, no matter what level, is working to achieve the same goal; the more inclusive you can be, the better it is for everyone.

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