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Staying Collaborative in a Remote Work Business Model

Many companies currently operating in a remote work business model are asking questions about how to keep effectively collaborating as if their employees were in person.

It’s easy to take collaboration for granted in our day-to-day work lives. In a remote or work from home (WFH) environment, physical aspects need to be replaced in other ways. Technological solutions can help connect employees at all levels and deliver targeted, personalized information to the right employees and customers at the right time. In addition to having the right collaboration tools available, you also need to ask yourself if your employees and partners have the proper training and skills to be able to use them effectively. There is a good chance that a mass WFH strategy could be the first time much of your workforce is using the programs and tools to their full extents.

Our Recommendation for Remote Collaboration

Microsoft recently announced they are giving companies free access to the premium tier of Microsoft Teams for six months in response to the increased need for employees to WFH due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While Microsoft does have a free version of Teams, it typically has limitations on video calls and conferencing. Microsoft has lifted these restrictions and is offering a free Office 365 E1 trial license, enabling remote workers to fully utilize the features of Teams for remote work – at no cost. (If you would like to discuss if Microsoft Teams is a good fit for your organization’s needs, please contact Tom Skoog.)

Microsoft Teams offers many benefits for remote work environments, including the ability to keep communication and collaboration as effective as traditional methods, while also meeting your security and compliance needs. Microsoft Teams allows the ability to chat, co-author documents, access important files, and host meetings with video.

Here are some of the advantages:

Video keeps people connected.
As employees start to work remotely, many will miss out on the face-to-face interaction that occurs in an office setting. Providing high-quality video and audio capabilities can go a long way in helping reduce the impact. With Teams, they can continue seeing their team members, albeit in a virtual setting. Whether it’s a one-on-one video call with a colleague or a video meeting with several people in your workplace, Teams can support it.

Chat keeps employees engaged.
When your employees begin to worry about how long they must remain home, having virtual capabilities like Teams’ chat messaging will help lessen their feelings of isolation, improve morale and keep them engaged with work and those around them. To stay connected, employees tend to have informal, lighthearted conversations with their colleagues on everything from families and pets to challenges or achievements. Teams gives your employees the ability to keep up with the latest on their colleagues.

Communication stays centralized.
Since you and your employees can no longer just “drop by” a co-worker’s cubicle, and since virtual workers typically work outside of the normal workday hours, providing a “one-stop-shop” through Microsoft Teams is appealing. Employees will have less of a need to check multiple communications (for example, personal text messages on a phone, unapproved or insecure third-party texting applications, phone messages, work email, personal email, and more) since these are all self-contained within Microsoft Teams.

Group formation supports collaboration.
Your need to quickly form a committee or formal team to collaborate on a special topic won’t go away. If anything, that need may grow when you transform to a remote workforce, given the increased likelihood of communication needs — like collaborating on unique employee health or personal challenges, providing additional human resources guidance, and easily tracking the status of everyone across the workforce

Meetings and events can be recorded.
Lastly, your organization can continue to support some of the extracurricular activities you previously hosted. For example, if your company has special events such as sponsoring health seminars, book clubs, or educational opportunities, these can continue in Microsoft Teams. The tool even gives you the capability to combine virtual meetings and in-person gatherings — and record them using Stream, so anyone can access at any time.

In addition to Teams, there are other ways Microsoft’s tools can help enable remote work:

Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktops enables your employees to work remotely by accessing company files and applications from anywhere via an internet browser.

Microsoft Intune is a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that enables your business to quickly set up computers or laptops in the home for users without the need for a visit to a physical office. Key applications are loaded remotely but controlled centrally.

Microsoft Power BI can provide insights and signals into how your business is performing in a remote work environment. Power BI is a business analytics solution that lets you visualize your data and share insights across your organization or embed them in your app or website. Connect, model, and then explore your data with visual reports that you can collaborate, publish, and share. Power BI integrates with other tools, including Microsoft Excel, so you can get up to speed quickly and work seamlessly with your existing Microsoft solutions.

Our Relationship with Microsoft & How We Can Help

Blue & Co. has had a “work remote” capability for years enabled by various collaboration tools, network protocols, and a help desk designed to support mobile workers. There are several ways we can assist your organization in adopting an effective WFH strategy. This includes:

Provision Your Licenses
Blue & Co. is an authorized reseller of Microsoft software. We can provision the Teams licenses for you and get you up and running in a short amount of time. Blue & Co. can get your employees up and running in Microsoft Teams rapidly, usually within 48-to-72 hours. 

Training
Blue & Co. can assist you in getting your organization trained on the use of Teams and its various functionality. This includes:

    • Onsite – We will come onsite to your business and guide you through an introduction to using Microsoft Teams, along with other parts of the Office 365 product set.
    • Remote – If onsite training is not possible, remote training is an option as well.

Readiness Assessment
If you have not considered a WFH strategy/business model, we can work with you to assess your capability to implement this model, identify other provisions you need to make to allow for this contingency plan (e.g., assess employee hardware needs/capabilities, home office hardware/network capabilities, tools training, help desk assessment, etc.).

If you would like to discuss if Microsoft Teams is a good fit for your organization’s needs, please contact Tom Skoog.

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