We call it work from home, remote, or virtual—all describing employees working physically outside the company’s offices. Not every profession qualifies for this privilege, but all signs point to more people working at home more often or permanently after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Many people were already working remotely before the pandemic, but they’d been largely on their own to establish processes, touch points, and routines that kept them engaged and productive.
Now that more employees will be working remotely, organizations are looking closely at how to support and motivate them and preserve important aspects of workplace culture. One of the first places to look is the capabilities of cloud business applications.
SaaS apps are always evolving and improving, and because they are cloud-based, their capabilities are particularly beneficial for supporting remote work. Let’s take a look at four ways SaaS apps can help to improve workplace experience as more people work remotely.
1. Asynchronous, open, and less-formal communication
Working from home should reduce stress. There’s no commute and no need to even put on the bottom part of work clothes, right?
Yet, it can be stressful when the in-person dimension of relationships is suddenly gone. People feel this absence and can respond by overcompensating; in turn, spending too much time managing peer or supervisor relationships instead of doing higher-value work.
To avoid this, train and encourage people to use communication and collaboration capabilities that are embedded in SaaS applications as they are working instead of reverting to the “safety” of lengthy emails and scheduled conference calls.
This type of communication (chats, review notes, alerts, etc.) is less formal but just as effective. In fact, some would say it is more effective because it leaves an always-available trail of talk that can be referenced instead of notes, and the communication is within the workspace instead of being spread out in different places.
2. A streamlined digital workspace
Do you have a single sign-on option or do people have to log into 17 systems to be fully productive? (I might be exaggerating with 17, but maybe not.)
Using a cloud-based suite of business applications means applications are integrated, and data flows seamlessly among them. Relevant data can be automatically pushed to different roles, and people don’t have to use as many applications to find what they need and do their work. An integrated suite also makes it easier to standardize across the organization so that people are all using the same data, templates, workflows, etc., no matter where they are working or what device they are using.
These benefits bring simplicity, order, and transparency to work and give people back more time for improving and innovating.
By contrast, when we continue to use outdated and clunky applications that don’t work well for remote collaboration, we cause friction because people can’t easily share and work with others. This drags down productivity and kills engagement.
3. Automation and other advanced technologies
Cloud applications can take advantage of limitless scale and computing power to provide time-saving and error-reducing automation for many repeatable tasks. Not only does this lessen stress and manual work, but it also makes it easier for remote workers to stay as productive as possible.
For example, can people use virtual digital assistants to coordinate meeting availability? Could general team alerts be automated? Is there manual data inputting or gathering that software-based automation can handle?
Don’t rush to automate processes just because you can. Now that workplaces are in a state of flux, this is your opportunity to use human-centered design to rethink workflow and use technology as a complexity shredder, not generator.
4. Access to online education, training, and other resources
SaaS apps are part of a larger cloud ecosystem that can provide easy access to resources that can help employees learn or improve skills, identify next steps in their career, and connect with like-minded peers who can serve as mentors.
Online guided learning not only enriches workplace culture, but it also saves organizations resources and costs and puts employees in charge of their own personal advancement.
As a bonus, right now many companies are offering these resources free to clients or the public, and this includes Oracle.
Final advice: Think with your head and heart
Many businesses have had to make difficult decisions during this time. Keep in mind that balance sheets might not be as healthy as you’d like, but they can recover. Your employment brand might never recover if you don’t take workplace culture into account when making decisions.
Don’t run to cut costs at the expense of experience. People are watching, listening, and taking score of the choices their leaders make. Think with your brain, but also your heart. Here are some tips for doing so:
- Err on the side of trust: Find time to build trust and co-create new norms and ways of working. Lead by example and make it safe to ask for help and fail.
- Level the playing field: Bring consistency and uber-transparency to teaming norms and decision-making. This will further bring trust and accountability because everyone is playing by the same rules.
- Actively fight passive resistance: Conflicts are expected in any working group, but they are more difficult to spot and resolve when everyone is distributed. Create space for everyone to air grievances and resolve disagreements. A weekly venting-call anyone?
- Build a digital water cooler: In the absence of physical co-location, random encounters that generate crazy new ideas disappear. Be intentional about creating the moments of serendipity, be that “office hours open lines,” long-form writing and debating of new ideas, virtual book clubs, or happy hours.
Most workplaces won’t ever be the same after this global experience, but you can keep the foundation of your workplace culture in place by giving remote workers cloud applications that empower them to be productive and engaged.
These applications can improve communications, lower stress levels, automate mundane tasks, and help people improve their skills and careers.