Around 67% of businesses now offering a flexible working arrangement, allowing their staff to work remotely, set their own working hours, and compress their working weeks into fewer days. Flexible working schedules can hugely benefit staff. One survey showing that 73% of staff saw increased work satisfaction while 78% agreed that the system made them more productive. Other studies suggest that it can also reduce stress and improve mental health.
But in order to successfully implement a flexible working strategy, employees must have the tools to work efficiently outside of the office. Staff will need access to data and be able to perform their tasks, as well as communicating remotely. If your own business is looking to embrace this modern working arrangement, here are three ways you can improve online flexibility.
1. Democratize your staff’s spreadsheet access
If you rely on Excel spreadsheets to compile, sort, and analyze data, it is crucial that remote workers are able to access these files wherever they are. Most of the time, each member of staff will need to have the same version of any Excel software, as well as harmonized settings. Mismatches may leave certain users unable to access spreadsheets or make full use of their functionality, which can harm productivity as everyone scrambles to find a way to share their data. Although the same software will be installed on each employee’s office computer, a remote working strategy can make this difficult to coordinate, and the same problems may also emerge when sharing this content with clients.
These issues are eradicated with an Excel to web app. Instead of accessing spreadsheets in a conventional way, software platforms like EASA simplify spreadsheet access by converting Excel files into a web app. Web-enabling spreadsheets removes the problems which arise from using multiple versions and settings of core spreadsheet software, as only the web-enabled version is used and altered by employees. By subsuming all spreadsheets into one centralized web application, you no longer have to buy software upgrades for each staff member, or hope that clients have the same spreadsheet packages. As only authorized members can access the portal, this also reduces the potential for intellectual property to be stolen, and ensures that your spreadsheets don’t end up in the wrong hands.
2. Introduce multiple online communication channels
A remote working strategy means your team will be scattered across different locations, so being able to communicate effectively is imperative, in terms of collaboration and helping to foster a strong company culture. Without physically going to an office, or interacting face-to-face with colleagues, individuals working remotely may feel disconnected from the business.
There a multitude of methods available to help bring a company’s remote workers back into the fold. Video conferencing apps like Zoom let remote workers speak face-to-face with one another, as well as clients. This allows businesses to conduct virtual meetings with up to 65 people at one time, allowing you to easily organize large meetings without needing to physically convene. Useful for informal hangouts, training, and one-on-one chats, Zoom can also integrate with other CRM systems, and be used on both desktops and mobile phones.
Another useful program is Slack, an instant messaging tool which enables teams to virtually communicate quickly and easily. Designed as a substitute for unnecessary emails, the app is ideal for both serious and lighthearted conversations with colleagues, thus helping to create a sense of unity and cultivate a strong company culture. Employees can use Slack to speak to one another individually or in groups, and the app has various useful features including integrated file sharing capabilities—which have recently had their encryption capacities vastly upgraded— and archived conversations for future reference.
3. Make use of project management tools (Important!)
Getting a project off the ground and finishing it on time is challenging enough for teams in the same office, let alone for those working remotely. Using email for project management purposes is often inefficient and confusing, as there’s no central storage system to store and manage data. This creates endless threads that bury valuable information, making project management needlessly complicated. An online platform where projects can be managed from one hub is therefore the way forward.
A useful project management tool to help improve collaboration within businesses is Asana, which allows teams to track, organize, and manage tasks, projects, calendars, and more from one cloud-based app. For instance, tasks can be added and assigned to certain team members, complete with due dates, a comment function and the ability to attach and share documents. Intuitive to use, Asana can also be integrated with over 100 other apps, including communication tools like the aforementioned Slack, Outlook, and Google Drive.
Making your business more flexible online is always possible with all the emerging technologies popping up every day. Make sure to sign up for free trials first, before committing to any paid tools. Every business is different, and the last thing you need is a month or year long commitment to a tool that doesn’t fit you and your employee’s needs.