Microsoft 365: Team Building At A Distance
During the global pandemic, companies that rely on IT support had no option other than to deploy a remote workforce. There were some teething problems of course, but lockdown also created opportunities to build better businesses for both employers and employees.
As covid restrictions draw to a close (we hope), executives should expect pandemic precautions to become permanent. According to McKinsey, “many” companies are contemplating a hybrid model workplace where employees will be allowed to flit between the home and the office.
In theory, a hybrid workplace chimes the bells of all concerned. Employees have the benefit of autonomy and flexibility to craft the much-coveted work-life balance and less expense commuting to work every day.
Employers have seen positive results as well; upticks in productivity (or at least no loss of productivity), significant cost-cuts and less absenteeism.
So, back to those teething problems. A global survey reveals that managers think they’re doing a good job of supporting remote workers.
Employees disagree. 54% of workers believe their company is not doing enough to help them with their health and well-being, they’re tired and overworked, have not received sufficient training and do not feel they are getting the support needed.
Weird how perceptions differ isn’t it!
Remote workers also complain of feeling lonely, isolated, demotivated and missing face-to-face interactions.
Okay, managers, supposing the employees are right (wink), you need solutions to address potential problems and iron out inevitable creases.
Here’s what to do.
What do Remote Workers Need?
The McKinsey report mentioned above indicates that companies that articulate policies and approaches clearly have seen productivity rise together with an improvement in employee wellbeing.
However, only 40% of companies with a remote workforce communicated their vision clearly during the pandemic. The report reveals that 28% of employees said communication was vague and 32% felt communication was poor.
The key takeaways are that:
- Employees need to stay connected to their teammates and be made to feel part of a team
- Effective channels of communication need to be in place and readily available
- Tools are needed that enables people to access, share and edit documents from remote locations on any device
- Strategies to support team building at a distance
The World Economic Forum suggest employers need to install technologies that support business operations but also creates a fair and inclusive working culture that fosters engagement, inter-connectedness and motivated team members.
Benefits of Office 365 for Remote Working
It’s clear that businesses embracing a hybrid workplace or fully remote working policies face a number of challenges. Fortunately, there are ready-made tools that were built to empower employees that wanted more autonomy of when, where and how to work.
Our preferred choice of Microsoft 365. We’re not alone. It is estimated the cloud-based office productivity suite has been adopted by over 155 million business users.
Microsoft 365 is the leading productivity suite on the planet and empowers remote workers in a number of ways including:
Communication – Microsoft Teams gives employees access to instant messaging software which encourages fast and easy communication together with a dynamic video conference tool for all types of meetings.
Real-Time Collaboration – Your team members can work in Word, Excel and PowerPoint in real-time together. The edits made by each team member is highlighted in the right-hand column of the document.
Access to Information – Microsoft Azure, OneDrive and Sharepoint all allow colleagues to share documents in the cloud from anywhere.
Enhanced Security – Microsoft 365 has built-in security features including multi-factor authentication, mobile device management, advanced threat protection, encrypted email, data loss prevention, privileged identity management and identity protection.
How Microsoft Teams Benefits Remote Teams
Teams essentially addressed the communication gaps between team members. The communications platform enables colleagues to have private and group chats to collaborate on projects, share information or simply catch up and bond.
Microsoft 365, therefore, provides you with a resource that not only enables employees to maintain productivity levels but also helps to fill the void of isolation and loneliness.
Communication is as much a human drive as achieving goals. By taking advantage of the features in Teams, your workforce can engage in productive face-to-face brainstorms, share documents in meetings that require collaboration and share screens to give presentations.
The video feature also enables you to record the meeting or presentation so participants have a copy they can playback to refresh their memory about what was said.
You can also share recorded meetings with relevant team members that were not present for the meeting.
SharePoint will be central to team management from a distance. The collaborative platform serves as an intranet and streamlines business processes and enables you to organise information in an accessible manner.
By integrating SharePoint with existing apps your team can seamlessly share documents, manage files, interact with teammates, promulgate business information, and virtually anything else you do on a day-to-day basis.
As a little perk, users can customise their setting to make it more personal and companies can add logos and branding to create a professional image to clients and customers.
Microsoft 365 Planner & Time Tracking
Although working from home offers employees more flexibility, it has also generated new problems for employees.
Reports reveal that almost 70 per cent of remote working professional are putting in longer hours, spending more time in meetings than they did at the office and juggling multiple communication channels.
The overwhelm and frustration can have a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of your employees. A simple fix for that is to utilise Planner in Microsoft 365 and add a time management app.
Microsoft Planner is essentially task management software that provides managers with a hub where everyone is kept in the loop. You can create schedules, highlight deadlines, organise workloads, share documents, assign tasks and chalk off completed tasks.
Planner can be integrated with other Office 365 tools so you can view your schedules from Outlook, Teams, SharePoint and To Do. Managers assigning work to team members can easily attach files.
The tool helps managers break complex projects into bite-size chunks. This serves two purposes. First of all, it makes reviewing the project less cumbersome and overwhelming.
Secondly, you’re able to share project schedules with other team members, so everyone knows who’s responsible for performing which tasks and when the deadlines are.
Employees that have a tendency to overwork whilst working from home may also want to install a time-tracking app.
Microsoft doesn’t actually have a time management tool but you can download compatible apps which track time spent on each task and how many hours you have worked.
Time tracking apps help managers and employees to manage health and wellbeing together with record and calculate overtime.
Microsoft 365 Virtual Desktop
Virtual desktops (VDs) are a dream for IT professionals. From a security perspective, they’re also highly beneficial for hybrid model companies. VDs also make life easier for operations – so everyone’s a winner!
Installing a virtual desktop gives employees secure and easy access to all the documents, directories and apps they need to perform their job. VDs also means IT administrators save a significant amount of time tracking, monitoring, configuring and managing remote devices.
Windows Virtual Desktop comes as part of the Microsoft 365 business and Enterprise packages. All you have to do is launch the app, configure it and send out password links to relevant users.
Rollouts and maintenance are not complicated and the minimal need for IT support requirements make VDs an ideal solution that saves time for everyone and cuts the costs for enterprises.
When you consider that the upkeep and management of IT equipment are fundamentally time-consuming, VDs represent a cost-saving solution.
For example, it would be virtually impossible to ensure that operating systems and apps are updated swiftly on every device used remotely. That issue is not a concern with virtual desks because updates are performed from the IT control centre.
IT administrators not only have the power to configure software and upgrade every device on your business network, but they can also easily add and remove users, monitor suspicious behaviour, and only have to install new software once.
What’s more, if a remote device is lost, stolen or malfunctions, the individual can easily retrieve the work they have done from the cloud. Data loss and loss of productivity are getting to an absolute minimum.
Microsoft’s virtual desktop is also compatible with multiple devices; Windows, iOS, Mac OS and Android can all be updated automatically whenever a new version of the software is launched.
That’s a morale booster in itself!
There’s no doubt that Microsoft 365 lends a massive helping hand to companies team building at a distance. Yet despite its powerful software, 365 cannot do everything to stitch your entire team together.
Whilst Microsoft Office 365 provides you with tools that can effectively enhance collaboration, nurture relationships and help to overcome loneliness, it doesn’t provide a solution for every issue cited by remote workers.
The missing ingredient here is motivation.
To be fair, Office 365 does provide remote employees with tools that open up effective channels of communication, builds a culture of trust and lays the foundation to adopt a growth mindset.
But technology can only take you so far. Other motivational factors have to forge on a personal basis and forged from within side the company.
Leading experts in employee motivation reveal that jobs have to be engaging in order to keep individuals interested. Most jobs are not interesting. However, roles become interesting when individuals recognise the role they play and see what they do really matters.
You might even want to introduce an employee recognition program to reward staff and underscore how much their contribution matters.
Some companies – especially startups – can even handsome employees the responsibility to solve problems and perform experiments. Managers should be open to supporting suggestions from front line workers on how they can make operations more efficient and cost-effective.
The catalyst, of course, should come from senior management. Encourage your team to identify where your company can deliver a superior service to your customer than your current system; what solutions can drive growth?
Whilst Fun Friday has oft been the conventional solution to indulge in team bonding, motivating remote workers is a week-long effort. The major push has to come with a motivational meeting first thing on a Monday.
Focus on key achievements, individually and collectively. Discuss what impact the team had the previous week and what did you learn. Point out the focus for the coming week including targets and responsibilities.
Morning meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday can be less intense. Pep talks are appropriate. Give recognition and thanks to employees that delivered the previous day and remind members of their assignments.
Friday can be used to reflect on the week’s performance and encourage team members to make suggestions to improve efficiency or strategy. It’s important to establish how motivated your team is at the end of each week.
Some companies are even encouraging their teams to play a game during their breaks; either online or offline. There are free online games that two people can play together from remote locations.
IT Support in Surrey
Cloud computing and digital technologies have paved the way for remote working. With the right software in place, companies can make working from home more enjoyable and productive for employees.
Whilst some tweaks will be needed in the early stages, a hybrid workplace gives enterprises an opportunity to maximise efficiency and give you a cutting edge over your competitors.
In addition to leading technologies, you will also benefit from a team of IT professional that have years of experience working remotely with cloud technologies.
It’s worth noting that most problems arise with cloud computing if the software is not configured properly. Moreover, talent in cloud technology is in short supply. That means you will have to pay top dollar to add a specialist to your in-house team.
The alternative solution is to outsource your IT and take advantage of cloud specialist like our IT support team in Surrey. We have years of experience planning and managing IT networks from remote locations together with performing cloud configurations across multiple devices.
We also give you access to Microsoft 365 together with other invaluable services for remote working and BYOD policies – including cybersecurity, high availability, super-fast Wi-Fi and loud backup.
For more information, contact us today and let us help your hybrid model roll out smoothly.