The move towards remote, flexible working has grown exponentially in recent years, with 2016 TUC research suggesting the number of people regularly working from home rose by 19% compared to 2006.
Small business owners will be well aware of the potential benefits a mobile team can bring, such as reduced overheads on office space and physical hardware, with home-based staff more likely to embrace a BYOD policy (Bring Your Own Devices) to help save money.
So, if you want to take advantage of Cloud connectivity and explore how a mobile workforce can benefit your business, here’s five ways to help ensure your team is set for success:
1. Hosted Telephony
Essentially, Hosted Telephony is a communications system that is ‘hosted’ in the Cloud, negating the need for traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) hardware and the associated ongoing costs. Calls are made over broadband connections and, as a result, users can access the network from anywhere in the world.
A great advantage of Hosted systems is that they operate on a user-per-licence basis, meaning lines can be added instantly as business needs dictate. Most providers also allow free internal calls, meaning you can keep in touch with team members without having to worry about running up big bills.
Additionally, Hosted platforms give an incredible amount of freedom in terms of contact numbers; whether your staff all live in the same town or at other ends of the country, you can keep things consistent with non-geographic dialling codes or city-specific dialling codes, allowing you to give the impression of a London presence, for example, even if you’re not physically based there.
Users can also access the network on mobile devices, meaning the ‘landline’ number can be used wherever they may be.
2. Google Drive
Efficient collaboration is key when your team is working remotely, so making use of a platform like Google Drive (which is free-to-use) can save time and ensure consistency.
Whereas you may be used to tracking changes on Word docs, for example, and emailing different versions with suggested edits back-and-forth, the real beauty of Google Docs is that multiple users can view the same document at the same time, making live changes and comments then and there.
There’s also an app version, Google Drive Mobile, allowing you to work on-the-go – great if you need to give approval on documents when you’re out and about.
One of the worries business owners may have about employing a remote workforce is whether they’ll be as productive as their office-based counterparts. Can they be trusted to work hard without management watching over them?
In reality, recent research suggests that 93% of workers say they’re more productive at home, so there may be no need to worry but to allay any fears you can look into applications like RescueTime to track activity. There’s a free version that lets you set goals and receive weekly email reports, or a premium version with advanced features, such as blocking distracting websites.
4. Video conferencing
Various statistics point to nonverbal communication accounting for anywhere between 65% and 93% of what we actually say when in face-to-face contact. Whatever the extent of the truth is, there’s no denying that we can learn a lot from body language and being able to make eye contact, so scheduling in regular video calls and/or conferences can help you make better connections with your team.
In fact, according to Gigaom research, 87% of remote workers say they feel more connected when using videoconferencing. If you opt for a Hosted Telephony package, your provider will likely be able to facilitate video conferencing as well but you can also explore Skype for Business or Google Hangouts to get your team together.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need a daily video chat but bi-weekly or monthly meetings can be made to feel all the more inclusive when you can actually see your colleagues.
Billed as a productivity platform for better collaboration, Trello allows you to assign tasks and track progress in a clear, intuitive, user-friendly format. You can also attach documents from Google Drive or Dropbox and communicate with others by leaving messages on each individual task.
Think of it as a virtual whiteboard, enabling you to keep track of who’s doing what and where they are in the process, helping to ensure things get done in time.
Making the most of remote working
Squandering money on overheads is one of the biggest pitfalls young businesses can face, so cost-savings on premises, maintenance and equipment certainly make running a ‘mobile office’ a very attractive option.
Ultimately, communication is key to any business, so embracing the technology and tools listed above can give your mobile team the very best chance of success.
Ross Howard is the Editor at Insights For Professionals, providing free access to thought leadership from industry experts IT, Marketing and HR.