Many companies previously had remote workers, but Office 365 adoption tended to not be as strong as possibly hoped. Now with the effects of COVID-19, they may still not know how to use the platform to do basic things like engaging colleagues who are now work from home.
Your organization may fit under one of the following categories:
- You have staff who work away from your office occasionally
- You have employees who work remotely all the time
- Your organization has no office and fully operates remotely
Of course, many (most?) organizations are suddenly finding themselves with a newly mostly-remote workforce. Office 365 offers businesses multiple ways to manage staff who work from home or from remote offices. The starting point can actually be pretty simple!
A Simple Workflow for Remote Teamwork
Let’s look at a simple workflow you can use to get started with Office 365 with the goal of enabling collaboration in the cloud and driving remote productivity.
When properly implemented, it helps establish a strong sense of teamwork and offers everyone the flexibility that comes when you remove the need to commute to an office building.
To bring your colleagues together and guide their activities, you need to share content (documents, web pages, etc.), exchange ideas (communication) and manage tasks (production). To do this, you can make use of OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams and Planner. Set up the applications on mobile devices as well so that everyone can stay connected to their team(s) anywhere, anytime.
To help everyone get up to speed with these applications, overlay popup walk-throughs over your Office 365 interface so that staff are able to use the platform more effectively and comfortably with less need to search the web for help.
For many tasks, your people often need to refer to existing information contained in shared documents.
Get everyone to use SharePoint Online as a place to host both documents and other files, as well as list data, that can be shared when and where needed.
- Sync files between desktops and the cloud to provide access from anywhere.
- Review the different options available for creating, editing, sharing and finding files.
- Make use of notifications and mentions to keep everyone aware of the activities around the information.
- Leverage the power of the Microsoft Power Platform to provide microapps (PowerApps), low code/no code workflow and automation design and execution (Power Automate) and extensive analytics and reporting across one or more line of business systems (Power BI).
For multi-channel communication, get your team to use Microsoft Teams. Exploit key capabilities like teams, channels, chats, meetings, calls, files, apps and services.
- Use Teams to gather a work group (all the way up your hierarchy to the whole organization) around tasks, share files, hold meetings and drive conversations using text, audio or video.
- To create a complete cloud workspace for your team, add tabs for files, apps and services.
- With the ability for many people to co-author and edit documents at the same time, collaborate with your remote coworkers in real time.
Finally, to connect with everyone on a more innately human level, make use of the video meeting feature.
With your MS Teams platform for communication in place, you can then look to creating a workspace where you can schedule tasks and track progress.
Planner is great for this!
- Easily allocate tasks to team members and provide all the items needed for the task.
- Make use of the buckets feature to follow related tasks along the completion process.
- Before you onboard everyone to start using the platform though, make sure that you make configurations to optimize permissions and data security.
With SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business to store, organize, and share information, Microsoft Teams to drive real-time communication, and Planner to organize the work, you should be able to steer everyone’s productive input toward intended business goals.
Approximate an In-Person Working Space
Using the right tools is not enough by itself to successfully manage a remote workforce, however. You need to actively manage remote staff with the goal of minimizing any sense of alienation and to get, and keep, things moving.
Here’s some ideas that may help:
- Stay consistent. Hold a weekly online meeting much as you likely did when working in the normal office environment. Always prepare an agenda and give everyone reasonable time to talk. The goal of the meetings is not only to get things done but also to simply connect as not everyone is comfortable not being in the familiar office building workspace. It may be inspiring and motivating to feel that you are still connected to people with whom you share your work. This gives people a touch-point and establishes a semblance of community. If your workforce is spread across countries and time zones, try to schedule a separate meeting for each group of neighbouring time zones, if possible.
- Almost every working day, try scheduling time to review progress on current tasks. Review what everyone did yesterday, is doing today and plans to do tomorrow. This helps remind everyone to stay focused, especially given the potential distractions in the work from home situation.
- Perhaps pick one day in a week during which you provide feedback and discuss suggestions. Take time to identify issues and find solutions together.
The goal of these sorts of efforts is to approximate the in-person interactions most staff are accustomed to, and help employees keep a regular cadence of work. This ensures that productivity doesn’t fluctuate too much.
Manage Information, Communication and Production
Office 365 offers extensive ways to manage the current work from home situation.
To get things done together with your remote coworkers, at a minimum, you need to share documents, exchange ideas and supervise tasks.
If you create a simple workflow that combines SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, Teams, and Planner, you are well setup to get things done. Including things like the popup walk-throughs mentioned above will better position everyone to be able to access the help they need when using the Office 365 apps without the need for attending traditional training classes.
If you implement these steps back to back, you may be able to onboard everyone within as little as a week. Over time, you will discover more capabilities to further improve your remote team productivity and be able to continually expand Office 365 user adoption.