Richard Conway shares some tips and real-life tools for creating a great work culture and leveraging the cloud for a more modern way of working.
Gone are the days when a business all resided in one central location and had a single hub for its operations. Although this is still the case in some businesses, those cases are becoming fewer and further between with the explosion of remote working, flexi-time and outsourcing.
Whether for ‘eco’ reasons, as an employee benefit, or in order to find other efficiencies, remote working is the new black. In fact, in a recent survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit in London 34 percent said more than half of their company’s full-time employees would be working remotely by 2020. Twenty-five percent said that more than three-quarters would not be working in a traditional office in 2020.
If business was ever simple, it certainly isn’t now – nor is it looking to stay that way in its future state. After all, 2020 is not that far off!
With increasing technological innovations and the breadth of communication tools available, it’s no longer unusual to have a business spread across different ‘offices’ and time zones.
Work has become much more fluid and we’re getting more and more OK with it happening anywhere and at any time.
There’s been much debate about what this style of working means for innovation and collaboration – and certainly the ability to be the architect of your workplace’s culture has become somewhat more complicated.
In my experience though, it’s definitely do-able.
As flexible and remote styles of working become more of a ‘thing’, the ways we work are evolving and more and more great tools are being created to further enable teams to work together from any location.
The cloud’s the limit
The first huge advancement in geographically-spread working was the explosion of cloud computing. Project teams working together from various reaches of the globe are no longer unusual, as cloud technology makes it easier to collaborate with colleagues from anywhere and anytime. Gone are the days when we had to carry around storage devices or large print-outs – we’ve now got all the information we need at our fingertips with a simple log-in.
In its first iterations, cloud computing was predominantly adopted as a means of speeding up and reducing the costs of existing processes. However, now that we’re all further along the journey up into the clouds we’re starting to see the potential it has to transform business models and working practices.
Tools of titans
Certainly cloud computing has impacted the way that we work. Key to our day-to-day activities at Pure SEO are a number of cloud-based collaboration tools that help us to work together well:
• Slack: This nifty bit of software brings and keeps all of our communications together in one place, with real-time messaging, archiving and search functionality. Basically, it brings all the pieces (and the people) together to make things happen. It’s all well and good to have email streams galore, but these tend to be buried away in individual inboxes. Slack organises team conversations in open channels, so that everyone can see what’s going on. This is great for helping people feel as though they’re not missing out on things, so we keep our daily communications in there and use it for video conferencing between offices.
As well as communications, we can store files, images, spreadsheets, reports and all the rest in Slack too – in a way that is shareable and searchable. Even better, it automatically syncs with things like Google Drive and Dropbox.
• Dropbox: You’ve basically been living under a rock if you haven’t come across Dropbox. Offering cloud storage and mobile file access, Dropbox enables live file collaboration and sharing; it’s invaluable when you have employees working from different places but all needing to contribute towards the same projects.
• TINYpulse: It’s one thing to manage the practical logistics of remote working, but quite another to keep a well-crafted culture and cultivate engaged employees when they’re not always fronting up to the main place where the action happens.
We’ve found TINYpulse invaluable for that, with the ability to ask for anonymous feedback and invite people to offer ‘cheers for their peers’ in a way that breeds a culture of appreciation. We get so many insights from this tool and believe it has a significant impact on positive morale.
• Office 365: Another of the practical parts, Office 365 allows us to scale up and down with our software needs as the team changes. We can manage it easily through their online portal and are able to keep our costs lean. Updates and security features occur automatically, which reduces systems administration time, and the team can access Office mobile apps, which allows them to be truly flexible.
• WorkflowMax: Management of jobs and workflows can be a challenge with a geographically dispersed team, but WorkflowMax lets us keep things all together. From quotes, all the way through the project process and right up to invoicing, WorkflowMax gives us a view of where a job is at, who is on what, and – importantly – how things are tracking against budgets. It also helps our team manage their time well and know what’s expected of them, which is important when we’re not physically overseeing things all the time.
• Xero: The last piece of the puzzle for us is Xero, which integrates with WorkflowMax and enables us to manage the invoicing and financial reconciliations in a centralised way. After all, getting paid is the important bit (well, it sure keeps the wheels turning!)
As well as a strong and deliberate culture that’s built around agreed values, it’s important to have a good IT company if you’re considering allowing, or implementing, more remote or flexible working styles. Ensure that your satellite sites or smaller offices all have a dedicated person at head office who ensures they are communicated to regularly – and make sure that there are ample opportunities for solo employees to check in with others in the team.
Beyond that, investigate cloud computing options; these should empower your team and make them more efficient, as opposed to adding additional administration time.
Achieve that balance and you’ll know you’ve got the right tools for your new way of working.