Companies around the world are embracing flexible work to make employees happier and more productive. According to stats from Owl Labs, 52 percent of global employees work from home at least once per week. What’s more, 16 percent of companies are fully remote. A major driver of the work-from-anywhere trend is the accessibility of workplace apps, which help teams connect without missing a beat.
A decade ago, buying business software as a non-technical employee wasn’t exactly easy. Usually, an IT manager would purchase all of the software that was used on company machines, which largely remained in the office. The few remote workers logged into these systems using cumbersome and often slow corporate virtual private networks (or VPNs). The Software as a Service (SaaS) used today, to contrast, is based in the cloud and enables remote employees to get the same experience as those in the office.
Even with all of the convenience of SaaS, I think it’s still important for companies to know the secrets to supporting remote workers’ technology needs. So here’s a list of six things I believe any smart company that wants to encourage flexible work culture needs to do.
1. Let employees work on their own circadian rhythms
Research suggests that eight-hour-a-day office employees are actually only productive for two hours and 53 minutes on any given day! Rather than enforcing a butts-in-seats policy, allow workers to access tools and log into systems on a timeline that works for them.
On the flip side, it’s easy to constantly demand remote workers’ attention with instant communication platforms like Slack or Zoom. Be sure to respect people’s time and productivity by allowing them space to complete their assigned tasks.
2. Onboard remote workers quickly
Onboarding employees onto the right apps can be a challenge, especially for companies with large remote workforces. However, it could not be more important to master the technology onboarding process and provide proper training.
According to my team’s research, employees use an average of 15 different SaaS tools. To speed onboarding, design a checklist for managers and other stakeholders that assigns clear ownership of who does what on a remote employee’s first day. A good first impression will solidify that they’re an important part of the team, even if they’re not in the office.
3. Be more diverse… geographically and otherwise
Why limit yourself to a localized talent pool when qualified employees are everywhere? Companies like InVision have a 700-person workforce that is fully remote, with employees located all around the globe. As an added benefit, remote work can help support employees who have complicated caregiving situations, have disabilities, or need flexible hours in order to work.
Opening up your workforce to remote employees can give you access to a diverse talent pool your competition is leaving on the table. Put SaaS in their hands, and it really doesn’t matter whether they are in the office or not.
4. Know that SaaS apps typically don’t last long, but that’s ok
Our team recently learned that the majority of midsized companies turnover 30 percent of their application stack year-over-year. While some might see this turnover as a liability, if your company builds flexible IT policies that allow changes to happen quickly, you’ll actually help employees remain productive (and help your business stay ahead of the competition).
Keep your policies overly restrictive, and you run the risk of employees going rogue with out-of-budget and potentially insecure apps.
5. Understand the unique security challenges of SaaS
With IT management being largely decentralized, security will be difficult for teams to wrangle. Add to that challenge remote workers, and basic account security measures can be tough to enforce. Strong passwords and multi-factor authentication often fall through the cracks in favor of convenience.
Remote teams should use tools that make security dead simple, such as password managers or identity and access management (IAM) tools. Rather than leave security up to individuals to remember, the most effective tools feel invisible to the user while still providing a high level of protection.
6. Think of the internet as the cultural center
Even with its challenges, flexible work is becoming the way of the future for organizations worldwide. Without the boundaries of place, companies have access to a wider talent pool and can provide more opportunities to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to regularly commute to an office.
As founder of Automattic (which also has a fully distributed workforce) Matt Mullenweg put it, “You have to be really committed to keep the creative center and soul of the organization on the internet, and not in an office.”
SaaS tools can be used to do company-wide meetings, offer praise for a job well done, and allow remote employees to share their triumphs and challenges with the rest of their peers. Organizations with a flexible work DNA are connecting people to technology in exciting new ways, and bringing people together — no matter the physical distance between them.
Published May 30, 2019 — 12:00 UTC