Remote working has become a new reality for millions during the COVID-19 crisis.

Organisations and their IT teams have been working quickly to enable employees to work from home securely. Indeed, since March the government has urged those businesses who can to have all or most staff working from home.

Fortunately, company culture does not need to change for the worse just because employees are now remote. There are ways in which business leaders, as well as employees, can maintain a healthy working environment, without compromising on efficiency or values.

Communication

In any working scenario, micro-management is rarely effective in terms of getting the most from employees. Giving staff autonomy brings benefits and enables a culture of trust to develop, where staff can work well wherever they may be, without suspicion or the need for extensive reporting and checking in with employers.

However, hitting the right balance of teamwork and collaboration is just as vital as before, and with the right toolset, workers can remain synchronised throughout the day.

Different types of communication channels may suit different types of work. If new tools are introduced, employees may need some guidance to ensure they continue to communicate, interact, and collaborate in the most productive ways, especially important when working remotely or in different locations.

Security

Data security is also extremely important, and securing online data needs to be at the top of the agenda for management teams, especially whilst employees are working from home.

Personal Wi-Fi networks, outdated applications and an unencrypted cloud environment makes any worker susceptible to a virus scam or cyber-attack. With networks no longer encased and protected within one network, IT managers must clearly outline security policies that follow a strict process – including timely updates on software when relevant, and step-by-step installation guides for anti-virus software, for example. Employees may also need to use a VPN.

The consequences of a security breach can be severe, so it is important that every single staff member is reminded of this and aligned with the same outlook. This becomes especially important for those employees who handle customer data as companies must ensure they continue to provide a consistently high quality customer experience, including adherence to security measures promised within any terms and conditions agreed.

Adapt accordingly

Managing remote employees comes with its own set of challenges, such as the problem of overworking, a lack of technology, human interaction, and communication. Especially for those who have not previously experienced home-working, it is essential to develop new work from home policies that keep employees focused and engaged, whilst maintaining a positive mindset.

This will help employees understand what is expected of them during a remote work situation, should it become a long-term change, as we have seen with Twitter's recent announcement.

Under proper guidance, employers should implement the appropriate suite of tools to manage their teams efficiently. Investing in this from the outset can ensure the right behaviours and practices are followed from the start. This could be particularly important as the longer-term impact of the current pandemic is that we could expect to see many businesses continue to encourage remote working, for at least some of an employee's week. It is much trickier to change behaviours once they are embedded in a culture, than to start out as you would like to for the long term.

Boosting morale

Remote working creates a huge opportunity for business owners and managers to build confidence in their teams, by showing them the trust and appreciation that they have worked hard for. Boosting employee morale right now can be as simple as sending an encouraging email or flagging an achievement on a company internal social network, and business leaders should reward positive work.

What’s more, anxiety levels within the workforce will already be high, due to a constant feed of negative news from the mainstream media, plus any personal issues facing remote workers during this time. Fortunately, collaboration and communication tools enable colleagues to stay in contact and up to date very easily.

One of the best ways to preserve company culture and maintain positive morale, is to open support networks for employees who require it and ensure an air of optimism is maintained where possible during the remainder of this ongoing crisis.

The tools within Zoho's product-suite place extreme value on user privacy in a way that many of today’s apps do not. It is crucial that organisations are using these tools in the most responsible way possible, so that business owners and managers can inspire trust and confidence in their workforce, for optimal productivity and success in the long run.

Companies that are seen to support workers through practices such as incentive schemes, or other ways which demonstrate their appreciation for staff efforts during this crisis will encourage most productivity and success.

Guidance & Mentorship

Like any group of people in life, your team is filled with people with different personality traits. Some may be more direct and confident enough to ask directly for more guidance or assistance in how they can help achieve goals. However, those who may be less confident may find it even harder to ask for help when working remotely. Team leaders should be aware of this and ensure there are easy routes in place to help any team member overcome any challenges in achieving goals.

Communication should cover more than just what to achieve, but to provide the bigger picture including why individual goals are important in contributing to the wider team and company. It should also cover how an employee can reach their goals, including guidance and training, or other routes to share best practice.

This, in turn, will also boost motivation and increase productivity, as well as continue to demonstrate a supportive culture.

Culture is a mindset, and company values that have been previously identified within an organisation are not limited to the office. The values that businesses have invested in do not suddenly disappear when a team starts to work remotely, no matter how suddenly that change has occurred.

Creating a sense of community and belonging is especially important during times of crisis. Technology is a pivotal part of this transition, and the choice of tools can have a huge impact on companies being able to maintain a consistent culture, even with a distributed workforce.