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Coronavirus Navigation – How online tools support home office

By FastLane Team, February 12, 2020 (5 mins)

The concept of working from home has gained increasing amounts of attention over the past few years, especially with the recent spread of the Coronavirus. Developments in technology and workplace culture have facilitated the adoption of this new method of working, allowing employers to explore and reap the increased benefits associated with letting their employees work from home.

While working from home can provide many benefits, doing so for extended periods of time can often result in diminishing returns in respect of productivity.

 

What you will learn from this article (The challenges of work from home) :

1. Project Management / Lack of Internal Communication

2. Arrange Client Meetings

3. Lack of access to internal resources

 

At the time of writing, the majority of businesses in Hong Kong and China are encouraging their staff to work from home given the spread of the Coronavirus. In an interview with Bloomberg, Alvin Foo, managing director of Reprise Digital, a Shanghai ad agency with over 400 staff stated,

“It’s a good opportunity for us to test working home at scale”

As Chinese New Year ends and businesses begin to restart their operations, companies have been forced to change their daily work arrangements. As a result, there has been increased adoption of video chat applications and productivity software.

With many firms not used to having staff members work from home for such extended periods of time, we look to provide tips on how firms can maintain or even improve their standard levels of productivity.

1. Project Management / Lack of Internal Communication

Working from home over a prolonged period of time can negatively impact project management for a business. When the only means of communication become through digital means, the lack of traditional methods of communication makes the coordination and collaboration of multiple individuals slow and inefficient. 

Perhaps the largest hurdle to project management is the lack of transparency. A lack of clear understanding of what tasks your colleagues are working on often results in miscommunication in regards to which team member is completing what task, their progress, and developments of each engagement. When this is the case, a lot of time spent during work hours isn’t actually focused on work – it is spent on trying to understand what is going on.

Utilizing project management tools like Asana can facilitate working from home in a much more effective manner. Asana is a collaboration tool that outlines the development of projects and business goals. It allows its users the ability to assign tasks to specific individuals and can track the progress of work assignments.

Asana is well recognized in its ability to provide greater accountability across a business. Tasks can be assigned to specific team members, allowing them to be held accountable for their assigned tasks. In a survey conducted by Asana Premium customers, approximately 80% of Asana customers have stated that the application has increased accountability on their team with 68% and 74% of customers saying that the application has helped define their goals and meet their deadlines. 

Like project management, internal communication suffers during prolonged periods of working from home. Digital communication can often convolute messages when users are relying solely on written messages – messages can be missed and instructions can be misunderstood. The lack of traditional methods such as face-to-face communication

Slack provides a one-stop solution to communication. Users of Slack can form channels within the platform whereby relevant team members can communicate in a single channel through messaging, calls or video chats. Consolidating communication channels eliminates the need to rely solely on written messages and allows users the ability to more efficiently discuss their tasks at hand

Milanote is a tool for organizing creative projects into beautiful visual boards. By design, it feels a lot like working on the wall in a creative studio – visual, tactile and sometimes a bit messy – Milanote is a great fit for designers who work in teams remotely.

The above applications can also be integrated together, providing users with a one-stop solution for internal messaging and file sharing. Being able to understand and interpret all project management related information can ensure that a business’s communication is focused and actionable.

2. Arrange Client Meetings

An important aspect of business that becomes increasingly difficult when working from home is client meetings. Client meetings provide a business with an invaluable opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship, develop a full understanding of how each party operates and often provides an indication of the best way for all parties to collaborate.

Having the ability to communicate effectively is vital for a business to succeed. Unfortunately, with the spread of Coronavirus, client meetings could be conducted digitally. Skype and Zoom are both fantastic, free video chat tools. Both platforms offer free and premium versions of their product and are commonly used by firms for not only their internal meetings but to also converse with clients during the Coronavirus period. Their accessibility and ease of use mean that clients will most likely not have difficulties utilizing the applications. Any miscommunication or lack of understanding with clients can be quickly addressed, eliminating the wait times associated with back and forth email communications. 

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2. Arrange Client Meetings

An important aspect of business that becomes increasingly difficult when working from home is client meetings. Client meetings provide a business with an invaluable opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship, develop a full understanding of how each party operates and often provides an indication of the best way for all parties to collaborate.

Having the ability to communicate effectively is vital for a business to succeed. Unfortunately, with the spread of Coronavirus, client meetings could be conducted digitally. Skype and Zoom are both fantastic, free video chat tools. Both platforms offer free and premium versions of their product and are commonly used by firms for not only their internal meetings but to also converse with clients during the Coronavirus period. Their accessibility and ease of use mean that clients will most likely not have difficulties utilizing the applications. Any miscommunication or lack of understanding with clients can be quickly addressed, eliminating the wait times associated with back and forth email communications. 

Specifically, Zoom can support up to 500 participants and 10,000 viewers for their conference calls. This allows large groups of individuals to communicate effectively and conduct business in a tailored environment that suits their needs. Users have the flexibility to join in on calls remotely with no loss to audio quality or stability, making the application a great platform to scale.

However, communication solutions are only effective to the extent that employees are already familiar with their role and responsibilities as micromanagement loses its effectiveness with these arrangements. It is recommended that before an employee begins their work from home, they have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities and their tasks at hand. Communication should be limited to only what is necessary. Examples of such are questions pertaining to clarification of tasks and updates on the progress of assignments

3. Lack of access to internal resources

Cloud-based services are creating virtual workspaces to complement the traditional office setting. Many businesses are seeing the benefit of transitioning their internal work infrastructure to the cloud, which allows for greater flexibility in how their business can operate.

Very simply, cloud-based services offer users the ability to digitally store, access, deliver and process data across several linked devices. It allows users to share information and resources anywhere and on any device. It has been utilized by small firms to scale their business without spending a significant amount of investment in their IT infrastructure.

To the extent that individuals cannot access their firms’ internal resources while working from home, cloud-based resources can be utilized to solve this issue. Xero, Google Office Suite, and Dropbox are both platforms that allow their users access to their firm’s internal databases, accounting records, and working documents. 

www.xero.com

Xero offers businesses a simple, yet powerful tool to manage their business’s finances through the cloud. This is especially useful for businesses that utilize the services of Hong Kong CPA firms. From basic bookkeeping to efficient online invoicing and detailed financial reporting, all financial aspects of running a business can be completed online through the cloud. Access to applications like Xero allows businesses greater flexibility in dealing with their accountants. 

www.dropbox.com

Google Suite and Dropbox are fantastic platforms that facilitate working from home. Both platforms are personal cloud storage services that are frequently used by businesses for file sharing and collaboration. Users can save their files online to a folder and share access with not only fellow team members but also clients. By constantly updating their features, they have become among the most popular cloud storage system available. Their ability to integrate with other platforms such as Slack, further demonstrates the ease of adoption of this application.

www.slack.com

The development of global trends such as the Coronavirus is prompting businesses to look more closely at work from home arrangements. Although possible, businesses must ensure that they have the tools necessary to allow their staff to succeed and thrive in these changing work environments. For questions about how the above solutions can impact your work from home arrangements, don’t hesitate to contact FastLane!



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