4 Lessons Learned From Working Remotely During COVID-19

The world changed due to COVID-19—it was forced to. And now, work as we’ve known it, in quite a few industries, will never be the same. We’ve learned a lot since the pandemic first forced most people to stay home in March of 2020. But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that remote work is not only a viable option, it’s actually a successful one, so long as your business has the right tools in place.

Data shows that only 16% of American professionals want to go back to working in an office once things return to “normal,” with more than half preferring a hybrid remote/in-office arrangement. In other words, virtual work is sticking around and will ultimately require organizations to figure out how to accommodate a hybrid solution for the long run.

To help your business prepare, let’s discuss some of the biggest lessons learned from working remotely during COVID-19 and how you can use this information to drive a smarter way of working in the future.

Lesson 1: Better Communication Is Critical

Clear communication in a crisis situation is crucial. We learned that in 2020. And we learned that creating a dedicated channel (be it instant message, email or intranet) to inform everyone of important news is vital to keeping your wider organization in the know. This may include details regarding office closures, available resources, systems access and more.

There’s ultimately no such thing as overcommunicating. And to be sure your communications are reaching people effectively, consider doing the following:

Beyond the communications you send during disastrous situations, also think about how communication affects current staff now that they’re distributed. For example, communication is more likely to suffer without daily face-to-face interaction. When colleagues don’t physically see each other every day, they may feel siloed, isolated from the group and even confused about their individual priorities and goals.

Video conference calls can certainly address some of this, but does it completely make up for the impromptu chats over coffee in the communal kitchen or those that happen in conference rooms before and after meetings? Probably not.

The key takeaway here is that whether folks are working from home, working from the office or enjoying a mix of the two, communication is an essential foundation to keep the team tight now and in the face of the next disaster. Group meetings, one-on-one meetings and quick “stand up” sessions can all be essential to keeping your team informed, accountable and connected.

Lesson 2: Flexibility Benefits Everyone

The traditional workday, comprised of a commute, a cup of coffee and eight hours behind a desk, is behind us now. While it provided a nice routine for those who crave structure and social interaction, the pandemic has proven that with great change, many thrive outside of traditional parameters.

Not long ago, most employers preferred having workers on site so they could be seen and held accountable—a model that hadn’t changed in centuries. But even before the pandemic, this model proved restrictive and ineffective a fair amount of the time. The hours spent getting to and from the office, the many distractions throughout the day and the cost of renting large office space were all factors that pointed to a need for refinement and rethinking the norm.

Many remote workers report that working from home has led to increased autonomy, more motivation and higher productivity. With this prolonged break from the rat race, it now feels like an overdue change. Add to this the many roles that are unaffected by flexible working, which begs the following question: If workers can still produce the same output without having to clock in at a prescribed time at a prescribed place, why not support that?

Flexibility, with respect to hours worked or the location where that work takes place, will likely have a positive impact on countless workers, particularly those with dependents, long commutes, extracurricular activities at the start or end of the day, etc. The idea of returning to the old ways isn’t sitting right with people. This means that management must explore ways to implement flexibility that benefits both employee and employer moving forward if it wants to truly support the health and well-being of the company.

Some guidelines to consider:

In summary, treat your population like adults who can be trusted to manage their own time (so long as you’re not noticing any productivity drops when you do allow this flexibility). They’ll be happier, and you won’t feel like you must micromanage constantly, which frees up a lot of your time as a manager or business leader.

Lesson 3: Help Minimize Distractions

Whether people realize it or not, working from the office proved disruptive at times. From the chatter that echoed throughout open workspaces, to the long lunches with colleagues, to the parade of birthday cakes and celebrations supporting key milestones, many structured their days around these interactions making work secondary to the social aspects of the environment.

In fact, COVID-19 may have served to remove distractions for many, leading to greater productivity across the organization, much to everyone’s surprise. But, in order for work from home to really work, some guidelines prove useful:

Lesson 4: Implement the Right Technology

According to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, five million employees worked from home in 2019. In 2020, this number skyrocketed due to the coronavirus outbreak, which necessitated establishing best practices for seamless and secure ways to get work done remotely.

While video conferencing, file sharing, project management and time tracking tools are helpful for productivity and communication, the need for access to secure applications and virtual desktops that enable employees to work effectively from anywhere surfaced as even more critical.

Having the right technology stack in place is key to ensuring that your distributed workforce is on the same page, so to speak. As more and more employees move permanently to remote work, businesses can prepare for this in a few ways:

A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) tool enables employees to transition from home to the office (and vice versa) easily, with access to all key applications and desktops. Many people toggle between various devices throughout the day—desktop and/or laptop during normal business hours, tablet for ad hoc work on the go, smartphone from the comfort of the bed at night, etc. As such, it’s imperative that any VDI tool you implement be device agnostic.

By ensuring that employees can bring their own device to the proverbial table, you afford them the ability to work however they’re most comfortable. And, with the right VDI security measures in place, employees get access to files and data needed to do their job while ensuring that company data never leaves the perimeter of the network/virtual infrastructure.

How Parallels RAS Helps Improve the Virtual Office Experience

Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) makes it easier for organizations to connect colleagues with each other and with key applications and desktops that can support a remote or hybrid work environment. With a solution like Parallels RAS, it’s simple for employees to transition from home to the office and back again.

When you allow your staff to use their own devices, they’re more inclined to work in ways that better support their own productivity, whether that’s on a tablet, laptop, smartphone or traditional desktop. Parallels RAS clients work on a vast range of devices and can toggle between devices seamlessly without having to log out or disrupt a productive work stream.

Whether or not we face yet another disaster in the coming months or years, progressive employers recognize that their workforce prefers the flexibility of working from wherever they are most comfortable. Installing a VDI solution like Parallels RAS can be an integral part of ensuring your company’s ongoing success and growth.

Watch a free demo about how Parallels RAS can help your business manage a distributed workforce effectively.