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COVID Working remotely

COVID-19: getting your tech right in a lockdown

In the past couple of weeks, an incredible number of Australian businesses have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by enabling employees to work either from home or other remote locations.

We’ve implemented this at Cannings Purple and many of our clients and referrers are also now working away from the office. But having a desire to work remotely is one thing and doing it effectively is quite another.

There are communications challenges that need to be navigated and cyber security questions that need to be answered. There is also the very important issue of what technology you are going to use and what you are going to use it for.

The importance of these choices shouldn’t be underestimated, as they can be major factors in whether your attempts to work remotely are successful or finish up being unproductive and inefficient.

Here are some vital things to think about if you want to get these choices right.

What tools should I be using?
There are thousands of software tools available and many of them are very good. In making a choice it’s worth thinking about what you want to achieve.

For instance, if talking and working collaboratively are your main aims, then Microsoft Teams and Slack are great options. For project planning you have the likes of Asana, Trello, Airtable, Monday.com and Smartsheet. If it’s ease of communications that you are after, then Google Hangouts, Skype for Business and webinars will be of interest.

My advice would be to thoroughly research your options and give them a trial run if necessary. Don’t look for a one-size-fits-all solution as it’s likely you’ll have to mix-and-match with a variety of tools to meet all your needs.

How do I ensure efficiency?
You’ve probably seen footage online of how some people are “working remotely”. They might be developing pretty impressive ping-pong skills but that isn’t really what they’re being paid for.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to track your employees’ time: including Harvest, Toggl, Rescue Time and Time Doctor (Dr Who fans may enjoy this one!). Programs like Microsoft Teams have stand-up functions that allow for automated questions to workers around what they have been doing and what they are doing. I’m personally a fan of Serene, which is installed on my laptop to block out distractions, but which can also help with planning and focus.

One thing I’d recommend thinking about though is whether you have good people and faith in them doing their jobs. If the answer is ‘yes’, then you really won’t have to worry about these tools as much. All it takes is a bit of trust!

How do you want/need to talk to people?
If the way you regularly communicate with customers and clients is still available (and assuming it’s working) then you don’t need to make changes for the sake of change. If it’s unavailable, then you need to think about what other channels might be available to meet your needs (the Singapore Government is using WhatsApp to communicate with citizens). If you are going to change, then it’s worth investing in platforms that are going to be useful beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

From an email perspective, you might look at tools like Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Active Campaign and Autopilot HQ. Mailchimp is a particular favourite of mine as it’s cost-effective and easy to use technically.

If social media is a good way for you to reach stakeholders, then consider tweaking how you do it by using the story function (it’s great for timely stuff). Chatbots can be annoying and clunky if not designed properly but for basic information that doesn’t require too much human touch, they can also be very effective.

One thing we’ve observed during COVID-19 – and something we’re engaging with here at Cannings Purple – is the rise of the webinar. With face-to-face meetings and events off the agenda, it’s a very useful way of engaging with clients and stakeholders. Again, you have choices to make: Zoom, for instance, has a massive market share but ClickMeeting, which we’re currently using, has some advanced features around interactivity and won’t confuse people by requiring the download of an app.

Listen to your data
I’m still blown away by how many businesses ignore their own data. Pretty much every business collects hundreds, if not thousands, of data points each day from their stakeholders.

If they only analysed it and then used that to inform their communications, they would be far better at tailoring and focussing messages.

Don’t sleep on your CRM

Setting up a customer relationship management system can be one of the hardest and most time-consuming things for any business. But it’s an investment that’s worth its weight in gold.

A well-maintained CRM means you can email clients, customers, employees and other stakeholders with tailored messages within minutes. That’s crucial in a crisis like COVID-19.

And last, don’t forget about your website

If your physical shopfront is closed, then your website is now the online receptionist for your business. I always say that it’s one of the few things in the digital landscape that you truly own and where you can shape your messages as you need to.

It’s worth asking how your website informs about the current situation, especially if your employees are working remotely and need updates from you. Equally, your website should be adding value to your interactions with clients and customers.

Websites can be complex beasts but the ones we design at Cannings Purple are made so that people with basic computer skills can push out crucial messaging when they need to.

At a time when everyone has so much else on their minds, that’s extremely important.

Glenn Langridge is an expert in digital campaigning and data analysis, including the use of analytics to inform and guide digital strategies. Contact Glenn.

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