For all the things it makes possible, cloud technology doesn't come without hurdles. For an example, look no further than remote workers simultaneously being productive and feeling isolated from their colleagues. While working from home satisfies many remote employees, it can also make them feel disconnected from their teams.
Finding a balance between productivity and connection may not sound easy on paper — but with the right approach and the right tools, the challenge becomes a lot more manageable. So how does the cloud work to enable satisfying remote work situations? Let's see.
The Challenges of Remote Work
Working from home is not the same as working in an office. There's no water cooler where a remote worker can keep up on the latest office news or chat about the latest episode of "Game of Thrones." And managers sometimes forget to loop remote employees into important announcements.
With potential issues like these, it's easy to see how work-from-home employees may feel they've fallen out of sight and out of mind. They may even begin to wonder whether anyone notices their contributions to the company.
Other factors can further add to the feeling of isolation. Gestures and nonverbal cues colleagues rely on to understand the nuances and subtexts of conversations are harder to read on a computer screen, assuming they can be "read" at all. Email just isn't a replacement for a face-to-face chat, particularly when it comes to sensitive matters such as performance reviews or other high-stakes discussions. Remote employees, knowing they must deal with a geographical barrier their office-based colleagues don't face, can occasionally feel the playing field isn't so level after all.
How the Cloud Can Help
Fortunately, the natural progression of technology can address many of these issues from the onset. Video conferencing is now a baseline feature of any competent cloud communications platform. All those small gestures remote employees couldn't see in an email come across just fine in a video chat.
Video conferencing isn't the only tool bridging gaps between remote workers and their employers, however. If a remote worker needs to ping a colleague for a quick question like they would in the office, built-in presence information lets the remote employee know whether the coworker is available; think of it as a digital peek over the cubicle wall. And on the productivity end, the web meeting solutions found in most platforms now make direct in-call collaboration possible, with multiple distributed employees able to work on documents and other projects together in real time.
As the primary enabler of a remote-work policy, cloud has a lot to offer beyond baseline productivity and functionality.
How Managers and Business Owners Can Help
For managers, approving a cloud communications platform is only part of the implementation process. Once the tools are in place and ready to go, it's essential company leadership works to obtain employee buy-in. This is truly where How does the cloud work? becomes How does the cloud work for me?
If the new communications platform has been a long time in the making, there's a good chance employees have resorted to their own, unofficial solutions for the same task, like using their own devices or software without leadership's approval. This fragmenting, potentially dangerous phenomenon known as shadow IT can minimize the value a platform brings. Addressing it, on the other hand, gives remote workers better reach to the office (and vice versa) than ever before.
The best high-level approach is twofold. First, stakeholders outside the IT realm should work closely with the department to determine what unofficial solutions employees currently use. From there, leadership should demonstrate how the new tools do all the same things, and with better connectivity: Instead of dragging a file between unconnected storage, cowork, and team-management apps, for instance, the new platform makes the experience seamless.
Cloud Bridges Gaps Yet Again
A quick call or video chat can be a great way to show employees various features they may be missing out on, such as working on a document in real time or checking availability status. Organizations with numerous remote workers can take this idea a step further, having remote teams attend digital feedback/training sessions in groups, a move that may increase participation and enhance the sense of community among all employees.
By continuing to monitor utilization, managers and other leaders aren't just getting the most from their new tools — they're helping remote employees stay productive and fulfilled. Presuming all the right tools are in place, this process and a little time should be all it takes to see big results.
For some organizations, the challenge is enhancing the cloud's benefits and minimizing its drawbacks. As the primary enabler of a remote-work policy, the cloud has a lot to offer beyond baseline productivity and functionality. Give a modern set of tools time to flourish in the proper environment, and employees everywhere will feel better connected to their colleagues than ever before.