Working from home has become common as more businesses offer flexible working arrangements. So it is important to learn how to collaborate and communicate without your team being in the same place.

There are many options for how your team can work together, so you'll need to decide what is most productive for your business.

Define goals

For your business to achieve its goals when remote working, you and your team must trust one another. You may need to change from a time-based way of working, to one based on outcomes.

Remote working may provide your business with productivity gains. As collaboration tools can help you find and communicate the goals the team needs to achieve. As a business owner, you can use collaboration tools to give you greater oversight of your projects and goals.

Collaborate using technology

Technology may be able to help you operate areas of your business in new ways. For instance, with collaborate tools you can:

  • work with team members across offices, venues or sites
  • maintain strong record-keeping practices
  • have oversight and visibility across key projects.

Be clear of what you expect the new technology to do. while online collaboration technology can't replace all your face-to-face business needs, for example, a plumber can’t fix a leaking tap remotely. It is still a good idea to plan for remote working where possible.

Consider security guidance

Operating online means your team will be interacting with each other over the internet. So you'll need to consider how to keep your business safe.

Actions to reduce your risk include:

  • Installing a good antivirus solution on company devices. This will help protect against viruses infecting the device.
  • Installing updates to programs and operating systems as soon as possible. They may contain fixes for security issues found since the last update.
  • Ensure that your wi-fi connection is encrypted and not open for anyone to connect to. Open connections make it easier for malicious activities to occur.
  • Change your router login and password. Keeping the default settings makes it easier for someone to access your router.
  • Use a company virtual private network (VPN) ⁠when you conduct work activities from outside your office network. VPNs encrypt your traffic and prevents outsiders from reading your data.
  • Make sure you and your team always lock your devices before you leave them alone. This is a simple way to stop others from accessing information on your computer when you're not there.
  • Stay vigilant for suspicious email messages. They may look very convincing but could contain malicious file attachments or links. If anyone is ever unsure, they should contact the sender before opening.

You should consider providing security guidance to your employees if they are remote working. As it's everyone's responsibility to keep your workplace secure and safe.

Learn the tools

Before you add any new tools or processes to your business, you should think about how to introduce them and how to use them consistently. Not all your team will know how to use the new technology. Consistency of use will help your team to understand that this is the new way of working sooner.

Some of the ways you can introduce new technology to your team are:

  • Run an experimentation ⁠period. Choose a week or a month and then ask your team to use the tool. After the experiment is complete, review the advantages and disadvantages as a group.
  • Provide introduction training sessions. These may help staff who are reluctant to use new technology, understand the benefits. Many training sessions are available for free on digital suppliers' websites.
  • Lead by example. As the business owner you're responsible for the culture of your business. If you use new technologies first, your employees may follow you and also use the technology.

Online tools for team collaboration

There are different tools available to help you run your business operations and communications online. Work out what you need to achieve and then find the right tools to help you.

Video conferencing software and platforms can offer an alternative to in-person meetings. Participants in a video conference may find it more engaging compared to an audio call. Presenters may also provide visual information using a presentation or by screen sharing. By seeing others in the meeting, staff may feel more connection with their colleagues.

A team messaging platform allows users to send and receive messages instantly. Through it staff may find it easy to share information or data with each other to complete their work.

Your team should find it easy to use, as it is like using text messaging on mobile phones. As it is like text messaging, it may also help to build office culture in this online environment.

Project and task management tools allow you and employees to have visibility across all your projects and tasks. They can help you plan your project, manage your team's workload and give you a overview of remaining work.

To store the digital files your business uses to operate, you have have two main options. You can either maintain your own server within your work network or you can use a cloud-based file storage system.

Maintaining your own server requires:

  • ICT support
  • physical space in an office
  • hardware upgrades
  • additional back-up sources.

Many business find these requirements difficult to manage, in which case a cloud-based system may be an easier alternative.

A cloud-based file storage system can:

  • reduce your reliance on physical hardware in your office space
  • reduce ongoing costs associated with file storage
  • increase your ability maintain and manage versions of your documents
  • make it easier access files from places other than at your work.

Many cloud-based storage platforms have built-in collaboration tools. This allows more than one person to create and work on a document at the same time, often showing changes in real-time.