Author: Adam Reynolds
A successful work-from-home culture requires pivotal adjustments.
Like any business in the world right now, we face the same challenge of maintaining our everyday operations, as well as look after our customers and employees.
In less than two weeks, we went from being office-based across three worldwide locations to a fully remote company with every employee working from home. I want to share our story of how we became a remote business as it may help others to do the same.
As a software-as-a-service provider, we provide finance automation tools for expense management and invoicing. We are fortunate that our cloud-based services and support to our customers can continue without any disruption.
We followed the government's advice from the very start and assembled a team at the beginning of March to plan and prepare for what was coming. Our two main aims are to maintain great service to our customers and to look after our employees.
We have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) which documents our preventative and recovery processes should our business have to deal with any threats. We tested this plan recently, but at no point did we believe we would be enacting this plan around a worldwide pandemic. The BCP was an essential foundation for us to become a remote working business with minimal disruption, We had already considered what we needed to address, and had the mechanisms and people in place to act.
Maintaining a great service to our customers
Access to our cloud software remains uninterrupted, and users continue to access this from wherever they are located.
We can continue the high level of customer service and support that we are recognised for. This service and support comes from our key account managers, customer service team, and our implementation team - anyone who is in daily contact with our customers.
Our customer-facing teams are a high priority so we needed to ensure that they were set up fast to deal with customer needs. We’re seeing a higher volume of Webexpenses users claiming homeworking expense allowances. This means that we are helping new and less-frequent users to claim what they are entitled to.
We wrote to all our customers to reassure them that they will not experience any disruption to the services we provide. We offer support to all our end users, so at any time, users can contact us in the usual way and speak to a real person on the phone.
Being a good employer
For us, employee well-being was crucial and we wanted to keep everyone safe. We knew who our at-risk employees were and they were offered the opportunity to work from home from the very start. Anyone displaying mild symptoms of any description was also working remotely to avoid spread within the office.
Through having a plan, we were able to put things in place to enable the entire workforce to work remotely in less than two weeks.
We have continued to communicate with all team members through email and have remained fluid with our policies as this has been an evolving situation. The feedback we’ve had from the employees is that we have managed this professionally and sensitively, without creating panic.
We’re offering additional advice and flexibility to working parents who are managing work alongside homeschooling.
We also have support in place for all employees during this time to look after physical and mental wellbeing throughout our employee gateway benefits programme.
Adapting to homeworking
Homeworking is new to the majority of us, and I’m sure that every company is finding its way. We should look to those companies who already operate remotely and see what we can learn from them.
We wanted to embrace home working at all levels. We will be working like this for an unknown period of time and we cannot reasonably maintain the same processes and practices that we do in the office. For example, we have a lot of face-to-face meetings - both internal and with prospects and customers - so we have moved these all to video conferencing.
Having the right tools
Going remote has a large impact on everyday business processes. The importance of online and digital tools has become paramount with no physical workforce in the office.
We had to ensure everyone had what they needed to work from home. Most employees use laptops, and desktop users have Intel Nucs which can be easily transported home.
As a SaaS business, we already make use of global cloud-based services such as Microsoft 360 and the Google suite. We have a Voice Over IP phone system which means we can take calls wherever we are, and transfer to extensions across teams and countries. We also have Single Sign On (SSO) to simplify the use of our systems with a single login.
We have a Security Awareness Programme so all our employees are trained, and savvy enough to be smart whilst working on computers at home.
Our IT and infrastructure team invested in remote assistance technology so they can offer remote support to employees when needed.
As far as our processes go, we already use digital tools for our product development, CRM, finance (payroll, expenses, and invoices) and HR processes (such as onboarding and employee management). As a result, making the switch to remote working has been fairly comfortable for us as the team is accustomed to using these tools as part of everyday activity.
We’ve looked at how we stay connected as virtual teams and applied methodology from our Development team who work with the Agile framework. This means all teams have daily stand-up calls first thing to run through what was achieved yesterday, and what is being delivered today and raise any challenges.
We have a weekly management stand-up video call so each department updates on top-level activity and updates.
On a lighter note, we have created virtual tea rooms in calendars for employees to join colleagues for a virtual tea break. We hosted our end-of-the-week Fridge Friday’ drinks event virtually, with an interactive quiz and a chance to share a drink with colleagues.
All video cameras are on during this time so we get to see each other.
We have three offices to consider and we chose to adopt the same plan for each region despite other countries being on different timelines for government advice.
During this time the regional offices have stayed connected to our UK headquarters and are maintaining a great service to our international customers.
With everyone set up working remotely, we are continuing to move forward. Obviously, this situation will impact certain aspects of everyday business but we are looking at these areas and planning for different scenarios so we stay agile.
We feel more than ever that the use of digital tools will be a lifeline to businesses that have manual finance processes and are reliant on physical teams and paper processes.
For businesses to continue, key business and finance processes need to remain operational and digital tools can provide this continuity.
Advice for other businesses
My advice for other businesses is to stay prepared. We became a fully remote business with minimal disruption because we had a clear plan that we could execute well.
Stay connected with your teams and make sure that no employee is isolated. With a few changes to how you have meetings using video conferencing and other communications, we can work well as virtual teams and keep everyone moving.
It may be time to look at how well you can now manage key business processes and review what you have in place. We’re in this together and I’m confident that we can sustain a solid base of operations to keep business moving.