​How to get your distributed team working at 100%


As more and more states weigh up the risks of reopening workplaces, we are likely to see a shift towards blended team structures for the rest of 2020. These blended structures represent a fluid mix between employees working remotely and being in the office, and result in a distributed team.

Regardless of which side of the mix you fall on, or if you are transitioning in-between the two as necessary, these distributed teams can offer new opportunities. But to unlock these opportunities, you need to have some basics in place. Here are our guidelines to help:

Firstly, make sure wherever you and your team are, that you have the right tools:

Assess your remote capabilities and productivity to your infrastructure

  • Laptops and tablets: At the start of the pandemic, increased demand caused the supply of laptops to dry up quickly, and users who had avoided connecting to their VPN in the past suddenly found they hadn’t kept up with their updates and therefore couldn’t access the network. So think about whether users can connect to corporate resources, via virtual private network (VPN), Remote Desktop Services, or SaaS applications without issue. And if yes, do they have all the endpoint security tools installed and are they managed?
  • Home computers: Ensure home systems can connect to resources, preferably through Citrix or Terminal Services for best security practices.  It is harder to manage the security on personal computers than corporate-deployed laptops that have all the required security protections pre-installed and up-to-date.

Enable productivity tools you may already be licensed for

  • Collaboration: Keeping teams connected across locations is not only key for productivity, but also helps keep morale up. Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Google’s G Suite provide easy access for chat, secure data sharing, document collaboration, and meetings. Check if as part of your Office365 or G Mail subscription you have the licenses to use these extra applications, and most importantly that staff are trained on how to use them. 
  • Web access: Many users are unaware they can access applications via the web instead of via the VPN, which increases ease of access. Make sure there’s clear guidance available on how to access applications such as Outlook Web Access, OneDrive, DropBox and G Suite online.

Secure hyper-awareness is critical

  • Malware protection: Now more than ever, organizations are being bombarded by malicious threat actors trying to take advantage of the heightened employee anxiety and rapidly changing technology implementations caused by a remote workforce.  Malware protection is a non-negotiable must-have, and you should ensure scheduled scanning across the network is enabled. 
  • Remote access security: Remote access to your network should be secured via a secure, encrypted VPN tunnel with multi-factor authentication.  Other options are solutions like GotoMyPC and VNC, as long as you can document that adequate security and encryption are in place.  
  • Remote access reporting: No matter what remote access method you choose to use, be sure that reports are available to monitor remote user activity, and that these reports are regularly reviewed (recommended weekly) by your Information Security Officer.

Secondly, make sure your team members are handling the change well:

  • Communication, communication, communication: In times of change, ensuring communication across multi-channel platforms is key.  Users learn and adjust differently, especially if they are hoping to go back to the ‘old ways’ of work with everyone in the office at the same time and no boundaries in place. So create digital safe places to have open discussions throughout the working week.
  • Take advantage of the technology tools available: many can mimic “in office” communication and collaboration sessions. There are tools for unified communication, whiteboarding, chat and conversations and video communications. You may be surprised by more focused meetings that stay on topic with more actionable takeaways.
  • Health and well-being: While most of the workforce remains healthy, the burden of home schooling children and the constant bombardment by the media can lead to anxiety and depression. Your Human Resources department should play an important role in calming and reassuring the employee base, leading to enhanced productivity.  But you can also help by simply checking-in and making sure allowances are rightly made.

 And thirdly, keep your productivity in check:

  • Keep conference calls to the time committed:  Allowing conversations to continue outside of the scheduled time can bleed into other commitments for the person or group you are speaking with, causing them stress.  Being mindful and courteous of their time keeps people more engaged during the time you are working with them.
  • Don’t try to mimic an office with too many calls or meetings: virtual and physical time parameters operate differently. You will most likely find you work more efficiently and have more output when not pulled into a virtual meeting every other hour of the day.
  • Make sure you don’t end up “living” at your desk, and neither do the teams you manage:  Sometimes it can feel like you live inside your computer.  Even if you’re back in the office, remember to take time for you. Take regular breaks, go for a walk, eat lunch away from your desk. 

We will continue to see challenges thrown at us as teams’ physical presence grows and deflates with the changing environment, but if you follow the above you should feel secure that no matter how and where your team is distributed, you can work together to have success.