Remote work is rapidly gaining popularity; the number of U.S. employers that allow telecommuting has grown by 40% in the past five years, and about 25% of U.S. workers telecommute at least part of the time.
Allowing employees to work remotely can increase productivity, promote job satisfaction, and improve retention. It also allows organizations to source talent outside their immediate geographic areas, a significant benefit when facing skills gaps in specialized areas. However, telecommuting also poses hurdles for both remote workers and the companies that employ them. Let’s examine three areas where challenges often arise and how Microsoft 365 helps address them
Easy Access to Files & Software
Before the advent of cloud computing, remote workers struggled with access to enterprise software and documents. Software had to be manually loaded onto local machines and was available only on certain devices and software. Accessing documents and other files meant logging in and out of a remote file share system and transferring files back and forth.
Over the past few years, Microsoft has been shifting its focus from on-prem software to cloud and XaaS solutions. Simply by logging into their Microsoft business account, employees get easy access to the email, collaboration and other productivity tools that make up Microsoft 365, regardless of where they are or even what equipment they are using. Microsoft 365 is compatible with a wide range of popular devices and operating systems, including mobile devices. OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams allow employees to access, read, and edit files. Collaboration and version-tracking tools allow work to occur both individually and in groups.
Internet connectivity can sometimes cause issues when working remotely, especially in hotels, which are notorious for spotty internet access. Files saved to OneDrive and SharePoint can be available online and offline on the employee’s local machine so they can access them anytime, even when they’re not connected to the internet. When the employee’s computer reconnects, the OneDrive application updates the online versions to reflect any changes made while offline.
Collaboration & Communication
Remote workers commonly complain of feeling isolated from their in-office counterparts and the company culture. Participation in group projects can be difficult without real-time communication and collaboration tools, and job satisfaction can suffer if telecommuters do not feel connected to the organization and their co-workers. Microsoft 365 offers two communication and collaboration tools, Teams and Yammer, to break down silos, not just between on-premises and remote employees but also between workgroups and departments.
Microsoft Teams is the hub for team collaboration in Office 365 that integrates the people, content, and tools your team needs to be more engaged and effective. It allows employees to engage in real-time private text chats, make video calls, and participate in group chat rooms with threaded messaging. Because Teams is a part of Microsoft 365, employees can access Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other files in OneDrive without ever leaving Teams and edit them together in real-time, complete with a text chat right next to the document being worked on. These real-time file collaboration features eliminate confusion, enabling employees to focus on ideas and innovation, and promote teamwork and inclusion of every member of the team.
Communication across multiple time zones can be a significant challenge for organizations with employees or freelancers located throughout the country or even on the other side of the world, especially when attempting to schedule conference calls. Microsoft recently added a feature to Teams that allows meetings and group calls to be recorded and saved to Microsoft Stream, capturing audio, video, and screen-sharing activity. Recordings can be automatically transcribed, allowing users to play back recordings with closed-captions and access a searchable, time-coded transcript.
Like Microsoft Teams, Yammer integrates with Office 365 tools, such as OneDrive, Word, and Outlook. However, while Teams is a workplace collaboration platform for working on company projects, Yammer is an enterprise social media tool to promote organization-wide employee engagement and communications and encourage all employees to participate in the company culture. Leadership can use Yammer to share important announcements and information about corporate benefits, policies, events, and initiatives with the entire company, and commenting features allow employees to interact and ask questions.
Beginning in early 2019, Microsoft will roll out a Yammer tab in Microsoft Teams, allowing users to follow and share conversations in Yammer without having to leave Teams.
Cybersecurity & Compliance
Enterprise cyberattacks are more frequent, complex, destructive, and costly than ever. Investors who responded to the PwC Global Investor Survey 2018 reported that they saw cyberattacks as the biggest threat currently facing businesses, and business leaders ranked it in the top three, alongside over-regulation and terrorism. Compliance with industry and regulatory standards is also growing more complex and expensive. On average, organizational compliance costs an individual enterprise $5.47 million annually, and in some highly regulated industries, far more.
Because Microsoft 365 is cloud-based, enterprises can ensure that their sensitive data is protected and that employees are adhering to security and compliance procedures and protocols regardless of their work location, including:
- The Microsoft 365 Security and Compliance Center, a central hub that brings the separate but related functions of enterprise security and compliance together, makes it easier for organizations to secure their cloud data and apps and ensure they are compliant with applicable regulatory and industry standards.
- Built-in protection against ransomware and other malware in Microsoft 365, including ransomware protection and recovery, a file restore feature for OneDrive, and advanced link checking.
- Microsoft Advanced Data Governance, which helps organizations know, classify, and protect sensitive data across devices, apps, and cloud services. Features include retention labels that allow organizations to classify data across the enterprise and enforce rules that specify the retention or deletion of data based on specified triggers; sensitivity labels that classify and enforce protection rules on emails, documents, sites, and other content; and built-in system alerts for activities such as unusually large volumes of file downloads or file modifications.