With more people working from home than ever before, the need for seamless communication has never been greater. In regions such as the Middle East and Africa, that can be particularly challenging, especially if your team is spread across multiple countries with different levels of connectivity and internet access. But there are some simple steps you can take to make it much easier to encourage collaboration and teamwork.
Make your virtual meetings more efficient
We’ve all been on conference calls that have dragged on for too long, or not conveyed any information that couldn’t have been put in an email. According to Harvard Business Review, up to 80 percent of workers’ time is spent on collaborative activities. Part of the success behind working from home is making that more efficient by learning to use the strengths of digital communication to your advantage.
With Microsoft Teams, organisations can share their screens, exchange instant messages, and conduct voice and video calls. At Safaricom, Teams helped to promote employee mobility and agility, particularly for those in remote areas. “Through daily engagements, Teams has facilitated keeping abreast in real time with forecasts and reports that field engineers consume to draw up their daily actions,” says George Njuguna, Director, Information Technology (CIO) at Safaricom, Kenya’s largest telecoms company. “Now, they can get up to date almost on the fly.”
It’s also important to be mindful of colleagues to make sure everyone’s voice can be heard, particularly in big video chats. Encourage meeting attendees to use the ‘raise your hand’ feature when someone has something to say and beware of overcrowded conference calls. Use digital versions of what you might use in a real meeting, like the Microsoft Whiteboard app – an infinite digital canvas where team members can jot down thoughts and share suggestions in real time.
Recreate office chatter
Working from home can be lonely without the incidental moments of interaction with colleagues in the break room or over lunch. To encourage collaboration and camaraderie, it’s important to try and recreate those informal moments, and give employees space to breathe. For example, if you have back-to-back meetings in an office environment, the act of physically going from one meeting to the next gives you time to breathe. Back-to-back conference calls don’t offer the same break, so it’s important to build it in – schedule meetings to end five minutes before the hour to give yourself a break. The chat function in Teams can also be used as an unofficial digital watercooler, which goes some way to recreating the background chat of an office that’s not necessarily related to work.
Streamline your tools
For Safaricom, seamless remote working is vital. It has field staff around the country, but they sometimes had issues collaborating on documents – they would often have to wait until their colleagues were done with a file before being able to edit it, for example.
More than half of the company’s workforce is in its customer experience team, and new starters had to go through a lengthy process to gain access to individual servers and files required for their job. The presence of different teams with access to different tools had led to the accidental creation of “islands” of information within the business, with some people cut off from others. To resolve these issues, Safaricom decided to streamline their software. They turned to Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.
Using these tools enabled Safaricom team members to work on the same file concurrently, with safeguards and version control, so no work was inadvertently lost. OneDrive meant that new team members were instantly able to access all the relevant files they needed to do their job.
In many companies, people tend to download software apps as and when they need to complete a particular task, like they’re used to doing on their smartphones. According to research by Netskope, organisations use an average of 1 295 different cloud-based applications – and that’s a problem, because a lot of those aren’t secure or scalable enough for large corporations. With people working from home on a variety of hardware, it’s important to use tools supported across multiple platforms. Microsoft 365 helps by bringing a suite of products under one umbrella, with seamless access to Trello, Hootsuite and many more apps – with a single account for each user.