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3 Software Tools for a Remote First Working Culture

During the lockdowns in the US and India due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our employees across all our delivery centers in the US and India had to start working from home. At Value Global we strive to be a business strategy partner that provides IT Optimization services onsite and remotely. 

While Value Global has always provided clients with the option of having a remote working team, it became imperative that we move to a 100% remote first working culture so that our client service levels continue to remain the same as before Covid-19. 

In this article, we share our experience of transitioning from a Work Office Culture to a Remote First Culture.  We hope that by sharing our experience we help you make better decisions and get an idea of the Do’s and Don’ts of moving to a Remote First Culture.

Getting Work Done and Keeping Employees Happy!

For us as a company, we are very concerned about keeping employee engagement high as it is directly correlated to both employee productivity and customer success.  Commute times to and from office are certainly a big factor for every employee that works in large cities such as Houston and Chennai.  Our challenge though was manyfold – how to keep employee morale high, how to keep them interested, how to help them collaborate and how to continue to have our team leads engage and mentor their teams and maintain service levels for their customers.   

We decided that we will need to engage the team leads to effectively guide, mentor and communicate with their team members as they would have done in an office setting.  The remote first does not necessarily change the structure that we had put in place which worked perfectly. It however required fine tuning of the processes to ensure the same level of effectiveness. 

Preparing for a Remote First Work Culture.

The big question for us then became: Are We Ready to Work from home?

For the management, there were four major areas where we had to be ready. Our systems had to be ready to support our employees. All processes should be in place for the smooth flow of communication. In addition, the delivery of solutions and services need to happen in a secure environment. 

People Readiness – Many of our employees were not new to working from home but they did it in exceptional circumstances.  Since we are planning to transform ourselves into a Remote First culture, we knew it was important to understand the concerns of the people in our organization. We started sessions where our  HR and Operations team worked together with the employees to understand their concerns and ability to gear up to a remote first culture.

Process Readiness – We have tools such as G Suite for Business, Zoom and Google Hangouts  which many of our employees have used in the past. However, we have started training employees on the same considering not everyone is used to Asynchronous communication.  We started instituting processes on usage of these toolsets to optimally support delivery of our services. . In addition, we also revised some job descriptions and KPIs for our employees considering the changed situation.

Security Readiness – Security on infrastructure used by the team needed to be validated to ensure that security patches and antivirus/malware softwares are up to date.  Our cybersecurity preparedness already includes a secure communication/VPN and file sharing platform which secures the client environments and data being supported by our employees. 

System Readiness – Being a cloud first company, our existing infrastructure was already being supported in a hybrid cloud model which allowed us to transition seamlessly to a Remote First model. It has become important to build additional stand-bys and redundancies for the technical infrastructure used for supporting customers from homes. The operational processes needed to be put in place to support this level of redundancy.

At the same time we needed the software tools to help our projects move smoothly.  Here are three software communication tools that became the foundation of our transition:

1. G Suite Business Solutions – Google

Google Drive

At Value Global, we extensively use G Suite of products starting with Google Drive for storage of documents and project files.  Google Drive is a cloud-based storage solution that allows you to keep your project files in one centralized location. Anyone in your team can upload files, create directories, and share these with other team members who might need them for their own set of tasks.

Google Drive comes with a powerful set of office tools that let you create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and slides. You can track the edits made by team members in real-time, accept and reject suggestions, and tag people in comments and notes.  This feature becomes super useful where the documents can be worked on asynchronously by team members.

Gmail and Google Calendar

Gmail is our go to tool for email communication.  From scheduling our meetings and other deadlines our company practice is to share Google Calendar with our colleagues. The privacy settings allow our employees to choose who they want to share the schedule with.

Google Calendar also allows us to add notes in the description to elaborate the agenda of the meeting.  For e.g. “I’d like to book this meeting to discuss the marketing newsletter. Let me know if this time doesn’t work for you.” 

Google Hangouts

Another Popular software for virtual meetings and conferences at Value Global is Google Hangouts.  One can join a meeting on Google Hangouts directly from Google Calendar. Not only that it makes it easy for users to share their screen for enabling quick troubleshooting.  We also use Google Hangouts to make phone calls, initially the call quality was not that great but over the last year the call quality has certainly gotten better. Video conferencing through Hangouts is an amazing tool, after all a picture is worth a thousand words :-). 

2. Zoom

For communicating with Clients, we use Zoom.  Zoom is another easy-to-use, popular video conference software available on desktop and mobile app that allows us to schedule, launch, and record virtual meetings.  Clients can join meetings through a computer, smartphone, or by voice via a dial in phone. During Zoom meetings, we can also share our screen with clients so they can see our work or presentations.

3. WhatsApp

A popular chatting platform WhatsApp allows group calls to have small meetings. The software is also available on desktop. We predominantly use it for quick communication. One of the problems we are anticipating with Remote First is employees feeling lonely or socially detached when working from home or any remote location as opposed to working from the office. That is why we have also started creating separate interest groups such as knowledge sharing, healthy lifestyle, and current events for our employees where they can chat about topics other than those related to work. Our customers also find that they can connect and work with our teams through the chat platforms. 

Employees are our biggest assets and at a time when they are extremely concerned about their own and their family’s health, the decision to allow them to work from home was an immediate decision for us.  We know that happy and healthy employees deliver excellent results and we will make every decision to make them happy, healthy and safe. We know many companies are contemplating moving to a work from home policy and shrinking their overall spend on the office infrastructure.  Has your company moved to Remote First yet? If yes, we are eager to know the tools that helped you transition and the challenges you face. 

“Value Global is a Houston, TX based company with technology and remote support centers in India.  We provide Application and Infrastructure Managed Services to Global Fortune 500 customers. Our mission is to provide agile, scalable, and cost-effective information technology solutions that drive your business forward.”

About the Author: Kumar Nadar is the Managing Partner at Value Global, a leading managed services provider to Fortune 500 Companies.

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