empty meeting room with cupboards emptied. desolate office
PHOTO: Nguyen Tung

Many companies previously had remote employees, but Office 365 adoption was so low they still don't know how to use the platform to do basic things like engaging colleagues who work from home.

Your organization may normally fit under one of the following categories:

  • You have employees who work away from your office occasionally.
  • You have employees who work remotely all the time.
  • Your organization has no office and fully operates remotely.

But currently, most organizations find themselves with a newly all-remote workforce. Office 365 offers businesses multiple ways to manage employees who work from home or from remote offices. But the starting point can actually be simple.

In this article, we'll look at a simple workflow you can use to get started with Office 365 with a goal of enabling collaboration in the cloud and drive productivity remotely.

When properly implemented, it helps establish a strong sense of teamwork and offers everyone the flexibility that comes when you remove the need to commute to an office building.

A Simple Workflow for Remote Teamwork

At a basic level, to bring your colleagues together and guide their activities, you need to share documents (information), exchange ideas (communication) and manage tasks (production). To do this, make use of OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams and Planner. Set up the applications on mobile devices as well so that everyone can stay connected to the team anywhere, anytime. 

To help everyone get up to speed with these applications, overlay popup walkthroughs over your Office 365 interface so that they are able to use the platform effectively without the need to search the web for help.

Related Article: How to Provide Ongoing Micro-Training to Employees

Sharing Documents

For many tasks, everyone needs to refer to existing information contained in shared documents.

Get everyone to use OneDrive for Business as a place to host documents that can be shared when needed.

  • Sync files between desktops and the cloud to provide access from anywhere. 
  • Review the different options available for creating, editing, sharing and finding files.
  • Make use of notifications and mentions to keep everyone aware of the activities around files.

Get organized from the start. Insist on the necessity to include proper metadata for every uploaded file.

Related Article: Using AI for Metadata Creation

Exchanging Ideas

For seamless communication, get your team to use Microsoft Teams. Exploit key capabilities like teams, channels, chats, meetings, calls, files, apps and services.

  • Use the tool to gather a team around a task, share files, hold meetings and drive conversations using text, audio or video.
  • To create a complete cloud workspace for your team, add tabs for files, apps and services.
  • With the ability for many people to co-author and edit documents at the same time, collaborate with your remote coworkers in real time.

Finally, to connect with everyone on a human level, make extensive use of the video meeting feature.

Managing Tasks

With a platform for communication in place, you need a workspace where you can schedule tasks and track progress.

Planner is great for the purpose.

  • Easily allocate tasks to people and provide all the items needed for the job.
  • Make use of the buckets feature to follow tasks along the completion process. We have seen bloggers use this feature extensively for co-authoring and publishing stages along the workflow.
  • Before you onboard everyone to start using the platform, make sure that your IT people make configurations to optimize permissions and data security.

With OneDrive for Business to store information, Microsoft Teams to drive communication, and Planner to organize production, you should be able to steer everyone's productive input toward intended business goals.

Related Article: Virtual Workspaces: How to Do More Than Just Meetings Online

Approximate an In-Person Working Space

Using the right tools is not enough to successfully manage a remote workforce. You need to actively manage remote staff with the goal of minimizing any sense of alienation and to get things running smoothly.

  • Hold a weekly online meeting. Stay consistent. Always prepare an agenda and give everyone ample time to talk. The goal of the meetings is not only to get things done but also to simply connect. It is inspiring and motivating to feel close to people with whom you share your work. This gives people a touchpoint of connectivity and establishes a sense of community. If your workforce is spread across countries and across time zones, schedule a separate meeting for each group of neighboring time zones.
  • Almost every working day, schedule time to review progress on current tasks. Review what everyone did yesterday, is doing today and plans to do tomorrow. This helps remind everyone to stay focused.
  • Pick one day in a week during which you provide feedback and discuss suggestions. Take time to identify issues and find solutions together.

The goal of these habits is to approximate in-person interactions and help employees keep a regular cadence of work. This ensures that productivity doesn't fluctuate too much.

Related Article: Working Remotely: A Manager's Perspective

Manage Information, Communication and Production

Office 365 offers many extensive ways to manage people who work from home. But some simple ways are very helpful when getting started.

To get things done together with your remote coworkers, at a minimum, you need to share documents, exchange ideas and supervise tasks.

If you create a simple workflow that combines OneDrive for Business, Teams, and Planner, you will definitely get things done. With popup walkthroughs in place, everyone will be able to get the help they need when using the apps without the need for attending traditional training classes.

If you implement these steps back to back, you will be able to onboard everyone within a week. With time, you will discover more capabilities to improve your remote team productivity and be able to continually expand Office 365 user adoption.