Coronavirus Is Forcing Companies to Embrace Remote Working — These Digital Tools Keep Employees Talking

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to shift to remote working. While working from home has grown in popularity with new technologies, it has been largely underutilized in the footwear industry. Like so much in the world, that, too, is changing.

Experts said brands and retailers now are more willing to turn to a slate of virtual working technologies.

“The tools that we use [at the office] don’t necessarily function great on a low VPN Wi-Fi network like most of us have at home,” said Peter Jackson, CEO at virtual workspace service Bluescape. “And if you suddenly push everything onto a Slack channel, you go to the channel and you might have missed 84 messages. It isn’t easy actually getting anything done in real time.”

Creating a reliable replacement communication system is crucial to maintaining workflow in a remote environment, said experts. Beyond chat functions such as Slack, G-Chat and texting, having access to a shared centralized platform like Bluescape also allows people to stay informed about their co-workers’ activity without requiring manual check-ins. All work product is stored and updated in a virtual location, for easy access and up-to-date review.

Michaela Rollings, senior manager of brand and content at work management platform Hive, suggested that companies utilize project management software. This tracks projects in real time and lets managers designate tasks to individual employees, which keeps staff accountable while minimizing extra conversation. Specific functions within the Hive platform cater to different kinds of business, helping them translate their usual in-office protocols into a virtual setting.

“For design-heavy companies, Proofing and Approvals will be your best friend,” said Rollings. “These features make it easy to comment on images and PDFs, as well as assign ‘approval rights’ to a specific mock to someone on your team. For example, if you’ve got a design ready for your manager’s review, you can list them as an approver and set a specific due date with a few clicks.”

As employees are encouraged to self-isolate, tools that can keep everyone in touch are also important for the social well-being of staff. Bluescape’s integration with Zoom and Webex enables all conference call participants to share their screen and collaborate at once within the platform. The resulting videos are then saved to the shared workspace. This approximates an in-person meeting while also preserving information for future review.

Shifting from in-office to remote work may create challenges, but Rollings recommended managers pioneer the use of new software for their teams in order to encourage adoption. Bluescape’s Jackson agreed that a committed approach when leveraging new technology is needed in order to see results; everyone must participate to benefit from a shared virtual workspace.

“Everybody has to get on board and say we’re committed to this because this is how we’re going to change,” said Jackson. “I know it reduces time to market by 50%; we’ve proved it time and time again. But if they don’t make it mandatory, then it’s almost not worth the investment.”

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