As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, employees and employers are having to cope with a situation that’s causing unprecedented levels of uncertainty. Above everything else, we wish our partners all over the world health and safety.
On government advice, employers across a range of sectors, including legal services, have been instructed to work from home whilst we wait for more visibility about how coronavirus is going to play out. Understandably, some managers might be a little uncomfortable with the thought of entire teams being out of the office for, what could be, a sustained period of time.
At Shieldpay, we believe that, with careful planning, remote working can be a huge positive for firms and technology can help overcome any communication barriers. There are opportunities for managers and their employees to use the coming weeks and months to build solid foundations and take a long-term view on the success of their businesses.
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“I really hope that remote working is only a temporary measure. Whilst I can see some benefits, do my team really want to be out of the office?”
Working remotely isn’t for every organisation. However, given how coronavirus is making remote working the only option for many, we are all having to adapt. It’s a heartening thought to think that we might actually discover that employees can effectively work remotely. Who knows, perhaps they may even work better in surroundings of their own choice? That realisation could change the way we all choose to work in the future, too.
The many benefits of being able to work remotely are well documented. For example, a tsheets survey explored the benefits of working from home. Amongst a host of interesting findings, it found that 59% of managers said they would rate remote workers’ performance as “above average,” compared to other employees.
Further, a survey from Flexjobs found that the many benefits of working from home reflected what people wanted from their careers. Positives such as work-life balance, lower commuting times, ability to spend more time with their families were all big plus points for remote workers.
It’s these intangible benefits that employees should look to when considering whether to let staff work from home, even in the future when the threat of the coronavirus crisis has significantly reduced. It seems that trusting staff to do their jobs in a location of their choosing will pay back managers with interest – and it’s technology that’s making it a possibility.
“I’m worried that working from home means a drop off in communication between team members. Is this true? I know some tools can help, but I’m not sure which to choose.”
Ten years or so ago, fast, robust remote communication was a problem for organisations. There were rudimentary solutions, such as email and Skype, that offered solid but unremarkable communication between employees. However, these tools weren’t designed for remote working. Rather, they were created to enhance communication whilst at work.
Two technologies made remote communication tools a viable alternative to being physically in the workplace. First, we’re now all connected to high-speed WiFi and 4G (soon 5G) at home and when on the move. This has meant that there is no excuse to be out of reach.
Second, building upon a fast, stable connection, companies designed products specifically for remote working. For day-to-day comms, the likes of Slack and Microsoft Teams (find a handy comparison of the two here) offer slick instant messenger tools for individuals and teams whilst Zoom and Google Hangouts offer smooth solutions for conference calls and meetings.
“If we’re all working from home, I’m a bit worried that projects will lose their focus and I’ll find them hard to manage. What technology can help here?”
Until recently, a lack of team focus was a legitimate concern for managers who worried about ballooning budgets and slipping timelines. Remote project management was inefficient, involving a compilation of tools, such as Microsoft Office and early pretenders, like Lighthouse. Also, the most effective way to communicate, email, complicated project management, with attachments getting lost and conversations crossing over one another.
Modern technology and, in particular, software design has made remote project management tools easy-to-use for all managers, allowing teams to work from anywhere without missing deadlines as they’re kept up to date with roles, timelines and budgets.
Monday.com is an example of a project management suite that allows a manager to track all of their projects and tasks (and what we use at Shieldpay), assigning them to team members, checking them off when complete, as well as sharing files and comments. In short, it’s a great team communication and project management tool that aligns a team.
Case management systems used by many law firms allow firms to track the progress of the cases and allocated team members tasks, but like all project management tools they are only effective when used properly. This period should be harnessed by all teams to really optimise the use of whatever platform you have or explore new ones. An example of one to explore for the legal sector could be Legal Connection. They put communication between clients and teams of lawyers at their core, combining all the various tools you need to run your business in the one place. They have also fully integrated Shieldpay’s Third-Party-Managed Account solution. So they get a tick from us.
“OK. So communication and project management are taken care of. But surely some tasks need us to be present? For example, how can we sign documents from home?”
Many professional services firms still rely on traditional ways of doing business. For example, a physical signature is required in financial and legal services still for many documents. In particular, documents that need to be signed as deeds or need some form of additional certification of authenticity. In the past, if working remotely, documents would be couriered to participants or they signed documentation on their return to the office. Whilst secure, this would slow down or stall an agreement.
Fortunately, times and technology have moved on and there are now tools that professional services firms use to manage documentation, electronically collecting secure signatures. For example, Juro makes the management of legal contracts electronic and seamless, meaning that wherever signees are, they won’t hold up an agreement. If it’s just the signature you need, take a look at Oathello, Hellosign or Docusign which can all be integrated. Please follow this link for the law commission's report on the subject. It will be interesting to see how HM Land Registry and lenders will look at the signing of Deeds and other documents requiring wet signatures.
The advent of technology means that remote teams no longer slow down the process. In fact, in many respects, document management tools can really speed it up.
“I’ve heard that working from home isn’t secure and that technology will always be open to attack by fraudsters. Is this something I should be worried about?”
Shieldpay’s Chief Compliance Officer, Willem Wellinghof, shared his views on this difficult topic: “Given that such a high percentage of the workforce will now either be working from disaster recovery sites or at home, it is fair to say that there is an increased threat of phishing or social engineering scams. Government bodies and health organisations have already warned of the increased threat of these scams, where fraudsters are trying to impersonate executives to prompt a response which might inject viruses, malware or, in some cases, extort money.
“With these problems surfacing in panicked times like these, employers have an active duty to ensure workers are able to access systems from remote locations in a safe and secure manner.
“It is also the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers are sufficiently trained so as to be up to speed with cybersecurity protocols. Naturally, individual workers have an obligation to safeguard the employer and perform their duties with integrity, due care and diligence, so whilst the main onus is on the employer, employees must understand that there is a balance.”
“What about payments? I can’t afford for them to go wrong when we’re working out of the office. Are there any tools I can use to make sure that they are secure?”
If your staff are working remotely, you might think that your payment operations risk has just increased. If you have previously relied on paper chits to be signed internally to authorise payments, how do you do it now that everyone is remote? New technologies mean that firms can find new ways of working. Shieldpay’s digital platform means the movement of funds can be approved from anywhere in a secure manner with two-factor authentication and full visibility for all parties involved in a transaction.
Shieldpay allows customers for full visibility of funds for all parties involved in a transaction. KYC and AML checks are a crucial part to ensuring money ends up in the right hands. With our technology client money payments can be authorised from anywhere.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how your firm can adopt Shieldpay to experiment new ways of working and handling client money during this time.