By Mary Kate McGrath - December 3, 2019
In the United States, freelancers are projected to make up the majority of the workforce by 2027, as more companies embrace flexible work schedules, according to a study conducted by the Freelancer’s Union. The rise of remote work can be attributed to many different factors, including recent studies showing remote employees can be more productive and engaged in their work, how IoT is merging living and workspaces, and the ability to keep an employee on-call for customers due to flexible scheduling, according to Fast Company.
In order to manage employees working in remote locations, office managers must create an open and effective communication system. The system should include safety protocol, and when attempting to reach a remote workforce during an emergency, a mass notification can be a powerful tool.
Companies hoping to prioritize employee safety while taking advantage of a remote workforce should begin with a comprehensive remote work policy. The first step in creating a remote work policy is determining who on your team can benefit from a remote-work, and if these individuals will need additional training or resources for success. Before establishing a remote work-force, be sure to consult with Human Resources, as well as legal and finance teams, to create an official policy to ensure that remote workers will know who to reach out to with any questions or concerns.
It’s also important to consider how remote work will impact collaboration, and which tools can continue to ensure that all employees are capable. Finding the appropriate tools for communication is often a priority for remote workers, as being out of reach is one of the main issues managers struggle with for remote teams. These tools can include video conferencing software or hardware, equipment to maintain a home workspace, meeting spaces in-office where remote workers can be seen or heard, and of course, a mass notification system to keep employees informed of any emergency or important company news.
Manage cybersecurity concerns by providing workers with a VPN or any other relevant technology in case their system needs an additional layer of security to protect data. In addition to virtual security, it’s important for employees to be included in standard workplace safety procedures and training. Emergency communication is critical - in an era where workplace concerns can include a variety of issues, from a hurricane evacuation to an active assailant on campus, all workers will appreciate the extra layer of physical security a mass notification system can provide.
Employees will only opt for a remote option if everyone feels valued and included, and especially if half the team works in-office, creating a strong communication strategy is critical. During a transition period, a mass notification system can provide a simple way to provide newly-remote employees with updates from the office. Managers can make decisions about how frequent to make notifications - the system can be leveraged during an emergency, but it can also be utilized to keep employees in the loop, including dates about major company-wide meetings or holiday events.
By keeping employees up-to-date on company-planning, managers can further ensure that remote workers feel included. The system allows for a more connected workplace community overall, which will be even more important as the rate of remote work continues to rise and more employees are an outside-of-the office. The employee notification database on a versatile mass notification system can be divided into groups to account for employee’s role, location, or specific interests. Employees can choose groups they belong to and how often they receive alerts via a company-branded web portal, provide the company with specific information that may be relevant during an emergency, and request messages be received in any language.
Corporate managers can leverage mass notification to communicate with workers throughout a variety of potential emergency situations, from dire situations such as an active assailant on-site or a severe weather emergency to smaller incidents, such as power outages at the corporate office or routine facilities management. If there is any health or safety concern in the workplace, it’s important to include remote workers, to avoid confusion or prevent a worker from interrupting emergency response. During a severe weather event, it’s also critical that remote workers are contacted, keeping these employees informed of any changes in scheduling or evacuation orders. Employers can leverage mass notification to go an extra step for worker safety, and contact employees throughout the storm
When evaluating which mass notification system is most suitable for managing remote employee communications. An SMS Opt-In feature makes it easy for employees, contractors, and visitors to sign up for temporary or long-term notifications. SMS Opt-In for mass notification can be a critical feature for effective communication with employees who work off-site. Members of a corporate community, including remote workers, can opt-in to receive alerts using SMS and a keyword unique to your organization.
Managers can use a keyword for multiple events and have multiple keywords for one event. For many remote workers, flexibility is a major draw, and SMS Opt-In can help tailor a mass notification system for this work style. Set-up and management of the system is simple, and multiple features enable managers to reach out to remote employees, such as the ability to make public lists in which any visitor may opt-in or private lists that prioritize internal communications.
A mass notification system can also help a company conduct remote employee wellness checks during an emergency. For example, GE Appliances conducted wellness checks for remote employees throughout the 2017 hurricane season. Managers leveraged a mass notification system to provide timely updates to contact workers via SMS text and email two times per day, and requiring employees to respond that they were safe. By taking a proactive approach to mass notification system, company officials were able to monitor safety for numerous employees across facilities, including those in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico. The use case demonstrated how valuable a mass notification system can be during an emergency, no matter how spread out a workforce may be.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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