In the world of engineering, working from home was once considered uncommon practice. Drafting and prototyping often required handling large-format documents that would take up considerable space and require workers to be physically present, especially when collaborating with managers and other engineers.
Now, with advances in technology, combined with the COVID-19 crisis and growing demand for remote employment, companies have been innovating to adapt to the changing work environment.
The current landscape
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 13.4 million workers reported they worked from home in 2010 – growing by more than 4.2 million workers since 1997 and continuing to grow to this day. Much of this growth pertains to the increased accessibility of computer software that came about in the 10 years prior.
While advances in technology have made remote employment more prevalent, there is still a large share of companies that are ill-equipped to handle the high volume of documents, and complex workflows required in completing daily tasks and projects by a virtual workforce. Often, managers find themselves participating in an increasing number of video calls while conversely using rudimentary software to transfer CAD files and other engineering documents.
This works in some industries; however, it’s inefficient for companies that rely on document-centric workflows, as video conferencing still creates large amounts of audio and video latency – making it difficult to properly share and edit documents in real time.
Moreover, much of these workflows need workers to collaborate over key documents and drawings, often hard to do over video calls. But today’s technology can not only support these tasks but can increase their velocity while reducing errors in decision-making.
Modern workflow management
When it comes to digitally managing your workflows, not all software is created equal. Efficiency is everything, which is why it is so important to make sure that you are using the right tools to get the job done.
Many people are “visual learners” – meaning the they must see the information to fully process it. Software that allows users to visualize their workflows and the documents and drawings associated with them can help reduce complexity for both engineers and managers while improving the speed to which decisions are made.
Integrating workflow and document management
Some document management software solutions focus on workflow management, while others are specifically designed for the safekeeping and transmittal of documents. Companies benefit the most from all-encompassing, multifunctional workflow and document management software, especially for engineering and technical tasks.
Rather than jumping between programs, having a single place for workers to store files and workflows allows users to create a cohesive picture of the process giving managers a clearer picture of progress and when workflows are being bogged down.
Working from home and productivity
Studies have reported that more than 83% of those who work from home say that they experienced an increase in productivity since deciding to work remotely.
For these workers, as well as for the other 17% of employees, it is important to have the proper tools for success. Having proper systems, in turn, not only allows employees to remain productive while at home but also allows managers to increase the level of accountability among employees.
Software companies and remote employment
Many technology firms are now becoming advocates of working from home because it allows them to recruit top talent regardless of their geographic location. This is an especially important practice in industries where employee scarcity is prevalent, such as the software and engineering services industries.
Firms have no choice but to offer extremely competitive benefits to attract skilled graduates on the job market, and even seek employees not willing to relocate for their jobs. Technology can now come to the rescue and allow employers to broaden their reach and flexibility.
Managing employees who are working from home
While software certainly improves the accessibility of information, it is important to make sure that as a manager, you are taking the necessary measures to ensure communication and collaboration for your team.
Creating an effective way to connect with employees is vital to the success of the manager-employee relationship; and subsequently the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of project results. By creating a standard of communication in conjunction with a centralized workflow and document management system you can now create a “digital office.”
You need to find the tools that work best for you and your business. Many of these tools are available only in advanced workflow and document management systems, ones that help managers create an environment that connects engineers with their team members and management; ultimately creating a better and simpler way to manage their workflows.