We all know that remote working is on the rise.

In many countries, it has been something thrust onto companies because of lockdowns and other restrictions.

Businesses have had to find ways to make remote working work – for bosses and employees alike.Is this remotely interesting?

The figures speak for themselves.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of workers in the UK who are remote working has increased by almost a quarter of a million in just over a decade.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the trend.

ONS figures for April this year showed almost half of adults in employment were working from home.

A number of surveys have indicated that despite bosses’ fears, productivity levels of staff have either remained about the same – or even increased.

Research suggests employees are happier, more motivated and enjoy the sense of freedom working remotely and from home.

That may account for the positive impact on productivity.

Instead of commuting and doing the ‘9 to 5’, people have largely enjoyed more flexibility in their working week.

Studies into internet use and remote-working hours have revealed a shift in the way many employees are getting stuff done. Larks are using earlier morning hours to tackle tasks, night owls are on their laptops at 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, midnight and even into the early hours.

Business bosses are beginning to see that as long as the work gets done when the work gets done is not so relevant. Some companies have created core hours, when the whole team works, with staff allowed to choose when they work the rest of their hours.

Communications and how to collaborate without meeting in person is still a challenge for many organisations.

Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have seen huge increases in take-up since the pandemic began. Remote working is now the norm.

It’s why you may well hear phrases like “I’m all Zoomed out” from employees, freelancers and entrepreneurs – because almost all meetings now seem to take place online.

Globally, Microsoft said in April that Teams usage had increased 70 per cent to more than 75 million daily active users.

What was a relatively little-used feature of Microsoft 365 has now become the application of choice for many businesses.

The tech giant says two in every three Teams users are interacting with or collaborating with files inside the app.

The number of organisations integrating other apps with Teams has trebled, says Microsoft.

It’s possible you might not find all these statistics, surveys and trends very interesting. But they are important because they will impact on your VA business.

Companies will expect you to know how to use Teams. In fact, because they are relative latecomers to being users of it, they will assume you’ve been using it from the start and can be their ‘go to’ expert on it.

Is this remotely interesting?You may even find you are asked to deliver training on aspects of Teams, by firms that don’t know how to get the most out of the application’s powerful array of features.

One of the reasons businesses are turning more to Teams is because it is a communications hub and collaborative tool. You don’t have to have an app for this and an app for that – it’s all available in one place.

Also, Teams allows you to make online calls and hold virtual meetings. This means there is no need to pay extra for a service like Zoom (or you can choose to integrate Zoom with Teams).

If you’re new to Teams or feel a little bit overwhelmed by it, you may want to take a look at my online course on How to Use Microsoft Teams.

It covers all the essentials you need to know as a VA.

How to create teams and channels, add guest users, arrange meetings, make calls, work with files, add apps to Teams and customise your settings.

You can use Teams for your own business and add credibility when talking to prospects and clients.

Set up ‘channels’ for projects and tasks so everything goes in the right place first time, every time.

Keep your posts, messages, images and files in one place so you never lose the thread – or your patience.

Access a complete audit trail of your conversations. So much easier than searching for ages through your inbox to find out who said what, when. Work collaboratively on documents for smoother editing, instant feedback and fast changes.

Schedule online meetings with clients without having to use Skype or Zoom (or integrate with Zoom if you prefer).

You can also add Microsoft applications, like Planner, or external apps to Teams. These include MindMeister for mind mapping your ideas and Hive for improved workflow. Work with these apps without ever having to come out of Teams – it all works inside the app.

You can see the whole content plus view a lovely video testimonial for my How to Use Microsoft Teams online course here.

Teams is the new norm. Are you ready for it?

Shelley Fishel