Ready or not, almost overnight, millions of organisations were forced to enable remote or flexible working to keep their businesses going.
In the build up to the first lockdown in March 2020, some businesses were able to seize the moment and prepare for a future workplace that allowed colleagues to continue working seamlessly from their homes. Many, however, were unable to complete their move to a home working business. Millions of businesses weren’t prepared for the initial lockdown, but even a year on, is your business ready to support a long term remote or hybrid working model?
Tom Henson, Managing Director of Emerge Digital, highlights where some businesses came unstuck.
Poor internet connection kills home working before it’s even begun. Thankfully, the majority of us do have decent internet connections, but there are still many that don’t. And it’s not just poor connection; during the pandemic, as families all consumed online content from Netflix, TikTok, and games consoles by the terabyte, the bandwidth of many a home connection was stretched like never before.
2. Suitable working spaces
Long term home or flexible working might be a perfect solution for somebody who’s got an office or a dedicated workspace, but for those working on the kitchen table, the bed, their lap or those that are co-habiting with parents, partners or friends all vying for the one decent chair and flat work surface, it was a different story. Not everyone had a suitable, ergonomic chair, with a desk and monitor set at the right height. Not every company was able to think about this when they were scrambling to make working from home possible.
3. Having the right tech and tools in place
Technology has played a key role in enabling continued communication and home working, but we know that poor technology or lack of infrastructure was one of the biggest barriers to effective remote working. Over the last 18 months, cloud-based communication, collaboration and employee-facing technologies have become increasingly prevalent, but this sudden large-scale remote-working migration will definitely surface additional lessons learned — and opportunities for further improvement.
4. Work from home policy
Without precedent, so few employee handbooks had an effective working from home policy. An IT misuse policy was relatively common place, ‘don’t do anything illegal on a computer that your employer gives you’ is pretty standard advice. But during the pandemic, perhaps for the first time, businesses needed a video meeting policy that stipulated whether cameras were on or off and whether employees used a branded company background rather than having their washing in shot. But it also brought into focus the meeting cancellation policies or the route to escalate technical issues to their remote IT support team.
5. Planning for the future
I think the pandemic caught out a lot of organisations that had let their IT infrastructure plans stagnate. IT Business continuity and resilience planning have not always been a priority and many organisations weren’t proactively addressing their future business’s technology strategy. If you had servers on site, hosting business critical applications that were running behind locked doors, then Covid was a nightmare. As an managed IT services provider, we offer cloud-first business solutions, so have migrated the majority or our client’s on premise solutions to the cloud. Cloud IT services provide flexibility and platforms that allow you to work from anywhere, anytime.
6. Train your staff on your tech
There’s no point having all the right technology – giving colleagues access to the right platforms and turning on latest functionality – without enabling your staff to get the most out of them. A lot of organisations may have been able to swiftly migrate to a cloud solution like Microsoft 365 but their staff received no training on what it offered. Having the tools is useless unless you know how to make the most of them.
7. Automate manual tasks
Many organisations took the approach of replicating their office processes as they enabled staff to work from home. They missed a trick by ignoring the opportunity to update or automate some of the older, more manual processes. We use the suite of tools in the Microsoft Power Platform to automate many repetitive tasks for clients but a remote organisation also has a great opportunity to become a paperless environment. Everything is possible online; work can be accessible, colleagues can self-serve and processes can evolve and not be reliant on a paper-based or manual model.
8. Update to cloud telephony systems
Lots of organisations still use traditional phone systems that require physical phone lines running in and out of the building and having phones on desks. How do you deal with that when people are working at home? You can’t take the phone home – it just doesn’t work. We have helped clients migrate to a cloud telephony platform, which uses a standard internet connection and enables the phone system to work without the physical infrastructure. Everything stays the same – nothing changes apart from how you access it.
The office of the future
I think we all expect that the future of work to include some kind of flexible or hybrid working models. Some people will want to return to the office, but the vast majority will prefer to work remotely some of the time, but with opportunities to come together and meet colleagues.
In the workplace of the future, the office may just become another building with an internet connection. It may represent a meeting place rather than a desk space. In this scenario, you may not even need an office firewall because if you set up your portable and mobile devices to be secure, protected and flexible when they’re being used at home, then actually, when you’re in the office, you don’t need anything other than somewhere to sit and somewhere to plug in. It’s irrelevant really whether you have an office, or work at home or in a café, a properly secured device will work from anywhere.
Adapt to a more flexible working model
The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of business continuity, resilience and recovery planning for large scale events. While productivity needs to be maintained, cyber security threats have increased and the wellbeing of a workforce needs to be closely monitored. Few could have predicted the scale of the impact of Covid-19 but now is the time to review your infrastructure and technology plans and adapt to a more flexible working model.
Flexible Working Solutions for your business
To find out how Emerge Digital can help implement solutions into your business which transform how your hybrid workforce operates, get in touch with us today!