Remote working and flexible hours have become increasingly common in modern-day workplaces over the last few years. The pandemic has rapidly accelerated the uptake of these practices, with businesses becoming more and more reliant on technology to provide their staff with the right tools to get their work done.
While many businesses have been very successful in adapting to the pandemic – aided by cloud services that are available from anywhere, the dramatic change in working patterns it caused was done out of necessity and in an emergency, without much time to properly understand the impact on the user.
6 months on, we are coming to understand that the pandemic will most likely continue to disrupt our lives for months, even years to come. Businesses are accepting that we are not going to return to normal office life soon, with many experts believing things have changed forever.
With this in mind, businesses are now looking to optimise their remote working environments to allow staff to be as productive as possible. We share the top 3 areas that a business should be looking at in order to give their staff the IT systems they need to thrive, both during these times difficult times and beyond.
The pandemic has changed the way many of us work, blurring what was already a hazy divide between life and work. Many experts are concerned about the long-term impacts on our mental wellbeing and the associated human costs of a 24/7 work culture, while others are suggesting that the pandemic presents an opportunity for a more flexible working arrangement for staff and a better work life balance. However the situation develops long term, it is clear that the 9am-5pm working pattern has disappeared for many businesses forever.
Giving staff the tools to work outside of 9-5, while not giving them the support they need outside these hours is clearly sub-optimal. Providing 24/7 support used to present an insurmountable logistical and resourcing challenge for small to medium sized businesses. Solutions often ranged from no support whatsoever to staff having to call IT managers mobiles in the hope they were available.
With advances in the IT managed service provider market, mature providers have the ability to supply 24/7 support in a simple cost per user model. This service can either compliment your existing IT team, or be an extension of your in hours support arrangement. Rather than an on call service, providers now have the ability to replicate in hours service levels – with a fully staffed, fully resourced 24/7 support arrangement, backed by firm SLAs.
Remote working and cyber security
The shift to remote working meant that certain security measures and requirements inevitably fell by the wayside. Alongside, cybercriminals saw opportunities to exploit remote workers as they were using improperly secured connections and technologies. Combined, these trends have created a more vulnerable environment affecting the cybersecurity posture of many businesses.
It can be difficult to know where to start, so it is useful to follow best practice methodology to understand your risk levels. Following a best practice method, such as a GDPR DPIA assessments (which business are legally obliged to do in any significant personal data handling change) will give you a good understanding of what to prioritise.
The always helpful and educational National Cyber Security Centre provides this advice for small and medium sized enterprises looking to secure their workers environments. Often working towards a government approved standard such as Cyber Essentials gives clarity to internal and external stakeholders that the position you are taking regarding cyber security is appropriate to your business.
Remote working productivity assessments
The pandemic proved the saying “Necessity is the mother of all invention” to be absolutely correct, we saw a huge uptake of remote working technology, with vendors such as Zoom quadrupling in size during the pandemic.
Again, businesses did what was required to keep operating. But businesses are now coming to realise that they are barely scratching the surface of what these technologies can do. Many people see Microsoft Teams as a video conferencing service. The reality is that is an ever developing collaboration platform that used correctly can massively improve staff productivity.
We have been engaging with our customers staff to understand how they use Microsoft Teams, to create valuable insights into how Microsoft Teams could help them in their roles.
We take these insights and work with our customers to understand how we can use the platform to create a collaboration platform that gives them an competitive edge. We have seen great success in using the platform to deliver significant business level outcomes, such as increasing employee engagement, improving customer service and automating business process.
It’s been great to see how well businesses have coped during the pandemic, and how technology has supported the effort.