While the coming months will still be impacted by the pandemic, we’re all starting to think about the post-COVID-19 world — there are already plans for reduced office space, hybrid working models, adapted in-person customer experiences and many other post-pandemic changes to everyday working life. But how do we know where to go from here?
We wanted to dig into this topic and so, with the help of the Executive Leaders Network (ELN), we were able to gather executive delegates from all over the UK to have a meaningful conversation about how different organizations have been adapting to change and what possible next steps are looking like for different businesses and industries.
But first, how did we get here?
Many businesses have shared their experiences of 2020, including the rapid transition to working from home and the challenges that came along with that. Without an in-office IT team, employees had to become more self-sufficient. Similarly, IT teams also had to find ways to provide and manage a new fleet of devices. Onboarding new employees and ensuring access to the internet, for instance, were unseen hurdles before ‘lockdown’. As workplaces moved locations, another challenge faced by many companies was the fact they made assumptions about their employees’ spaces and access to resources. But not everyone has their own home or a proper office from which to work, revealing equity as a potential struggle. Security and compliance are also major concerns when employees are allowed to work anywhere. Because many jobs were now being done from home, keeping user data private and secure would become much more difficult.
It’s always good to find commonality in the struggles faced in the past year, but what can we take away from all of this? How can we apply what we’ve learned from experience to create long-term solutions for the future?
In-person vs. virtual offices
In the past year, companies were focused on tackling pressing logistical and technological problems, but now that focus has been moving to culture. How we now view ‘brick-and-mortar’ office culture has changed, as well as views of the remote workforce in general. In some companies, remote employees used to be viewed as somewhat separate from the on-site employees, but with a majority of teams working entirely from home, this forced a culture shift in organizations around the globe. Now, we get to see inside the homes of our colleagues, perhaps getting a glimpse at their pets or family while on a call. This has also brought a new element of closeness to the people we work with and has given many a different perspective on where they’re able to conduct business.
Collaboration in isolation
Because of this isolation of employees, however, collaboration tools have also seen a rise in popularity. Besides using Microsoft Teams or Zoom for video meetings and breakout sessions, interactive presentation and white boarding tools such as Miro, Wooclap and Mentimeter can be utilized to not only present ideas, but to also allow those more introverted contributors to give feedback in a meaningful way. For the future, businesses need to find the best tools that support the needs of their teams and make sure to consistently facilitate meaningful employee interaction.
Easing the employee journey
With the right tools and planning in place, participants found that maintaining an efficient and secure working environment for the future was easier to achieve than initially anticipated. For instance, the ability for IT teams to enable zero-touch deployments has saved countless hours of repetitive tasks and has created a much better employee onboarding experience in many organizations. When an employee at home can unbox their new device and be able to power it on and set it up with no IT involvement, it takes away that stress of having to set up hardware remotely. The idea of the customer’s journey is always brought up in corporate discussions, but now more of a focus is needed on the employee journey and how to provide a seamless experience to the general workforce. This is also related to the assumptions some businesses make about the resources and space available to their work-from-home employees. It’s important for leadership to look at the employee journey as individually as possible to make sure they’re providing adequate accessibility to resources and technology — no matter where they may be.
Next steps for workplace tech
Over the past year, organizations moved to the idea of a ‘paperless office’ out of necessity and in doing so, have also been more focused on creating secure online environments, no matter the location. After the rush to adapt, many companies are looking at the bigger picture of their workplace tech and are seeing the need to adjust policies and hardware to align to their new environments. With the changing views of what an “office” is, there has also been a change in views of the technology for that office. Organizations who may have previously had very strict limitations for their devices and device ecosystem can now also see the benefit of giving employees more flexibility (like more portable laptops for working anywhere vs. immobile desktop computers) and are taking this into account when initiating a hardware refresh. Many leaders in the session agreed that, because of the pandemic, we now have a unique opportunity to revamp both corporate culture and technology and we should be using this opportunity to better our workplaces as a whole.
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