The start of 2020 can be told in a tale of global macro events, from climate change to a public health crisis of international concern. These events impact economies, politics and the workplace – causing fundamental change across all touchpoints. These events have also made employers re-think established practices and how policies can be brought into the 21st century.
But these events can also act as the impetus for the global workforce to re-examine some of the longest-held aspects of workplace culture – working in a physical office. Recently, most businesses have implemented mandatory work from home to help safeguard employee health and business continuity. This offers the opportunity to examine how we organise work and bring policies in line with available solutions.
This year videoconferencing and remote working have exploded. According to analytics firm Kentik, videoconferencing traffic in North America and Asia has doubled since the beginning of 2020. An unintended and temporary consequence of preventative measures could become permanent, and for good reason.
Flexible working policies give workers more control over when, where, and how they work. Research from employment advisor ACAS council has shown that business performance is not negatively impacted. Instead, flexible working policies likely lead to improved staff retention, job satisfaction and individual output. While flexible working practices have become more commonplace, it has never been mandatory or enforced by state or employer, until now. The flexible working experience has also changed significantly thanks to the development of new technologies and platform tools.
Home workers often leverage the time of day when they feel most productive, and they don’t necessarily suffer as many interruptions to the degree they do in the office. According to research from EPOS’s Understanding Sound Experiences report, almost half of decision makers cite reduced travel times for meetings as a major benefit of virtual conferencing.
Technology plays a vital role in enabling effective communication with remote workers. Poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is oftentimes cited as the biggest barrier to its success. According to EPOS, 69 per cent of end-users spend additional time on work to make up for poor sound quality. In today’s landscape, it’s vital for decision makers to ensure that companies are investing in the right infrastructure and technologies to empower their workforce or risk being immobilised by employees unable to work remotely. Over 80 per cent of business leaders agree that good audio equipment is a primary solution to avoiding pain points that affect employee concentration and efficiency.
Cloud-based tools, employee-facing technologies, audio/video conferencing solutions and instant messaging are increasingly prevalent in today’s workplaces, and the sudden impetus of large-scale remote work will soon reveal what works and what doesn’t. It’ll be important for business leaders to recognise these areas and identify opportunities for improvement. Whether this is by increasing use and effectiveness of remote-working tools and technologies, best practices or ideal use cases. The gap is certainly closing on employees who haven’t harnessed technology solutions with macro events also influencing technophobic colleagues to embrace digital solutions. In fact, 70 per cent of end-users already use collaboration tools to drive efficiencies and connect with clients and teams.
Recent events are forcing enterprises to rethink the way they deploy modern policies that work for security, business continuity and for their employees. It’s likely that some of these flexible working efforts, infrastructure and technology investments will stick in the long term, bringing about lasting change to how companies manage employees and, by extension, how people choose to work. The current global impetus for remote work is a marked opportunity for individuals and organisations to prepare for the future. According to research from Gartner, by 2030, the demand for remote working will increase by 30 per cent due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce. Organisations need to ensure that they are future-proofing both technology infrastructure and policy within their organisations to ensure that they remain competitive and appealing to the best talent in the industry of tomorrow. The mandatory use of remote work for business continuity should signal to all organisations that it’s time to revisit their remote-working policies and redesign them for wider application in daily.
Jeppe Dalberg-Larsen is the president of EPOS
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.