Over the past months, life and work as we know it has been turned upside down. In an unprecedented workplace shift, 62 percent of U.S. workers have worked from home during the pandemic. And with this unexpected transition, businesses are facing the challenge of keeping employees productive, collaborative, and perhaps most importantly, stress-free. Instead of viewing these disruptions as a business setback, leaders must instead see these changes as an opportunity. Remote work isn’t just a short term patch, but rather a test for the long-term; Gartner recently found that 82 percent of companies leaders plan to let their employees work remotely at least some of the time permanently post COVID-19.
However, a hasty, scattered approach to remote work can cause long-term damage for both employees and the business. It’s up to C-suite leaders and IT executives to implement the right technology, processes, and culture needed to succeed in today’s new work reality. Smart leaders are taking actions today to safeguard their business and their workforce until this crisis subsides.
Here’s what we must consider:
The future of work is flexible, but employees still need boundaries
The chaos of coronavirus has thrown off our work and life routines and completely changed our relationship to work. For example, many parents are now playing multiple roles: teacher, caretaker, and everything in between. Many others are struggling to manage their stress and still find time in the day to get some much-needed fresh air.
Employees aren’t working the same way they used to, and that is okay.
But, how can companies provide employees with the flexibility they need to manage these new working conditions while also trusting that they can drive the same business results? To hold workers accountable and ensure they feel appropriately supported, transparent communication practices and protocols are imperative. This includes keeping team members in the loop in the middle of changing work schedules and responsibilities and checking in regularly with each employee, no matter what their level or role. In today’s new normal, there’s no such thing as too much information.
This mentality will be just as crucial in a post-COVID world, where many companies will make remote work a permanent reality. But even with the coronavirus still around, Intel, Facebook, Uber, and Google are just some of the companies allowing their employees to work from home until June or July 2021. With remote work, we no longer need to tie work to time, but rather to productivity. Because at the end of the day, all that matters is getting the job done, not restricting employees to a rigid work schedule. In fact, remote employees are often more productive than in-office employees, with estimates showing they log an average of 1.4 more days per month.
The right tech can foster inclusivity and collaboration – but the wrong tech will set you back
Perhaps the biggest challenge of remote work is providing employees with the tools necessary to make remote work possible in the first place. But in a rush to set up a reliable remote work infrastructure, IT leaders often implement fragmented tools and apps that don’t work together. Consequently, this results in substantial business setbacks down the line. Technology fragmentation stalls productivity, leaving employees frustrated, stressed, and feeling out of the loop as they try to transition to remote work at scale. Running a constellation of separate applications is a patchwork approach that fails to provide a common operating picture. One solution is to use virtual workspaces like Bluescape that integrate disparate applications into one pane of glass, providing everyone with a unified operating picture.
By adopting the right technology today, businesses will have the proper infrastructure in place to sustain remote work in the future.
While loneliness and depression remain pain points for remote workers, the right technology can bring people together in new ways. For example, one person often dominates in-person meetings. Or the same people who continuously contribute drown out quieter team members’ ideas. When only one person can communicate at a time, people start to tune out or lose focus, resulting in inefficient meetings that can waste everyone’s time. However, virtual collaboration tools allow for many-to-many collaboration and can give overlooked groups, like introverts and women, a chance to shine. For example, women who work remotely report that they have more room for growth in their careers, are more likely to feel that HR understands their needs and concerns, and are more likely to be promoted.
Security shouldn’t be an afterthought, but a focal point
New working environments are bringing unprecedented security threats. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has seen a fivefold increase in cyberattacks since the start of the pandemic, and almost half of companies have experienced a business-impacting cyberattack related to COVID-19. With employees juggling new technologies, security can be an afterthought for the average worker. It is the responsibility of IT professionals to communicate cybersecurity tips and share the proper protocols should an attack or breach occur.
While cybersecurity issues related to remote work have always existed, the coronavirus has put them in the spotlight. Companies like Zoom have had to quickly mature their security practices to protect company data, while also educating their workforce on security best practices and policies.
But how do we balance usability and effortless collaboration with security? The good news is that we can have both. For example, businesses can use their favorite video conferencing solutions in virtual workspaces that function as a single, secure “container” – versus a risky web-based URL. The container acts as a secure home to all content and apps, where only designated users can access critical content. With the right approach to security, businesses can have peace of mind no matter where their employees work.
While we aren’t clear on the exact amount of employees that will remain remote once this pandemic subsides, we do know that not only do employees want to work remotely, but that they expect to for the long-term. A future where remote work is a mainstay option is approaching faster than we could have imagined. The time to prepare is now.
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