Looking back at 2020, the arrival of Covid-19 drastically accelerated the movement towards remote working. With no other option, thousands of organisations felt the strain of the initial logistical challenge and were forced to mobilise and adapt rapidly with minimal planning time.
Now, over a year on from the first stay-at-home message, it raises the question, how much longer can this form of working be sustained? Looking ahead, it will be vital that companies enhance their working styles to develop from a temporary remote working solution to an effective hybrid working model, allowing employees to choose where they work with flexibility and the digital agility to change at a moment’s notice. This gives employees an enhanced work life balance, enables the recruitment and retention of top talent and will see vast reductions in pollution from unnecessary commuting and ultimately cost reductions in overheads. There are also significant benefits around increased employee productivity, reduced absenteeism and employee turnover.
As vaccination plans continue to roll out, organisations must embrace the ‘new normal’ and decide how they can make it work within their own models. This can be achieved with the application of collaborative and agile technologies to transform what was originally an enforced situation into a long term and mutually beneficial hybrid approach.
However, as we make this shift, there is a heightened organisational risk for companies that have not invested in making their employee environments as best equipped as possible. Pre-pandemic, some offices were already using sensors to monitor things like Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ), CO2 levels, lighting, and air flow to ensure staff members were healthy and comfortable within an environment that promotes optimum productivity, and this will be even more important going forward.
Companies should also review and implement preventative technologies which will assist with social distancing, using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth contact tracing to minimise virus spread among employees, customers, and visitors, giving that extra piece of mind. Firms can also remotely manage the workplace through internal IT controllers which limit access to an office space at full capacity, or modifying floorplans when footfall within a certain space becomes a risk to social distancing.
Alongside avoiding the challenge of occupational hazards, organisations must acknowledge the heightened cybersecurity risk within their resilience strategy. With employees working from home on vulnerable home routers and multiple family members using the same network, the threat of socially engineered external threats alone is extremely high. To combat this, medium and large enterprises must review their outsourcing models, implementing additional IT and technology partnerships, particularly as the traditional skill matrix for IT workers evolves – perhaps including the assessment of home set ups and reviewing cybersecurity on a case-by-case basis.
Historically, the UK has been referred to as the ‘sick man of Europe’, with significantly less productivity than our European competitors. The time to see this change is now, with a ripe opportunity to identify the structure required to come out of this more balanced, or perhaps even a step ahead from a productivity perspective.
This article was first published in The Herald on 24th March 2021
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