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COVID IT Employee Datacentre
As staff return to work, what role does technology have in the post pandemic world?

Agility is key

One of the key features of an agile working environment is this ability to enable people to work where they work best, meaning standard performance metrics don’t work in the classic sense. An organisations’ ability to respond to business needs and external forces is paramount in the post-COVID-19 business landscape.

Yet one of the barriers to organisations becoming an agile business is this uncertainty of measurement. This period has forced many to look at how to break the standard measurements, with 64% of leaders surveyed stating that their organisation had been measuring individuals’ performances during this period of home working.

This then correlates to the idea of productivity of the workforce away from the office. Many reports highlight how moving to more agile or flexible ways of working improves the productivity of the individual and the workforce.

During the COVID-19 situation and the mass trial of remote working, many have been able to experience this uplift for themselves before making the leap of faith to change the entire working style of their business.

In total, 80% of the business leaders surveyed indicated that they felt their employees had been either as productive or more productive whilst remote working. BT, for example, transferred 80% of its workforce to agile practices; this change saw a 30% increase in productivity, with stress-related illnesses falling by 35% and overall company sick days reducing and retention of staff increasing.

Ask yourself, would these kinds of stats make you consider implementing a radical change in how your business operates before COVID-19? For many, the risk of changing is just too high. But the aim of going flexible or agile isn’t just about improvement, it is now about necessity. To safeguard and protect organisations against future external factors and changing business needs, as already highlighted, companies will consider agile and flexible working styles as it is seen as a way of protecting the business and making it more responsive to change.

COVID Workplace

One of the biggest challenges for either of these styles of work is the idea of enabling people to work from home. Generally, the main barrier for businesses that prior to the current situation hadn’t implemented home working was management attitudes; 62% of respondents highlighted this as a key factor for remote working having not previously been adopted, with measurement and consistency of working accounting for 25% of responses and 38% stating that technology was a barrier.

These stats show the reasons why these alternative ways of working had not been integrated before the COVID-19 outbreak, but this period has highlighted the benefits of such change and enabled many businesses to trial certain aspects of flexible working, hence why 71% of the business leaders canvased are considering a change to the ways they work.

Immediately post-lockdown, social distancing measures will mean fewer people can fit into an office, and because businesses will not be looking to add any additional overheads to their balance sheet as they try to recover, we shouldn’t expect any upsizing in premises. In fact, 55% of our survey respondents are considering downsizing their office spaces, so working from home will become an essential part of day-to-day life.

We can also expect to see more hot-desking in the office. By the time COVID-19 passes in earnest, we’ll all be used to these new ways of working. A reduction in office size is a feature of agile working, enabling companies to reduce the occupancy of the building and thus lowering overall maintenance and running costs.

Post COVID-19, it also enables businesses to support social distancing, whilst supporting the hygiene effort and enabling both the employer and the employee to reap the wider benefits of agile working. With this in mind, we do see businesses moving to a more agile or flexible way of working as a way of protecting their business against future external forces, but also due to their reservations having been eased by this uncertain and challenging time. Technology has offered many organisations the ability to stabilise business operations during this pandemic. In the first 3 weeks of the UK lockdown, laptop sales increased by 50%, with businesses scrambling to purchase mobile technology to facilitate home working. 

Therefore, it will not come as a huge surprise that 79% of respondents stated that they saw their business leveraging technology more post COVID-19. Technology has played such a key role in making homeworking possible. This situation 20 years ago would have had an even more devastating effect on businesses.

One of the main barriers for businesses integrating more technology before COVID-19 was the fear of change, its disruption and the perceived push back and the reluctance of the workforce to change and adapt. A positive to come out of this for many businesses is the realisation that their workforce can be adaptable and reactive, and it is capable of change.

Pre COVID-19, video conferencing was not used by many people or organisations, in fact, just 7% of business leaders stated that video technology was widely used pre-COVID-19. Now, 73% of businesses leaders see remote video meetings being adopted long-term into their organisations. A technology solution that at the turn of the year would have been a protracted long term integration into a business, became an overnight necessity that was adopted within days.

Remote Working Datacentre

One of the biggest challenges for either of these styles of work is the idea of enabling people to work from home. Generally, the main barrier for businesses that prior to the current situation hadn’t implemented home working was management attitudes; 62% of respondents highlighted this as a key factor for remote working having not previously been adopted, with measurement and consistency of working accounting for 25% of responses and 38% stating that technology was a barrier.

These stats show the reasons why these alternative ways of working had not been integrated before the COVID-19 outbreak, but this period has highlighted the benefits of such change and enabled many businesses to trial certain aspects of flexible working, hence why 71% of the business leaders canvased are considering a change to the ways they work.

When we break down some of the key priorities for business post COVID-19, it offers an additional understanding of organisations’ awareness of the role of technology in supporting these priorities and gives meaning to why 79% of business leaders are expecting to leverage more technology in their organisation moving forward.

From the 10 previously highlighted organisational priorities, 8 would be heavily reliant on technology to facilitate them. From offering an organisation the ability to respond quickly to external factors, to an organisation becoming more sustainable, technology is a binding agent that makes these changes possible in the modern workplace.

The link between technology and agile/flexible working styles 

Agile and flexible working styles offer many advantages and align well with new emerging business goals as highlighted in the survey results. Technology is at the centre of implementing a successful agile or flexible working style. Technology knits the cultural changes of working where people feel they will work best, giving them the flexibility to access files at 8 pm from home as that is when the individual feels most productive. Technology offers 24/7 capability for a workforce that is on the move. 

When this is put into perspective, 92% of millennials place flexible/agile working as a high priority when considering job opportunities (Working futures report). The term “working hours” is changing and with more employees looking for flexible/agile ways of working and businesses placing more priority on being responsive to change, technology will play a pivotal role in supporting this future style of working.

“For an organisation to survive increased fragmentation and fluidity, it will need to ensure that each and every participating
team member has access to all the information it needs to fully engage.”

lolC `Future of Work Trends Report’ (2020)

Technology – the binding agent.

Technology will be at the heart of modern office interior design; it cannot be an afterthought when it comes to the development of the office environment. As we highlighted earlier, tech will be the glue that supports other aspects in the context of its role in office hygiene.

We expect to see the wider integration of touchless technology to reduce contact points, along with gesture controls being implemented in the modern environment. We also see voice-activated technology being a mainstay of future office environments, with Alexa for business already available, this will be the start of the wider integration of this technology, not only to support hygiene but also to improve productivity and connectivity. Conferencing systems will be widely integrated with simple connectivity, but not just in the boardroom; we envisage these systems being present in smaller meeting rooms and even single pods for one-to-one video calls.

Digital-transformation

We also see the wider use of mobile tech, with many moving away from desktop PC’s and integrating Cloud-based systems allowing employees to access files remotely and securely, improving the agility of the workforce.

Technology will also be key to controlling office occupancy. With 64% of leaders expecting to manage social distancing in the short-term post lockdown, and 30% seeing this as a long-term measure,  technology will help to support the management of office occupancy through app-based desk and meeting room booking systems and office counters, supporting social distancing measures. The same tech also supports agile or flexible working, helping to manage reduced people-to-desk ratios. 

Technology can support the office environment, with  many changes having multiple advantages beyond its core role. Technology in this brave new world of remote agile/ flexible working will inevitably create different challenges, one challenge will be the mental health of the workforce.

The current situation has highlighted that mental health in the workplace is not confined to the walls of the office.

 

The well-being of your staff is a constant. Technology will assist and support health and wellbeing, bolstering communications and access to support through 3rd party services apps and online one-to-one support. COVID-19 has increased anxiety and stress levels, and feelings of isolation and loneliness, therefore implementing remote working long-term will require technology to not only enable them to work remotely, but to also access support remotely.

Up next: Check out our article on post-pandemic technology trends.

Thanks for reading this post, we hope you found it interesting!

For more information or to keep up with our insights visit our blog: technimove.com/blog-posts

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James Masih

James Masih

James heads our growth team and is focussed on enabling transformation, A techie at heart and a massive star wars fan, he is our resident technology and business trend spotter.

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