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Over the last couple of months, anyone with any form of connection to the outside world – be it a stable internet connection, cable or terrestrial TV satellite, newspaper subscription, or talkative neighbour – will almost certainly have heard about the ‘new normal’. However, while some of us may still be clinging on to the slim hope that society will revert to ‘normal’ once a vaccine has been found, most of us have realised that this probably won’t be the case – especially when it comes to the way we work. So, how should your organisation prepare for the ‘new normal’ and what benefits could these preparations yield over the coming months, years, and decades?
Treating remote working as more than just a company perk
According to a joint survey carried out by Cass Business School, IESE Business School, and HR service provider SD Worx, before the outbreak of COVID-19 almost half (47%) of the UK workforce had never worked remotely. This was partly attributed to the fact that many organisations saw working remotely as more of a company perk that was offered sporadically or simply did not want to offer it at all for fear of employees taking advantage of it. Fast forward a few months and now the same report finds that around 65% of the UK workforce is working remotely and is expected to do so for the remainder of the year, at a minimum.
While some may welcome this news more than others, the reality is that many employers have started to realise the benefits of flexible working. Businesses are noticing increases in overall productivity levels as employees are less distracted at home and are actually working harder given they no longer need to waste time commuting to and from the office. What’s more, some businesses are also noticing improvements in areas such as employee retention rates, engagement levels, and importantly overall profitability, thus further sweetening the appeal of flexible working.
But what does all this mean within the context of your organisation? How should you treat remote working during the ear of the ‘new normal’? Well, if you’re one of those organisations that have been reluctant to offer remote working in the past, the events of the last few months should provide you with enough real-life proof and reassurances that it almost certainly is a completely viable option. Not only could you also experience some of the aforementioned benefits, but with the wealth of remote-working technologies readily available, it has never been easier for you and your employees to collaborate, communicate and remain productive while working from any location. The old adage that more hours spent in the office equates to more productivity is outdated, and instead, the notion of smart, flexible working has gained more and more prominence.
Safeguarding against future similar events
While one would be very hard-pressed to find any benefits associated with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, one key learning we could take away from this experience would be with regards to how we as organisations cope with future events of such magnitude. Due to the legacy business models that many organisations used to pride themselves on, a number of them struggled to adapt quickly when their workforces were suddenly mandated to work remotely. As a result, these organisations noticed massive drops in employee productivity and lost a considerable amount of time and revenue frantically searching for immediate solutions. Had they been better prepared, this time could have been better spent managing and reassuring their employees and customer throughout this drastic transition process.
For those organisations that already had the technological foundations in place to support remote working, the sudden changes in working requirements were a bit easier to navigate. For example, a UK primary school managed to leverage RingCentral’s technology to remotely maintain a consistent level of interaction with their students as soon as the pandemic hit. By leveraging the high definition video conferencing capabilities, teachers were able to host virtual classrooms and regularly check in with students to make sure they are keeping happy, healthy and engaged.
So, the point that I am trying to make here is that regardless of whether you are a local primary school or a multinational corporation, you must have some sort of business continuity plan (BCP) in place to ensure that your organisation is fully prepared (as best it can be) for any similar events that take place in the future.
Attracting new talent
92% of Millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting. That’s a fact. So, if your organisation wants to benefit from the influx of skilled talent entering the workforce, you will first need to consider offering flexible working as a long-term option rather than simply being a knee-jerk reaction to a global pandemic. In doing so you will be able to significantly widen the pool of talent you are seeking to attract – making it much easier to recruit for those hard-to-fill roles – and will also gain a competitive edge over your competitors who perhaps don’t have such practices in place. Similar to the point mentioned above, not only will you be able to attract more talent, but that talent will also yield more outputs as numerous studies have shown that enabling staff to work remotely can result in them being more productive (fewer distractions, less time wasted commuting to work, etc.).
Therefore, you need to start viewing remote working not so much as a nice-to-have, but rather a critical component in your growth and expansion plans.
With all this in mind, the good news is that given the current age of connectivity we live in, it has never been easier to make these operational changes and welcome in the ‘new normal’ era with open arms. Cloud-hosted software has proven its mettle during the pandemic – but it’s much more than just a lifesaver in exceptional circumstances.
In other blogs, we’ve presented real-world examples of how cloud software offers tangible business benefits from flexibility to scalability to cost savings. With the country emerging from lockdown and business facing a sluggish market, those organisations that harness the benefits of cloud technology and remote work will be the ones to thrive in the new era.
For more information about how UK businesses are using technology to lay the foundations of their post-pandemic success, have a look at the eBook Restructuring the UK Through Technology offered below.
Originally published Aug 13, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023