Will you continue with remote working after COVID-19?

Working from home

Gareth Meyer, Commercial & Operations Director at automation and infrastructure service provider Ultima looks at how the current pandemic will impact how we work in the future.

With many workforces up and running remotely, senior teams are now debating what work will look like post the pandemic. No doubt we will all take many lessons from the experience of lockdown. For some, this will include re-evaluating their outlook on life and the way they work. So, how can businesses address our work-life balance better, and how can your businesses adapt and change as we emerge from lockdown?

There is good research that demonstrates people are more productive when they can work from home. For example, YouGov (2019) revealed that a fifth of HR managers believed that staff work to a “slightly higher” standard at home than they do in the office, and a Stanford study which monitored 16,000 homeworking employees over several months, saw a 13 percent performance increase. This study also showed home working leads to 50 percent lower employee attrition too. Add these employee wins with the reduction in office overheads, rents and travel expenses and the reasons for continuing to work remotely look good.

But remote working has had its challenges – from juggling home-schooling and working from less than favourable home situations like the end of your bed. But once children are back to school and with the right support to create suitable ‘workstations’ within homes, there is much to be gained from continuing with remote working. We are looking at continuing after the pandemic – either by structuring ourselves into two parts with one half of the company working from home 50 percent of the time or having a drop-in centre that staff can go to for face-to-face time on an ad hoc basis.

The new ‘normal’

Many boards are grappling with what the new normal should look like for their companies. It’s all up for debate, with the modernists challenging the need to return to the office. I’ve found that my team is more productive. Some are still working at 7pm to complete tasks that need to be done – but then they have the flexibility to do personal things they have to do at other times of the day (which is mostly home-schooling now). I want us all to be striving for a good work-life balance.

As a company, we’ve seen massive benefits from remote working. Collaboration tools have seen our team and interdepartmental communication improve with greater visibility of concerns and issues across the business. My team is more available and respond far quicker to queries. Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams are collaboration tools that work – without them, we would not have been so successful in our remote working.

Enabling technology

The use of the latest desktop technology like Citrix Zen means that businesses can still use various legacy business applications in the cloud, enabling them, for example, to use finance and CRM applications as usual.

The latest cloud and automation technology have also made remote working for all departments a reality. By automating the hefty maintenance, security and support requirements of the cloud, organisations can now migrate their critical business apps to the cloud with all the management and security issues addressed much more effectively. The automation technology currently available is set to change the market by simplifying cloud ownership and operations. It finally makes the cloud an option for businesses of all types and sizes.

There’s more to do

It’s been a knee jerk reaction to get people working remotely, but we need more change if we want people to work remotely permanently. Technology companies need to offer end-to-end customer focused management – where the company’s end users are the customers, and not the IT or procurement departments or technical heads. We need to look at it from the perspective of the individual customer and make it a good experience for them.

A fully managed service can support you working from any location, but there will always be a point at which hardware fails so companies need to think about innovative service offers to solve these issues.

Where companies once signed-up to complex, inflexible contracts, IT needs to be provided on a flexible, consumption-based, pay-as-you-go billing model. One-off large procurement will be a thing of the past in terms of tech investment as businesses move to a cloud-based SaaS model. Automation and remote working will see businesses shift to a cloud-based user model where you effectively pay for what you consume.

Technology aside, the key to enabling permanent remote working is good personal wellbeing. Businesses will need to give staff the means to work effectively from home – from offering the right desks, chairs and potentially clever workstations that can be installed in homes to make working from home comfortable and unobtrusive. And we will need to offer some form of personal face-to-face time to ensure good mental health for remote workforces.

The pandemic has shown companies that the technology for remote working works – employees can be more productive, and businesses operate successfully. We mustn’t lose the many benefits of this change as we move out of lockdown.