Blog · 08 Apr 2020

Getting used to our new normal: the digital workplace

Remote working isn’t just about keeping business afloat as we try to turn the tide on Coronavirus, it could be the beginning of a different way of working.

Andrew Small
Director of Voice and Digital Workplace, Business

Extensive measures to tackle the spread of Coronavirus have forced organisations to quickly scale-up remote working.

Many have had to send people home at very short notice, something that’s putting pressure on individual workers and IT teams alike. Although many organisations were already set-up to enable people to work from home, most weren’t prepared to do so on such a large scale and so quickly.

This means that many organisations don’t have enough bandwidth capacity for every area of their operation, and not everyone has the right tools, licences and / or security measures in place. Also, many employees haven’t had the right training to make the most of remote working tools, including the basics of how to use them easily and effectively.

With a digital workplace now a necessity, it’s important to have some practical advice on how to make this new normal work.

People need to be the first consideration

In the current situation, while technology is vital, people must come first. Employees are the key to making sure remote working is effective — so it’s important they have the support they need. Users maybe finding themselves using a laptop at their dining room table, trying to access the information and tools they take for granted in the office. Without familiar systems, routines, tools and teams, this can be an isolating experience.

This sense of isolation and, at times, frustration, can also be magnified by many homes not being the ‘ideal’ environment that collaboration tools were designed for. As many of us are experiencing, holding meetings in the dining room with children playing nearby isn’t the same as holding a meeting from a desk or dedicated meeting room in the office. Supporting people by making sure that they have access to the most effective tools, and are confident in using them, is an important first step to enabling remote working.

Read our recent blog on digital technology adoption to find out more.   

Technology needs to work for today’s home-working reality

The best tools aren’t necessarily the latest, though. The right tools are the ones that work for people in their current work environment. This could be as simple as a set of noise cancelling headphones, or a user-friendly conferencing tool that works well on home wi-fi. Without the right tools, people often start looking for their own solutions in an effort to be more efficient. But with so much technology to choose from, teams may be left with a range of digital tools that don’t integrate with one another, and which can potentially cause new security issues.

This is one of the reasons that we’re seeing larger organisations restricting choice and instead guiding people to a smaller range of useable options. For some businesses, this means quickly extending pilot solutions, or adding new cloud solutions to their legacy infrastructure. For others, the right collaboration tools right now are legacy audio and conferencing — a reliable solution that works well on home broadband.

Current technology decisions need to be made with our present reality in mind. It’s about looking at what works best for everyone, rather than looking for what the ‘richest’ digital experience might be. This is a compromise, but it’s a short-term one needed to help everyone to work remotely. Once things calm down, organisations can start exploring the best remote working experiences for the future.

Security can’t take a backseat to speed or user experience

With large remote workforces, security is a significant challenge. And the speed of transition means it’s vital to make sure it hasn’t exposed a wider attack surface. It’s important to be in control, giving employees and suppliers the right levels of security. This approach can help people keep their organisation and data safe and secure.

Despite the hurdles, it’s possible to quickly extend remote working without compromising user experience. While VPN and securing company devices are important, it’s also vital that employees understand the policies and risks. Secure, friction-free working shouldn’t hinge on cost, either, because most collaboration tools are flexible, with variable costs that can be made back through improved productivity.

Setting up the digital future

Although current circumstances are difficult, with people no longer commuting, pollution is decreasing rapidly, air quality is improving, collaboration technology is being democratised and everyone is now accessing these benefits from home. Workplaces are becoming more flexible and this can be a good thing for individuals and communities.

There’s no doubt Coronavirus and efforts to curb its spread have caught many people off guard, and the short-term will be about trying to deal with our ‘new normal’. This inevitably means some worry, compromise and adjustment, but then we can start thinking about how to make this work more long-term.

Once things have settled, we’ll need to take a step back and consider the capacity constraints and compromises made to get everyone working from home so quickly, and to address any shortfalls. Ultimately, the current situation will mean we’re better prepared for the future, as people will be more tech- savvy and able to leverage remote working technology to the benefit of the planet, our communities and business productivity.

Since the outbreak, we’ve helped a number of customers across the globe with their collaboration, security and remote access challenges. If your organisation is being affected, please reach out to your account manager. Whether it’s practical help or reassurance, we’re here to help.