In the last few months, as organisations shifted their workforce to homeworking, I’ve seen countless fast decisions, fast rollouts and fast adoption of services.
And whilst this has fixed the immediate problem for some - longer term, its created problems.
Before the pandemic, firms had their UC transformation journey mapped out - upgrading Microsoft Teams to create a complete collaboration tool with calling and meetings, turning off desk phones, etc. Three months on, and the IT managers plans have gone out the window. In that time, new cloud collaboration tools have been launched and in parallel, tools like dial-in audio conferencing, which were in the process of being made obsolete, have been reinvigorated.
The problem is compounded by the fact that people who’ve never normally worked from home had little in the way of tech experience. But because they suddenly found themselves sat at the kitchen table trying to log into their firm’s VPN, they had to learn quickly. The result is they’re now more self-sufficient, as well as more confident. At the same time, people have developed bad habits leading to significant financial costs and poor user experience.
We’ve also seen a significant increase in costs for those organisations that have on-prem network in the office. Dialling into conference calls from home versus the office is significantly more expensive.
Two organisations I work with have recently removed the ‘dial-in’ option on their collaboration tool for this very reason. But, it’s the rise of the shadow IT that has the potential to cause real damage – as people download various apps to their own personal devices to use for work. Whilst this may have helped in the short-term, it presents a huge, uncontrolled security risk.
Many are now at a crossroads. They had their original UC plans, but lockdowns, social distancing and a general unease of crowded spaces means people are likely to be working from home late into this year. Also, many IT departments are waiting for HR to make a policy decision on remote working. Understandably, firms are unwilling to make kneejerk changes that impact their people.
We understand the changes businesses have gone through in recent months. We also know, from experience, that such changes will only be successful if people’s behaviours adjust in clearly defined steps. When I talk to firms that are at this crossroads, there are three areas I encourage them to focus on:
1. identifying the behaviour change needed in the short-term
Many organisations we’re supporting need their workforce to change their behaviours immediately whilst they’re working from home. For example, some need their people to stop using PSTN and start using VOIP to join calls. Others want to discourage their people from using costly, obsolete tools – such as dial-in audio conferencing. Changes like these can have a dramatic impact on reducing costs – especially if you have thousands of employees spread across the world. But, changing behaviour alone is not enough. People need to have the pre-requisites to adapt to this. They need good network connectivity and they need the right tools for the job – which leads me to my second focus area.
2. creating awareness of the tools employees should be using
Many businesses quickly adopted multiple collaboration tools, but not all of them gave clear guidance to their employees on what they should, and shouldn’t, be using them for. At the same time, many employees express confusion over which tools are available, which ones they should be using and even how to set them up. Where firms have multiple platforms, we’re helping them shape the messaging to their people. Clear internal communications on this can be quick and easy with high impact. The key is to use multiple channels – particularly ones that people can respond best to whilst working remotely. This could be as simple as adding a message on Coronavirus update emails that HR send out or posting on an internal social media site. Both these approaches have proved popular during the pandemic.
3. educating and coaching
Top tips on usage and how to deal with common barriers can give people a better experience and drive the right behaviour. We’ve helped several customers develop these on things like how to deal with low bandwidth at home and using video at home. We’re also educating on how to enhance home working with the right tools. For example, helping sales deliver successful, engaging sales presentations via video. And, top tips on how to avoid video fatigue, as well as homeworking fatigue.
Things like this can be solved with simple guidance. We’ve created a lot of assets recently on professional homeworking, especially with an increase in video usage - focusing on best practices around your set-up, appearance, meeting and habits. Over the coming months, there will be varying levels of change as restrictions and working arrangements change - which could include remote working in different locations. Organisations need to help their people come to terms with and accept this.
Some companies are preparing for their people to go back into their offices – and they’re putting a lot of effort into this. But it’s getting the right balance between remote and office working. There’ll be an element of going back to the office, but hybrid is key. Are your employees’ setup so they can work two days from home without even having to think about it? Helping people adopt new technology and adapt to change requires the right expertise to implement.
Other organisations are focusing on improving their employee’s current experience. They’re making sure their people have the right tools to work from home effectively in a way that benefits them as individuals and doesn’t put the business at risk of high costs and potential security breaches.
Whether it’s practical help or reassurance, we’re here to help.