While remote working may have been in response to the coronavirus crisis for many businesses, it is now a core part of the modern business landscape.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of employees who started working remotely for the first time in 2020 say that they have been “very successful” working from home, with 86% saying they have remained “fully productive".
In response, major global brands like Gartner, Facebook, Amazon and Adobe have stated that remote working for employees will become a permanent fixture in their future business models.
In our 2020 Future Ready Report, 44% of businesses said they planned to make remote working permanent for some employees in the future.
Without a doubt, this new way of working will require further planning and restructuring, from what the ‘new’ office looks like to the support offered to employees. This includes rethinking policies for flexible working, giving HR teams more resources to focus on employee wellbeing and mental health as they shift to remote work, and ensuring employees have what they need to make it possible.
Communication isn’t just an essential part of effective remote working and collaboration, it’s key to employee wellness.
Making sure employees can keep in touch with each other — no matter where they’re working — is a critical part of moving to remote working in the long term.
And this means giving them the best tools to do so.
Working with BNL GRUPPO BNP Paribas, one of Italy’s largest banks, we’re helping improve its mobile, voice and data connectivity, including the gradual move towards 5G.
This means employees will be able to access an array of communication tools (including voice, text and video) from a single place and stay in touch wherever they are, rather than using separate systems.
Furthermore, we will work to explore the role collaboration platforms and digital services, like wireless ATMs, unified communications (UC), video services and augmented reality experiences, can play to make the bank’s customer experience more inclusive and agile.
For businesses that will return to a physical office, they’ll have to rethink how that office is used and create more collaborative and meeting spaces, rather than the regular 9-5 workplace it has been.
For people working from home, it’s particularly difficult to create boundaries between work and home.
If employees are going to work remotely in the long term, businesses should help them understand what’s expected in terms of flexibility with working hours, through to time and project management.
Failing to set these expectations with employees can lead to disjointed working between teams, which in turn can lead to delays and disruption if people don’t know what their responsibilities are.
Worse, if employees don’t understand what’s expected of them, they could fall into the trap of presenteeism and end up working longer hours with no direction, simply to give the impression they’re doing something.
This can lead to bigger problems down the line, particularly with burnout and poor employee mental health.
Work-life boundaries can’t just be ‘an understanding’, they need to be firmly ingrained in a business’ culture moving forward.
This goes beyond just the work-life balance issue.
Businesses also need to invest more time in the wellbeing of their teams, particularly for those who will be working remotely full-time.
Whether it’s free access to counselling, extra annual leave for mental health or simply management catch-ups, personal development sessions or coaching, employees will expect employers to have these services in place moving forward.
According to one study by Igloo, a quarter of employees use non-secure methods of sharing sensitive information, and 43% said they struggle to share documents because they have a hard time finding them in the first place.
Information siloes can be a big problem with remote working when you don’t have a strategy to join up how employees work.
Moving systems to the cloud is an effective and cost-efficient way of managing this.
Having files, data and applications on the cloud means employees can access what they need from anywhere, whether they’re online or not, and can work on the same projects with colleagues simultaneously.
This means that work can easily move between teams, allowing people to collaborate in real-time with the reassurance that they’re always working on the latest version of documents, with access to the newest information.
According to Cisco, 94% of workloads will be processed through cloud data centres by the end of 2021. More than half (56%) of business and technology executives agreed that cloud migration has now become an absolute necessity for the future success of their business, according to a 2020 KPMG Enterprise reboot report.
Having systems based in the cloud also opens up the opportunity for bigger expansion for businesses into rural areas — which would also open up a wider recruitment pool.
For example, using rural co-working spaces for employees, while still allowing them access to all their tools and systems via the cloud, means they can easily switch between home and office-based work without losing access to the corporate network.
So rather than renting offices in the city centre, businesses can reinvest that money in cloud infrastructure and reliable, high-speed connections for employees to work remotely, no matter where they are.
Creating better connections between remote employees is the foundation of successful, long-term remote working.
This might not just mean creating better access to the corporate network. For remote employees who work in the field, this means connecting them through mobile technology like 5G when they’re working away from a reliable Wi-Fi connection.
Wirral Council and Age UK is one example of how mobile connectivity can be used to quickly create flexible, on-the-go connections.
Working together, it organised the dispatch of 150 mobile devices to care home residents so they could remain connected with families during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
While this is a specific example, the principles remain the same across all businesses.
By providing remote employees with the devices and connectivity they need, they can work from anywhere and be confident that they won’t lose speed or access to key tools and data whilst working.
This is going to become more important in the future with the introduction of 5G and Edge Computing; by providing faster mobile connections and moving data analysis closer to the end-user, remote teams will be able to manage larger tasks with ease and speed.
Ultimately, by distributing investment in digital tools, businesses can increase efficiency in their remote teams and improve the employee experience.
Whatever role remote working plays in the future workplace, creating the right infrastructure and connections is key.
And the benefits go far beyond just letting employees work from wherever they want.
Whether it’s using new mobile technology or creating smarter, more reliable networks and connections (using SD-WAN and cloud-based collaboration platforms), the foundations for long-term remote working will need to be set.
What’s certain is that in the future, businesses will invest more in technology that provides their employees with options over how they work, communicate and manage their time.
By putting the right tools in place, businesses will be in a much better position to succeed and react quickly and decisively to challenges in the future.
Ready to find out more? Discover how aligning your tools, processes and culture can empower your remote workforce.
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