The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the conversation about health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Employees expect more from their employers now — both in terms of mental health and physical safety inside and outside of the office.
Fortunately, technology can support this transition, now and in the future.
Today, the ‘workplace’ is wherever your employees are, but regardless of whether they are at home, in the field or at the office, ensuring they have the right tools for the job is vital.
Take customer service teams at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. One of the biggest challenges businesses faced was recreating contact centres in employees’ homes.
We experienced this ourselves. During the first UK lockdown of 2020, we closed our retail stores and moved our customer services remote.
Steps included rerouting store phone numbers to managers phones, and creating virtual contact centres so staff could continue serving customers from home. Staff also received extra training to learn how to manage web chats.
As well as supporting staff and training them, we increased reliability across our network by adding more capacity and changing the way we manage voice and data traffic across our complex network to ensure connections stayed strong and customers didn’t experience any drop off in service when contacting us.
Finally, using our mobile application we were able to create a resource for customers to find information quicker and help them figure out how to solve problems on their own if they wanted to.
All these changes haven’t just worked well for the short term, they’ve also created a better workplace for the future.
Perhaps the biggest issue presented by the new way of working is the risk that employees will lose the opportunity to meet and talk to colleagues.
Personal interaction is vital to a healthy and productive workforce. Those impromptu meetings, or conversations at the coffee machine, though seemingly small, keep the workforce connected.
But with remote working, isolation is common — and it’s cited as one of the biggest drawbacks.
That said, businesses are doing their best to maintain that culture virtually.
For instance, businesses have replaced physical contact with virtual meetings and communications tools. It’s taken some getting used to but they’re now an important part of how we work in today’s world.
Even when employees return to the office, these digital tools will remain part of communication. This means that as flexible, remote and hybrid working become more commonplace, businesses will need to equip employees with the right tools and networks to do their jobs effectively.
This combination of wellness matched with the right technology is precisely what businesses should be considering for their staff.
While remote working has remained in place across the globe (44% are adopting it in the long-term according to our 2020 Future Ready Report), some employees have already returned to the workplace.
But they demand a new level of assurance. They want to be confident that their workplace is safe and that their wellbeing is the top priority.
Again, technology provides an answer to the question of how to safeguard employees in the workplace and give them the confidence they need. This could be, for example, using heat detection cameras to check for a high temperature (potentially showing signs of an illness) or Worker Insights and IoT to redesign areas and help promote social distancing.
Premiership rugby club Wasps have started on this journey, installing heat detection cameras at its Broadstreet training facility.
This is what Stephen Vaughan, SEO of Wasps Group said about the decision to use this new technology:
“The Heat Detection Camera will be a useful tool in helping to safely reopen our facilities, and to provide reassurance to our staff, players and visitors that we are providing as safe an environment as we can.”
Much of 2021 is going to be spent returning to some kind of normal.
But it won’t be business as usual. Business has changed and it isn’t returning to how it was before.
Looking ahead, the goal now will be rethinking how we deal with health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Whether it’s creating safe spaces for employees to come to, or creating flexible remote work practices that give employees everything they need to do their jobs from anywhere — including maintaining contact with their colleagues and friends at work.
We’re already seeing examples of how technology is helping businesses of all kinds adapt to sudden short-term challenges.
Those that manage to take advantage of this technology now, are also going to see the benefits in the long run with a healthier, happier and safer workforce.
Around the globe, our network reaches 184 countries.
We provide the underlying transport network, the virtual overlay, and the platform to prioritise everything.