People may be working from home right now, but what next?

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We’re no longer talking about employees simply taking their work home with them from time to time, says Jean-Denis Garo, International Marketing Director at Mitel

There is currently an unprecedented level of interest in software and apps that enable people to work from home or work remotely, largely due to (especially now due to government-imposed lockdowns). In many cases employees weren’t planning on working from home and so it’s easy to see how the current situationcan appear chaotic. For example, consumer appsare increasingly being used alongside companies’ secure software.

It’s time for CIOs to embrace the notion behind the age-old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention as many of them, unprepared for this considerable increase in homeworking, are having to manage on the fly. However, once this pandemic is over, CIOs will need to restore some order to their governance and technological equipment policy. What’s more, they will also need to ensure that they reconfigure their business continuity plan based on any lessons learned from the events that are currently unfolding.

The Real-life test

We’re no longer talking about employees simply taking their work home with them from time to time – we are way beyond that stage. In many instances, their work is now always accessible from home, as people’s personal and professional lives have long been intertwined. Employees want a certain level of flexibility in terms of where they work, often in order to be able to better manage their commute and journey times.

Some business managers may have had concerns about the direction in which remote working solutions have been heading, however faced with no other real option, they are goingnow to have to rely on them and make the switch from a management style based on monitoring and oversight to one based on results. The next few weeks or months will offer the perfect opportunity to experiment with the best way to use the tools involved, and to discover and share best practice since most employees won’t have the necessary support to make the most of the tools available. These employees are going to discover for themselves what it is like to work independently and remotely with unfamiliar routines, and are going to experience firsthand the true advantages and disadvantages of working from home.

 

Remote working is not a silver bullet capable of solving every single problem, nor is it suitable for every role within a company, but it should be part of a coherent strategy – one driven by general management but with considerable input from functional divisions, in particular IT and HR.

Will people return to the office?

Open-plan offices and flexispaces are not exactly the kinds of workplaces that employees dream about.It is likely that, having acquired a taste for working from home, some of them will not want to return, having to endure lengthy commutes and travel disruptions, feeling lost in the crowd or doing the dreaded rounds in search of a free hot-desk every morning.

During this ‘trial run’, these employees will have found out for themselves that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean being isolated and cut off from everything and everyone, and that virtual communities can actually work rather well. There is no specific relationship between technology and office culture, however as new practices are established and set in, they will have a profound impact on companies’ organisational approaches.

The current rules governing the way that employees work from home will need to be reviewed, as employees are keen to redefine their own working conditions and will, at the end of this public health emergency, have a clear idea of the types of practices (and tools) that they want to keep in their daily working lives, and which ones they will be glad to see the back of.

Bringing shadow collaborative tools into the fold

Any CIOs who haven’t already got to grips with all of the solutions likely to be used by their employees during the current lockdown should seize this opportunity to carry out a real-life benchmarking exercise of all available solutions – they may never get an opportunity like this again. CIOs will also get the chance to test the robustness of any solutions currently being used by monitoring how well they work under extreme conditions; and finally they will also get the chance to test relationships with suppliers, finding out how flexible they are and whether they are able to meet urgent and specific needs and requests.

CIOs will have to change their governance once this exceptional period is over, and if individual solutions have proven their worth CIOs should ensure that they are properly integrated, made secure and checked to ensure that they fully comply with personal data protection requirements. Four years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2020 a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises would be on their shadow IT resources**. What will really happen, given the popularity of unsecure collaborative tools?

The current mandated implementation of remote working will provide the perfect opportunity to gain a better understanding of employees’ communication and collaboration needs when at home compared with, for example, the traditional corporate office environment. It will allow us to gauge the level of uptake of these tools not only by employees but also clients, suppliers and other company stakeholders.

This experimentation period will no doubt help to expedite companies’ digital transformation processes. All crises over the centuries have led to sea changes in society, and the contribution currently being made by digitization in terms of our interactions will change our habits and practices forever.

* How the digital workplace is affecting employees’ work/life balance

** Gartner’s Top 10 Security Predictions 2016

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