As world leaders grapple to provide the best advice and impose efficient measures to contain and control the impact of the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of workers around the globe have been displaced. With companies, cities and entire countries on lockdown, many find themselves unable to continue working.
The more fortunate of us are able to work remotely, ensuring some continuity for organisations and individuals and contributing to overall productivity. We are lucky that the modern workplace can be any place one chooses to work, rather than a centralised office in which all of us must convene.
Forcing the pace of remote working
But, remote working is not a new phenomenon. For a number of years, technological developments have been making working from home more possible, even preferable, unknowingly preparing us for this challenge. A recent survey by LinkedIn found that 82 per cent of working professionals would like to work from home for at least one day per week, while 62 per cent of organisations worldwide currently have a flexible workspace policy, according to IWG. It’s possible that the number of people now having to work from home could act as a catalyst for accelerated change, shifting the way we think about “going” to work.
Alongside this, we could reasonably expect to see a cultural change which reduces presenteeism at work. The virality and difficult-to-detect nature of the coronavirus has meant that even those exhibiting mild symptoms have been advised to stay at home – with many choosing to work from home even before this became official advice. When we emerge from this pandemic, will we think differently about entering the workplace with an infectious illness? After all, if working from home is possible – and to do so would limit others’ suffering, no matter how serious – wouldn’t it be better to stay indoors?
Of course, much of this will depend on how far along an organisation is in their own digital journey. In order to enable remote working which provides businesses and their teams with all of the same benefits as the usual working environment, organisations must invest in the proper infrastructure. Fortunately, as businesses become more technically-minded, the work environment becomes easier to emulate.
Why use a centralised communications hub?
In fact, what is more difficult to replicate away from the office is company culture. Shared communications tools are vital, particularly in a situation such as this where employees will not have anticipated working from home and may be isolated for a long period. If organisations already use a centralised hub for communications then they are a step ahead of those who do not. Leaders and teams can use video, chat boards and instant messenger to stay connected, learning and sharing information, when physical proximity is not possible.
As important as having the right tech tools is knowing how, when and why they should be used. Organisations should signpost employees towards the hub and then use the hub itself to show employees how to use it, encouraging regular engagement. It should be intuitive; Netflix and Google have taught employees what is possible in their personal lives and it is this experience that individuals now want and expect from technology platforms provided by their employers.
A centralised hub can also be used to communicate the expectations and etiquette of working from home. From tips on productivity, to how best to protect mental health, organisations can use the hub to share knowledge and engage employees remotely. Helping individuals to develop the skills and attitudes to work with autonomy is a must for businesses, and this is easier to achieve with a centralised hub.
Remote working – the new normal?
What will the world of work look like once the peak of this pandemic has passed? While many workers will return to their traditional places of work, others may well choose to change the amount of time they spend within the office environment – particularly as reports of cleaner air and water continue to pile in, demonstrating the effect that limited travel can have upon the environment.
Face to face experiences will regain their place once normality resumes; the networking opportunities and immersive elements of in-person learning and communications are an essential part of modern working life. But the multi-channel learning and communications that we have seen developing over the past few years may become the new normal at a much faster pace. The modern workplace is one which is mobile and remote, and it is ready for this challenge. It is now up to organisations to adapt.