With many top organisations, including Twitter and Facebook, announcing that their employees could work from home (WFH) “forever” if they so wished. It’s likely that many organisations will follow suit and make similar adjustments to the future workplace in the coming weeks, months, years. Since the nation, and most of the world, was forced to shift to a “work from anywhere” mindset, we have seen many examples of businesses breaking the conventional workplace expectations, and for the most part, this has been a positive improvement.
Work is no longer a destination
In his book ‘Business Reimagined’, David Coplin compares the January 2020 office environment to ‘working like Victorians in the 21st Century’, he argues that the main reason for this is because the average employee is disengaged from the overall business objective. For example, in the car manufacturing industry an employee who handles head rest components with no understanding of the wider business objectives will have no understanding of the critical role they play in ensuring the safety of the end driver.
In a recent keynote session at CXNext 2020, Coplin explained that most people view going to work as a destination – somewhere they just have to be – when in fact it’s an activity – something they should take pleasure and pride in, this is the key differentiator for workplace engagement. Those employers that are able to facilitate this mindset shift will benefit from a workforce that is motivated to engage in their work, rather than view it as a means to fill time and pay the bills – and technology can play a big part in enabling this.
Unleash your employees’ purpose
COVID-19 has redefined expectations of remote working. Despite the huge advances in collaborative technology in recent years, we were still living in an archaic culture with employees chained to their desks and desktops. In this new era of WFH, we are finally beginning to see the shift towards a flexible working model and businesses have been forced to recognise the importance of fostering purpose throughout a dispersed company. One of the critical components of developing a purpose-driven business, is making that shift from measuring input to measuring business outcomes.
Many business leaders fall into the pit hole of solely focusing on refining and streamlining processes, and whilst this is important it quickly becomes meaningless without an awareness of the end goal. Furthermore, the obsession with refinement means that many business leaders continue to overlook the role that technology can play – in many cases removing the need for refinement entirely – by taking repetitive, time consuming tasks away from talented employees and replacing them with automated processes.
For example, by using smart meeting assistant features such as transcriptions, employees no longer have to waste time writing up meeting minutes and can instead use this time to actually complete the call actions. If businesses are able to embrace collaborative technology and use it to its full potential rather than remain in this Victorian-style mindset, not only will this improve efficiency, but it will also empower employees to maximise their own skills and help the business achieve its true purpose.
While this may sound like a corporate experience, the mass remote working, the need for social distancing and technology have driven ingenious solutions in some of the most unexpected places.
Use tech for good
We have already seen some inspiring examples of entrepreneurial flair and pragmatism empowering employees to craft creative solutions with technology. Connecting with teams, adjusting schedules, helping customers and partners, and pivoting business plans all over videoconferencing and chat applications. But others have used technology where we least expect it. Religious leaders have used videoconferencing to connect with their congregation and charities are using it to ensure that their staff can continue to provide vital support to children and their families, such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and clinical assessments. As well as the North Bristol Trust Anaesthesia Team using collaborative technology to hold new online (social distance friendly) morning meetings and run training sessions to align with new guidelines, documents and WHO checklists, revolutionising how the team interacts and keeps people safe.
Encouraging employees, volunteers and communities to come up with new ways to utilise 21st century technology to collaborate freely and communicate in a way that works for them has kept businesses open and helped those in need of support during this time. Although most of my time is spent working with enterprises to make them more efficient and collaborative, it has been a blessing in disguise to work with many new organisations to see how collaboration technology can enable the support they provide during this time. Although many services will eventually return to normal, in-person resources, the ability to adapt that they have discovered will likely enable them to reach more people and provide better services in the long run. From my perspective this worldwide remote working experiment has taught us that we should be focusing on growth and customer satisfaction, and achieving these goals is much more important than dictating how or where this is done.
Rise of the humans
Following this huge learning curve of remote working, organisations of all kinds should be taking time to reflect on what they have achieved and what they are capable of achieving through the power of technology. COVID-19 has forced many businesses to re-think dated workplace stereotypes and embrace the ‘work from anywhere’ mindset. Flexible working is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s becoming mandatory. And lots of the change that needs to take place is underpinned by trust. This means outlining the constraints, such as a mandatory meeting, and allowing staff to work within the parameters of these constraints to ensure they sufficiently prepare for the meeting, complete other work tasks and balance personal commitments.
When implemented correctly, collaborative technology has the power to unlock potential and pave the way for the rise of the humans with a culture that is driven by creativity and purpose. And by eliminating this view that the office is the destination, businesses will see the true value of a flexible, creative workforce that feels empowered by both their leaders and their technology.