Remote Working – Digital Transformation and Cultural Shift
As they say – necessity is the mother of invention. There’s a good reason why our greatest historical leaps forward in technology occur during times of war, and now we are engaged in battle with a viral threat in the form of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, technology is stepping up once again to meet the challenge.
However, this war won’t be won with tanks and bombs. Instead we are fighting back with an altogether more passive form of action – staying at home. Countries all over the world are putting lockdown and social distancing measures in place to reduce human contact and slow the spread of the virus in an effort to make sure emergency services don’t become overwhelmed.
Naturally business has a role to play in this endeavour and more people than ever before are discovering they can perform their role just as well remotely as they can from a traditional workplace.
For the 12-month period from January to December 2019, of the 32.6 million people in employment, around 1.7 million people reported working mainly from home according to the UK-based Office for National Statistics. By the close of 2020, it’s predicted that around half of the entire labour force will be working from home.
This sudden shift towards working from home amid the current crisis is creating an environment where companies are needing to fast track their digital transformation in a way never before seen. Those brands which have, up until this point been somewhat digitally lazy, are now finding it difficult to adjust to the new status quo and are faced with a staggeringly steep learning curve.
“While the ability to work from home is a benefit many employees value, many companies lack the technology infrastructure structure to offer that capability without some sacrifices to business as usual,” reports Forbes. “However, one unexpected outcome of COVID-19 is that companies are starting to realize the benefits of fast-tracking digital transformation.”
The most obvious way technology is helping us through this unprecedented time is through the vast range of collaboration tools available to us. Platforms such as Trello, Basecamp, and Slack, all help companies communicate, organise work, and more from the comfort of any connected location. What’s more, many of these tools require little to no initial financial outlay and an absolute minimum of training to get to grips with – making them ideal for the kind of fast-tracked digital transformation we’re seeing during this crisis.
While digital transformation and the opportunities presented to fast track the implementation of technology by the current situation are exciting, one of the most interesting shifts we’re seeing is regarding company culture.
It seems likely that, once this crisis has passed, and life returns to some semblance of normality, most businesses will return to the traditional model of working from a designated office location. However, we are also likely to see many businesses realise that the traditional method of operation contains a lot of bloated processes and costs which simply aren’t necessary to the successful running of their operations. There has always been a problem with businesses operating in a certain way simply because they have always done things that way and it takes something like the coronavirus pandemic to essentially force these companies out of apathy and motivate them to try different methods.
Workers have long shared that well known gripe/joke about the lengthy meeting which could have been an email, and we are now starting to see how true that is. We are realising that we don’t need so many meetings, seminars, or even offices, to keep our businesses moving forward in a meaningful way.
That’s not to say remote working doesn’t come with its own challenges and pitfalls. Many people, especially those not yet acclimatised to working from home, can find the experience quite lonely and isolating. Again, this is where digital tools come into play and its important to make sure these tools are used for general workplace socialising alongside their practical applications.
Motivation is another key challenge when working from home as the urge to procrastinate can be strong. In a traditional office, everything around you is geared towards work, with little there to distract you. However, when at home, you are surrounded by other things you could be engaging with, such as your hobbies, television, chores, and, especially in the current situation, children and other family members.
You need to learn to be strict with yourself and make sure you keep work as separate from the domestic side of your home as much as possible. Even small things like making sure you wash and dress in the morning as if you were going to work as normal can have a big impact on your motivation and productivity.
With more people than ever working from home in the current crisis, businesses are presented with challenge and opportunity in near equal measure. What remains to be seen however is, once the danger has passed, will we go back to the old ways of doing things, or does this signal a paradigm shift in attitudes to work which will persevere long after the coronavirus is a memory?
Remote working is sure to be a hot topic at eTail Nordic 2020, being held in October at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, Copenhagen.
Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.