What is your work-from-home persona?
Everybody is different, and they all work differently, particularly now that remote working is the new normal. Different tasks and roles place different requirements on the technology that they use. Solutions providers need to be flexible in how they package those solutions to meet the needs of this new workforce. This is a whole new way of working for many companies and individuals, with processes being adapted on the fly.
Barry Venter, MD of Nashua, says: “We’re adapting to living in a socially isolated world. Those companies that can are having to embrace the reality of working from home. Where previously meetings were held face-to-face, these are now happening virtually, from home. In first world countries, this has been the normal way of working for some time; they long since adopted the notion of having remote offices without a need for a building that nobody uses. Now, that’s going to be the foreseeable future for businesses across the globe.”
COVID-19 has forced South African corporates to function in this manner, dragging them kicking and screaming in some instances into the fourth industrial revolution. However, this means companies need to think differently about their IT infrastructure, says Venter, and build flexibility around the individual and their requirements, that encompass seamless work experiences while maintaining security. The end goal is to equip the organisation’s workers for the tasks they have to perform remotely, taking into account their needs around mobility, applications, backup capabilities and even the ability to digitally sign documents - and packaging the technology solutions that they require accordingly.
The biggest priority for an effective remote workforce is to enable both mobility and communication. “The transition from being a desktop worker to becoming a mobile worker is key. Whether they choose to use Teams, Zoom, Hangouts, Webex or their mobile phones to conduct meetings, you need to enable communication and connect people, teams and customers.”
The interesting thing about working remotely is that people are more cognisant of time, and meetings tend to be more concise and to the point. “People are making better use of their time and are more productive. We’re also seeing more real-time sharing and real-time results,” says Venter. “The manner in which individuals and teams are managed has also evolved.”
However, there are also some barriers that need to be overcome, such as getting people to use the technology available to them. Some people are resistant to new technology, so this can prove challenging. Then there’s also the expectation that people be available around the clock.
“A remote workforce requires that everything be cloud-based, which in turn requires a more robust endpoint device. A remote worker with a weaker endpoint is going to struggle to get through their deliverables, and in the current economic climate, businesses can’t afford to have a weak link in the chain. Remote working will highlight any weaknesses in the company’s IT infrastructure because prior to COVID-19, everyone was office-based. Now, employees need considerable computing power just to do online meetings, which means there’s increased demand for technology at the edge and the endpoint, while connectivity is non-negotiable. Where previously, people used fibre to the home for recreational purposes, downloading movies and gaming, for instance, now they rely on it for business.
“As a result, weaknesses in businesses’ IT strategies are becoming apparent in a lot of areas. If you don’t have a mobility plan for your workforce, you’re dead in the water. Remote connectivity is important as people need to be able to access resources remotely on the network, so require access to a VPN to access centralised systems.”
Venter’s top five priorities for remote workers are:
- Being connected – being able to work remotely without feeling remote, they need to feel part of the bigger ecosystem in terms of delivery, not just the Internet but co-workers, systems and processes.
- Delivery – how do you manage delivery and output of remote workers or teams? This is one of the toughest things to manage, but it’s a key priority for management teams. They also need to be able to do admin remotely.
- Being able to prioritise differently - in the office, you can ask someone and compare notes. When you’re working remotely, you need to be able to prioritise current tasks without duplicating effort.
- Finding a balance between a professional role and a personal role. Some employees will have to home school their children while delivering on work projects. People work in different environments, some people live alone whereas others live with their families, a single parent may struggle to juggle work-home balance, for instance.
- Setting a routine – it’s easy to get up and start working and sit in front of your computer for 12 hours when you live alone. Routine is important. You need to have set working hours and manage that. While delivery is going up with a remote workforce, so is demand and employee stress levels and you need to be cognisant of that.
The opportunities of the remote workforce
“It’s a big plus if your business can still run normally remotely, because that’s going to keep your company afloat. The downside is that sales engagements are more challenging, so if your business depends on face-to-face sales, that can be a negative. We need to shift the perspective on digitisation and how you implement it. While many factors have been credited with accelerating digitisation, coronavirus has been the ultimate one. Digitisation has benefited enormously from the lockdown. E-commerce has also benefited and will accelerate across industries and sectors. Consumer buying patterns are changing, and the adaptation of business models is rife at this point.
“Companies need to re-evaluate what’s critical and essential to their business, as well as where to prioritise their spend in the medium-term. They need to ask themselves where they’re going to spend money in the foreseeable future. A diversification of products and services will probably happen. We’re seeing new skills, new opportunities and new directions; all that remains is to ask whether the world is ever going to be the same?”