The last decade has experienced seismic technological advancement, the benefits of which many businesses have harnessed to increase productivity and expand economic horizons.
Automate like your business depends on it
Automation has bolstered significant economies of scale, improving efficiency, reducing cost, mitigating risk and streamling day-to-day work processes from the factory floor to the board room. The result, additional swathes of surplus bandwidth to increase human engagement, address skill gaps, refine products and drive growth.
Big data, information exchange and impressive presentation applications allow us to bring vibrant strategies to life in a few short hours in support of well-informed business decision-making. And if that’s not enough, you can always record a quick podcast or produce a quirky video to stream across a variety of online content channels and networking platforms to titillate a target audience.
Interconnectedness and digital engagement have become, in essence, second nature in a world where we are never ‘offline’. Identifying and seizing opportunity is now a critical prerequisite to business survival across increasingly dynamic global markets.
So, how has this tsunami of modern technology and digital enablement benefited Work as we know it?
Back to the future
For those of us who started careers back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, it never ceases to amaze how we actually got anything done. No internet, email, video conferencing, mobile phones or laptops, limited collective discussion and very little transparency across the business function as a whole. The proverbial Christmas party was, for many, the one-off annual opportunity to engage and meet with peers and colleagues.
Work life usually operated within a static, office based, 40-hour, five-day week, bookended with daily commutes. But with all the technological evolution at our disposal, Work as we know it hasn’t really changed, en masse, since the post-war period.
The arrival of the computer age
The arrival of the internet and pioneering computing heralded a new age of Work in the 1990’s. Deeply transformative and disruptive, early years computing empowered a new genre of business thinking, reshaping organizational structure and increasing productivity.
The arrival of cloud technologies liberated further, offering affordable ways to replace manual processes, rethink methodologies and track & manage business performance without the need for expensive on-premise solutions and data storage facilities.
Agility and adaptability has thus become an integral part of the business psyche.
Why Work stood still
Management resistance to workplace reform and a reluctance to address counter-productive, and sometimes exhausting daily commutes, have largely remained unaddressed. An industrial age Work mentality remains largely fundamental within some organizations, even in light of the adoption of cloud-based solutions offering more ways than ever to collaborate, be creative and productive - remotely.
However, as the precipitous pace of Work has proceeded with zeal, research indicates productivity, a major factor in an economy’s ability to grow, may not be increasing in line with expectations.
Consequences of a global pandemic
The unforeseen arrival of COVID-19 brought a workplace crisis forcing millions of workers worldwide, away from the office to fulfill and deliver Work tasks and responsibilities remotely. From a positive perspective, this global pandemic has proved crises are indeed somewhat opportunity for organizational change and revitalization, bringing attention to issues long neglected and presenting possibilities for innovation and improvements in how we run and operate our businesses.
Advantages of remote & flexible working
- Reduce Cost – remove or reduce the need for expensive office space and supplies.
- Increase Productivity – a Stanford study found employees who work remotely are more focused, less distracted and demonstrate a 13% increase in productivity compared to their office based counterparts.
- Better Work-Life balance – happy employees are more productive plus they waste less valuable time commuting.
- Improve Collaboration - reduce the number of non-productive meetings, keep group collaboration to a minimum but set higher expectation standards around employee input - quality v quantity.
- Good Company PR – staying in tune with employee work-life balance needs and providing flexible working arrangements will make your business more attractive to the best talent.
- Staff Retention - flexible and remote working opportunities have proven to increase staff retention and lower rates of absence through illness.
- Preparedness – a move to remote working will prepare your business, in advance, for potential future disruption to travel networks or office accessibility.
Things to consider with a move to remote & flexible working
- Cloud technology – some consideration and investment may be required to support remote working practices but cost savings from office space and supplies can be utilized in this area.
- Planning – employees should be provided with clear and specific expectations around required standards of performance when working remotely. Use this opportunity to review and modernize business processes and best practice.
- One Step at a Time – review skill sets across your business or department and identify managed development pathways for each employee, remember some will be better suited to the move, others may need a little extra support in making the transition.
- Communication – ensure all employees have the right cloud tools and training. Agree regular, mandatory online meetings with individuals and groups to plan tasks and projects for the weeks and months ahead. Encourage a cultural of regular, informal, communication between employees.
- Skill Development – some employees will require ongoing mentoring and management to help them along their individual learning curves. Allocate specific one-on-one time to identify individual skill gaps and provide the necessary training and support.
Today’s crisis driven Work experiment is forcing many business owners and leaders to reflect on the success of remote working and reconsider the financial and employee work-life balance cost of reverting to previous traditional ways of operating.
Flexible and remote working will become an essential part of employee expectation and post-crisis business management. It appears everyone can be a winner, including the profit & loss account.
Author: Anne-Marie Rice