Whether for better or for worse, remote work is here to stay. The battle continues as countries grapple with uneven vaccination rates and new coronavirus variants. Even as organisations in some parts of Australia slowly begin returning to the office, one thing is for sure – the way we work has changed forever. Hybrid work is our new reality.
Business leaders and managers who don't see remote work as the future risk creating issues for themselves. One study by Slack found that half of Australian knowledge workers would start looking for another job if workplace flexibility was not available. With labour shortages in many industries, this is a high risk for businesses to navigate.
It seems apparent that remote work is not going anywhere. However, as the world changes, remote work has to evolve and the way we manage it needs to adapt. In the early days of the global pandemic, organisations focused on making a smooth transition to working from home to minimise business disruption.
The focus was on immediate enablements, such as purchasing video conferencing and collaboration software or tweaking basic policies in favour of flexible work. It is critical to move past the “band-aid mentality” to approach remote work with a long-term strategy. Many organisations are doing this already…but not all.
It's no secret that technology is the underlying enabler of a successful and sustainable remote work strategy. The good news is that 53% of Australian employees feel that their employers are doing everything they can to provide them with the necessary technology resources to work remotely, according to Dell Technologies' Remote Work Readiness Index.
Employees continue to face tech challenges when working remotely – the top three being unstable remote networks; using personal productivity tools for work, which can pose a cybersecurity threat; and limited access to internal company resources.
When it comes to making tech investments for long-term remote work, it is important to get it right as early as possible. We've narrowed it down to three fundamental tech investments organisations must make to thrive in a remote work environment.
Tip #1: Help employees do their job better by providing the right productivity tools
Supporting employees with the right technology and tools is a critical first step. From an employee perspective, productivity equipment is necessary to enable remote work.
Two key implications could arise if employees do not have access to the productivity tools they need. Firstly, this may result in reduced productivity and increased frustration among staff who feel they are not set up for success in their remote work environment.
This could take a toll on team morale and overall performance in the long term. This consideration becomes exacerbated when considering how much of our work we do remotely.
A second and more serious implication is that, without the right equipment at their disposal, employees may download company documents onto their own computer or phone to perform daily tasks more efficiently. This leads to exposed data and the “double handling” or duplication of data across multiple platforms.
My advice to business leaders is to prioritise the employee experience in a hybrid work model by investing in quality tech resources – from laptops and monitors to one plug docking or a comfortable ergonomic keyboard and mouse – thereby empowering staff to work productively and securely. And have a great time doing so. Because great equipment makes your staff happy, and happy staff will reward you with their best quality work.
Tip #2: Set up your organisation for hybrid working
When setting up your workforce for hybrid work, it's important to ensure you have the tools to manage workloads effectively. Whether they're in the office or working from home, your staff should be able to work seamlessly from anywhere.
That requires thinking beyond the devices they port to and from work to the technology they tap into when using it. Cloud-based environments mean your team can access vital information instantly while also offering scalability and cost efficiency for the organisation.
As the hybrid workforce continues to evolve, the adoption of cloud technologies has increased dramatically, with Gartner predicting spending on public cloud services in Australia to reach $10.6 billion.
For hybrid working to become a reality for your workforce, you need to ensure a proper infrastructure model that can combine public, private and edge clouds to support workloads, both now and in the years to come. By adopting a multi-cloud environment, you can set your team up for long-term success wherever they may roam. And make that movement as natural as possible.
We've researched the effect of bad technology on the brain, and it turns out many people find it 30 per cent more stressful than singing in public. Given the array of stresses your employees already face in the current climate, anything that can reduce it is an important tool in reducing turnover and other costs to the business. And while singing is optional, really great technology that makes it easy for your staff to work shouldn't be.
Tip #3: Protect your organisation's data wherever it is
As remote work means your data is held in multiple locations such as data centres, various worksites and hybrid and multi-cloud environments, ensuring it is protected is essential. Without the right data protection strategies, this can create all sorts of nightmares. The Dell Technologies' Remote Work Readiness Index found that 27% of employees had used their personal laptop or mobile for work.
Traditional data protection methods can struggle to keep pace when employees can access large amounts of free storage from cloud providers, store data on devices that may be accessible to other household members or download it onto a USB so they can pop to the library to print a document.
To securely manage the enormous amount of data being generated in this climate, organisations need to prevent, detect and respond to threats wherever they occur.
A 2019 Deloitte study showed that nearly one-third (29%) of Australian businesses consider secure data storage a key driver in adopting cloud services. I recommend investing in a flexible, scalable, and manageable cybersecurity infrastructure to ensure the proactive prevention of security threats and data loss.
And while policies are no substitute for robust security, they need to work in partnership, so business leaders have an important role to play here too. Employees need to understand why following proper procedures matter and what is and isn't allowable, so they don't engage in risky behaviour.
Workplace culture can make a big difference – if avenues exist for employees to explain what problems caused them to go looking for a workaround in the first place, it's easier to nip this behaviour in the bud. Making sure IT is not siloed away from the rest of the business means they can better understand the problems they are trying to solve.
Embracing a connected workplace
Organisations must remember that business success today is not just about providing the right technology. It is equally – if not more – important to invest in digital upskilling and back end support.
The success of a connected workplace ultimately depends on an organisation's ability to embrace a flexible culture and support with the right technology infrastructure to enable innovation and effective remote work. And for that reason, it's a business concern, not just an IT one.
The exciting thing is we have the technology, the infrastructure, the services and the know-how to enable great user experiences. It is up to us to ensure we deliver these to workers to keep them productive, engaged, motivated and happy.