Klaus Allion, MD, ANT Telecom, considers what life will be life after lockdown
It was inevitable that we’d end up working from home and having virtual meetings with global pressures on organisations to reduce their carbon footprints and address the employee work/life balance, but the shift towards remote working has been a gradual process until now.
With more video calls, less travel and the ease of instant digital communication, combined with flexible working, businesses have been embracing the trend at their own pace. Yet, with the unexpected crisis of the Coronavirus taking every organisation by surprise, we’ve suddenly arrived at the end destination of remote working too soon, and many are not ready.
Hoping for a return to normal at the end of the crisis will see businesses fail at an alarming rate as Klaus Allion, MD of ANT Telecom contests; hope is not a strategy – businesses need to prepare now for the end of lockdown.
Inevitability of change
The harbingers of change have been on the horizon for some time, yet have suddenly become stark reality. Coronavirus lockdowns have seen air pollution levels plummet across areas that have put restrictions in place, making the case for long-term environmental change stronger than ever before. Supply chains have been hit by border restrictions, increasing demand for local production of fresh food and other goods. Business managers are recognising the productivity gains of less travel to and from work and meetings, calling into question the concept of the traditional office environment – even the traditional working week.
With change this seismic, a return to a ‘normal’ that may now not exist is looking ever more unlikely, particularly given that the lockdown exit procedure will undoubtedly unfurl over months – with differing levels of impact on different businesses across the UK.
It is, as such, imperative that businesses recognise that sound working practices to support remote working are a long-term necessity, both in terms of business continuity and employee duty of care.
Lessons from lockdown
Indeed, the initial shock of being thrust into new ways of working has highlighted – in many cases – just how ill-prepared businesses and employees have been. Home working environments and infrastructure have been re-evaluated, with organisations such as Twitter reimbursing employees for the expenses required to set up home offices. Broadband speeds for many are still painfully slow, meaning that access to tools such as reliable video conferencing has been difficult. And, in some cases, without regular colleague interaction as before, employee morale has suffered, with two in five employees feeling isolated while working from home.
And it’s not only those working from home who are impacted. Social distancing measures have caused employers to rethink both the number of tasks that are performed within the workplace and how those tasks are performed. For example, tasks that would have required two staff members due to safety concerns now need to be performed by one staff member.
With the majority of the UK workforce now effectively lone workers, how can businesses ensure their employees are working in a safe environment? How can they provide employees with the assurance that they are being protected, both to limit feelings of isolation and maintain HR compliance?
Businesses need to get busy now
Improving communications and working from home systems is now arguably essential to business continuity. Lone worker protection will increasingly become a critical factor for more organisations – from manufacturing sites to supermarket retailers. And, businesses should be considering automation technology to mitigate the number of tasks that have manual processes involved.
From automated monitoring systems that initiate home-worker employee welfare checks at specified times; to communication devices that integrate radio and smartphone technology for on- and off-site communication, as well as lone worker protection all in one device; and wireless asset condition monitoring solutions, there is now a raft of technology that can help organisations address both their employee duty of care and ensure they are well prepared to manage during the coming months.
Adapt or fail
Those businesses that are quickest out of the blocks with a revolutionary view of working, will steal a march on those stood in the corner still reeling from the punches brought about by the seismic shift caused by Coronavirus. Getting prepared now for the new ‘normal’ where business is conducted remotely as the default setting (with face to face limited to essential) relies on fundamental changes not only for business infrastructure, but also business thinking. We’ve just fast-forwarded into the future and it’s here to stay. Businesses need to adapt – fast.