The Covid-19 pandemic radically changed the way we worked across the UK in 2020. April 2020 saw almost half of the UK working from home, while there has been a 212 percent rise in job adverts that involve remote working.
Many have welcomed the change to a better work-life balance, with some employees going so far as to claim they would be happy to take a pay cut to work from home permanently. Some of the more adventurous among us have opted to ‘work from home’ in another country for a few weeks or months. Barbados has even introduced a 12-month welcome stamp for those who want to work there remotely for an extended period, making dreams come true for those who prefer answering emails on the beach with a piña colada.
It’s perhaps unsurprising then that only seven percent of UK professionals cite returning to office work as a top priority. While the UK Government’s guidance suggests we’ll start to filter back into physical offices again from the end of June, it’s unlikely that we’ll be heading back into offices in droves and settling back into the traditional 9 to 5. That being said, it’s difficult to predict exactly how the workplace will look six months from now, let alone six years.
To ensure we’re ready for any scenario that’s thrown at us, mid-size and enterprise businesses need to adopt the agile mindset typically seen in start-ups so they can adapt to the ever-evolving working landscape.
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We’re going through changes
When the unimaginable happened last year, businesses across the world had to spring into action to adapt. While some industries and business types already had flexible working practices in place and found the move to an entirely remote workforce effortless, others found this much more difficult. For some industries, this was for obvious reasons – manufacturing for example – but for others it was because they had relied on the legacy systems they’d had in place to suit the way they had worked for years up until that point.
While the pandemic can be seen as an anomaly in terms of risks to business, it made some businesses realize how they need to adapt their technology setup and culture not just for this situation, but for their futures. Today, virtually every industry and every type of business needs to be set up for the change from ‘workplace’ to ‘workspace’ to ensure it can run with its employees being completely dispersed, as well as meet changing employee expectations.
It can benefit businesses and people alike by enabling you to hire the best people regardless of their location, and also by making hiring practices more inclusive by opening up opportunities for people with physical disabilities that may have prevented them from being able to travel into an office.
Many businesses are achieving this level of flexibility through the use of cloud-based solutions. These often have built-in security and provide you with control over your technology so you can use it to meet business needs as they change – not just what they are today. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2024, more than 45 percent of IT spending on system infrastructure, infrastructure software, application software, and business process outsourcing will shift from traditional solutions to the cloud.
Many have adopted the use of tools like Microsoft 365 and Teams to facilitate communication and collaboration. These kinds of solutions are empowering teams to boost their productivity regardless of the size of the business, often providing the same functionality and connectivity whether you’re sat at a quiet home desk or working on your smartphone on a park bench.
Another way in which medium-sized and larger businesses can learn from an agile, start-up-style approach is in their willingness to embrace the flexible culture these technologies afford in the face of uncertainty. Even as the unfamiliar starts to become the norm as far as remote work is concerned, organizations must consider how their people, processes, and systems can reflect their values working culture as these shift, making agility the norm rather than the outlier.
Whether through restructuring the way teams work, how new staff members are onboarded and trained, or simply brainstorming new ideas, it’s crucial that leaders and decision makers remain open-minded about different technologies and approaches that may fit their circumstances as their businesses evolve.
While it’s often more challenging communicating with and garnering feedback from larger workforces, forward-thinking organizations should now more than ever use the innovation technologies available to them to re-evaluate the way they facilitate remote work. Even before the pandemic a growing number of businesses, especially those on the larger side, operated across countries, time zones, and cultures.
Now that teams who previously shared office space are less likely to experience daily, face-to-face interaction, directors, managers and supervisors should take an especially active interest in how they can enable maximum flexibility and productivity no matter how, where, or when work is done.
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The unpredicted by-product: Innovation
These start-up style agile working practices can also encourage business growth opportunities. Businesses didn’t have the luxury of time and careful planning in this situation, but with this mindset, many mid-sized and larger companies were pushed to become more creative, causing their innovation to blossom in the face of adversity. We saw restaurants completely change their business models by creating and selling ‘at-home’ meal kits online, cosmetics companies adopting AI to replace in-person make-up counter services, and theatres sell tickets for live online-only performances.
Over the next year, the need to adapt to changing conditions will undoubtedly stay. Despite now having a clear plan in place for easing lockdown, there will also need to be an ongoing evaluation of business and employee needs to see what setup will be best suited for every step of the way. This doesn’t just apply to this year – market trends will continue to bring new opportunities over time, and adapting should be seen as a continual journey, ensuring your business is thinking of tomorrow as well as today. Having the right technology setup in place will be integral not just in helping businesses survive but allowing them to thrive.
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Tom Cotton, Agile Workspace Technical Director, Six Degrees (opens in new tab)