As days and nights have blended and the boundaries between home and work have dissolved, it’s no surprise that many of us have felt disarmed during the lockdowns. Experts have called the phenomenon “temporary disintegration,” where we become dislocated from time and lose our sense of continuity.
One facet of life where everything seemed to be speeding up was in the digital realm. As our physical lives slowed down, the only way for businesses to keep running was a frantic pivot to digital. If organizations didn’t have remote policies in place, they certainly felt it when the pandemic hit, as they raced to build the kind of infrastructure that would allow our working lives to continue.
Often that meant sloppy solutions: attaching a bit of Zoom here, a touch of collaboration software there. It’s understandable that companies chose their digital technologies in haste – but it’s also the reason why these hastily devised methods can fail in the long run.
Ad hoc approaches are generally neither strategic nor sustainable. Now that this period of temporary disintegration is coming to an end, it’s time for businesses to reflect – making the most of pandemic-era solutions, letting go of what wasn’t working, and developing a plan to be more deliberate from now on. .
Tools like digital whiteboards and collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams make the difference. According to the Chartered Management Institute, over 80% of all businesses are expected to maintain some form of hybrid working arrangements, this type of connectivity is here to stay and with good reason.
“The pandemic has drastically changed the way most businesses work, so employers need to maintain some of the changes to meet the needs of modern employees,” says Ulla Riber, Group Workplace Management Manager. , ISSGlobal.
While statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor reveal that the big quit is still in play, it’s critical that employers take stock of employees’ expectations for flexibility and where they work, Riber said. Even if the restrictions are lifted, Riber notes that ISS monitoring has revealed continued demand for pandemic-related technologies, such as office reservation systems. Collaboration tools are a clear path to engaging a dispersed workforce.
And as the workforce became more widely distributed, the remnants of traditional perimeter protection such as cyber defense also faded. Organizations have had to realize the vast expansion of potential attack surfaces; not to mention the importance of educating individual employees about safety.
Meanwhile, staff wellbeing should always have been a priority, but at the height of Covid-19 it became a more pressing concern – as you would expect in a pandemic. Surveys have shown that HR automation has increased dramatically over this period, not only with performance management tools, but also as a way to measure staff sentiment and well-being. Technologies that help staff stay healthy, be productive and secure team organizations with a set of digital tools that will be vital no matter the big picture.
While the pandemic era has undoubtedly proven the value of digitalization, there can also be a tendency to see “going digital” as a catch-all solution to all sorts of problems, be they encouraged by sellers looking for an easy sale or following organic hype. According to Richard Jeffery, national director of social enterprise The Growth Company, this attitude can easily put companies in a sticky spot, with disappointing implementations often discouraging organizations from digitalization in general.
“I’ve seen a lot of companies buy software or hardware because they heard they needed it,” he says. “But when that fails, it becomes a major barrier to digital adoption.”
Another issue during the pandemic was accessibility, adds Jeffery. All the latest technology in the world is of little use if people are left behind due to non-localized infrastructure, lack of education, or poorly applied technology that is not user-friendly.
And, with all of these changes, the cultural hangover can be the hardest symptom to cure. One of the results of this temporary disintegration was long hours and a kind of virtual presenteeism – where staff, knowing they could be online at all times, felt compelled to show their faces for the sake of doing so. .
“The pandemic has helped us start to question the principle of presenteeism,” says Ita Waller, group human resources director at integrated marketing agency Unlimited. “But going forward, it’s important that working hours are respected, especially when working from home when it’s easy to stay online.”
Likewise, Waller adds, maintaining a balance between true flexibility is crucial because, according to a Microsoft report, 67% of staff want After in-person work, no less – in order for companies to shift to hybrid working or reduce office space, they need to be aware of the needs of all staff, not just the loudest ones. “Making the office accessible so people can collaborate in person should be as encouraged as respecting people’s decisions to stay home,” Waller says. What form this will take is undetermined, but it will require careful balancing of digital technologies and physical spaces.
Digitization is a process, so companies that have managed to leverage the anomalous conditions of the pandemic era to their advantage should not rest on their laurels.
Instead, they should try to capitalize on the existing momentum. For businesses, at any stage of the process, it requires stepping back — going back to basics, planning, and focusing on desired results, says Jeffery of the Growth Company. Times may have been strange, but rudimentary principles like being mindful of things like sourcing remain. “Companies should figure out what they want to achieve with digital,” he says. “Look at what digital can do to change your vision – can you achieve faster, more holistic change? Make sure your systems and processes are efficient before you digitize them – you don’t want to digitize an unnecessary process.
Meanwhile, Unlimited’s Waller notes, technologies such as robotic process automation should be used to automate daily tasks; it’s not about replacement, it’s about efficiency and giving employees time back — to help alleviate such pandemic monsters like long hours and poor work-life balance.
Hybrid working has empowered employees, she says, and having an open approach to hybrid working, while constantly evaluating and adapting working practices and technology, will ensure businesses on all sides get the most out of digital, whether with future disruptions or – knock on wood – functioning in the old normal.