With restrictions lifted, many workers are now looking to come back to the office in some capacity. With this in mind, organisations need to take action now to create the right conditions for employees to be able to return safely and productively
Here is advice from innovative business and technology leaders on how to best welcome employees ‘back to work’.
Simon O’Kane, Head of EMEA at Asana
“With pandemic restrictions having lifted in the UK, many Brits are evaluating how and where they want to work. At Asana we champion an office-centric approach, while other organisations may prefer to return to the office, shift to a hybrid working model or remain fully remote. No matter how companies choose to work, prioritising tools that enable clarity and accountability for all their staff is key, no matter where, when, or how they are working. But, without a clear blueprint for hybrid work, providing clarity and collaboration across the organisation is a massive obstacle.
In response to the sudden shift to remote work, many companies rushed to introduce a plethora of apps. But 18 months on, it’s clear that teams spend far too much time switching between apps to source information and updates. In fact, Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index showed that knowledge workers switch between 10 apps 25 times per day since shifting to remote work, resulting in longer hours and higher burnout rates across the country.
To tackle this issue and prepare for the next wave of work, organisations need to evaluate and streamline their tech stack. Businesses must eliminate the tools they don’t use while integrating the ones they do into a single platform that removes information silos and drives clarity even when distributed across locations and time zones. Now is the time for organisations globally to reset and reimagine the way they work for the better.”
Asam Akhtar, Channel Manager, UK at Envoy
“One thing I’ve learned from the pandemic is that employees want and expect the freedom to choose how, when, and where they work. And for many, that means a hybrid work schedule. They also expect to return to a safe environment.
To encourage a speedy return, leaders should invest in tech that keeps people safe. Tools that can track workplace density to help ensure social distancing. Technology that can verify vaccine status – or can survey and screen employees before they come into the office. Rather than relying on gut instinct, use workplace analytics to help guide your next steps. From employee health surveys to aggregated data on how often employees are going in, these insights can provide valuable guidance in setting policies and reconfiguring workspaces.
Data on how many people work on-site each day can help managers right-size the office layout and minimize wasted space.
This kind of data-driven decision-making is going to be critical to rebuilding an office model that works for everyone and offers employees the right resources to do their jobs effectively.”
Dominic Allon, CEO at Pipedrive
“The ‘work wherever, live wherever’ landscape is here to stay and is only the beginning of a continued digital evolution. IT improvements are often confused with true digital transformation. Upgrading your hardware and software is just the start, but acquiring maturing technologies that use innovative data processing methods to automate practices that transform your business for the better is the real future.
Businesses globally have proven throughout the pandemic that a rapid shift in digital mentality is possible, and it is vital that we continue on this trajectory. Successful organisations will continue to adapt to their users’ and customers’ needs. State-of-the-art machine learning tools can now monitor, in real-time, trends, variations, anomalies and foresee any potential errors. Automation is not only what your business needs, but it is what your customer wants.
Replacing human interactions with artificial intelligence will allow for a faster, omnichannel and data-backed positive customer experience. More importantly, these tools will continuously adapt their process and provide feedback and actionable insights about customers back to your business, which can be used to improve marketing, sales and customer service practices. Unifying valuable information to create a customer-centric approach will continue to play a vital role for organisations of all sizes in the coming years.”
Stuart Templeton, Head of UK at Slack
“The pandemic has shown us that the office is no longer the ‘gold standard’ of productivity. Less time wasted in rush hour commutes means more time to spend on things that really add value. Flexible work also helps retain employees who need to shape work around life in different ways. Businesses must therefore use this moment to take learnings from the past year, and reimagine the future of work. This is crucial as our recent research of over 1,000 UK knowledge workers, examining current working habits and how employees feel about the future of work, found that the majority (42%) of UK employees who have worked from home in the last year are concerned they won’t have the same level of flexible working in the future.
While every organisation will approach this challenge differently, staying aligned must remain the top priority for all business leaders. Now that physical offices are so much less a part of the employee experience, having a digital headquarters—a central place for work and social interactions—has become critical. It’s not just a reflection of flexible, asynchronous work; it’s also an enabler of it.”
Damien Brophy, Vice President EMEA at ThoughtSpot
“The future of work will be characterised by insights at the core of everything. Not only will every employee be expected and empowered to find insights, but connecting systems together means those insights will trigger actions across the business. This is the evolution of work. Not just more informed, but insights powering processes.
It’s people enabled by modern technology (machine learning, AI, and automation) to drive innovation, uncover hidden insights, and provide business value, using self-service analytics to answer urgent problems.
A world where users can simply ask and answer questions without sifting through data. The future of work will revolve around AI-driven insights using algorithms to uncover hidden insights automatically, surfacing answers to questions that staff didn’t think to ask, yet.
With this freedom we are all empowered to provide more business value using less time and effort. Imagine spending less time writing reports and more time refining business processes, improving operations, reducing financial risks, simply doing the job much better, and adding ever-more more value. Where workers can change the way business is done and how their customers are served through smarter insights, quicker answers, and deeper, more inclusive thought, it’s positively redefining the future of work.”
Jamie Milroy, CEO & Co-Founder, DASH Rides
“September marked a gradual return to the workplace for a huge raft of employees as organisations kick-started their return to the office strategies. Whilst the transition back to a physical workplace will be welcomed by many, enterprises need to demonstrate that they are empowering people with safe and sustainable travel options.
After almost two years of being in and out of national lockdowns, our relationship with the daily commute has irrevocably changed. Employees are increasingly calling out for new modes of travel that improves their health, wellbeing and productivity but their environmental footprint too. With many UK workers citing the daily commute as a barrier to a full-time return to the office and 82% stating they would like their employer to use COVID as a catalyst to revamp their employee benefits, such as travel or cycle to work schemes, we’re already seeing sustainable travel become central to the future of work.
Attitudes around work have fundamentally changed and as we begin to build a ‘new normal’ in our working lives, employees are placing a higher value on workplace benefits that address these challenges. Perks and benefits that are both easily and immediately accessible and help contribute to healthier, more fulfilling and sustainable lifestyles will be increasingly important as we rebuild. At DASH Rides, we’re working with companies to help supercharge their workplace travel through the cycle to work scheme. Each ride, on one of our e-bikes, is carbon offset by 400%.”
Clare Loveridge, Vice President & General Manager EMEA at Arctic Wolf
“As teams gradually return to the office, many businesses are still working out what this means for their future operations. For many, this is bringing a whole new set of cybersecurity challenges, which in some cases are even more complex than going fully remote was a year ago. If worker devices continue to move between different networks, their company security can quite easily be compromised, identity and access management becomes harder, misconfigurations are easier to miss — all increasing cyber risk.
It is therefore vital that organisations, of any shape and size, are actively taking the time to review their security practices and protocols, with a hybrid, often disparate networks, in mind. Businesses must ask themselves these questions; how fast they can react to an incident; how quickly they can pivot from investigation to containment, and how well do they know the environment and what runs within it? Only then can freedom from cyber risk be truly realised.”
Andreï Sochala, VP Sales, EMEA & APAC at Aircall
“The shift to remote and hybrid work models over the past 18 months has accelerated digital transformation for companies of all sizes. Customer expectations have evolved in line with the pandemic too: empathy and personalisation have become crucial to every communication touchpoint, which requires companies to know their customers and their journeys on both a macro and granular level.
As teams, as well as customers, begin returning to their offices, this isn’t going to change. The key to lasting relationships is to stay close to customers to understand their changing needs and seize opportunities to solve issues. Tech solutions can help meet those objectives with better visibility, intelligent data and actionable insights into their customers’ needs and their teams’ performances.”
Dahwood Ahmed, Regional Director UK&I at Extreme Networks
“Hybrid working looks here to stay as workers continue to desire the flexibility to choose where and how they work. Businesses must therefore continue to break down geographical barriers and organisational silos to keep their employees connected, engaged and productive. However, during this process, organisations must avoid only prioritising the software and hardware they use. They must instead reflect on their infrastructure as a whole and ensure they have a robust, resilient, and reliable cloud data-driven network in place to begin with, as only then can the benefits of any technologies be realised. With the right networking infrastructure in place, businesses and their employees can maintain operations and achieve the infinitely distributed connectivity needed to power the future of work.
Featured image: ©Valentin Kundeus