By Keith Tully
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic in early March 2019, kick-starting an era which would change working life as we know it. Over a limited notice period, the operational structure of businesses across the globe were forced to adapt to remote working, as emergency legislation required workers to refrain from entering the workplace, in an attempt to limit the infection rate of coronavirus.
Workplaces were required to initiate continuity plans, fast-tracking their vision to digitise the business, allowing for operations to continue during this unprecedented period and to fulfil the interrupted delivery of services. Traditional businesses were forced to adapt to flexible working as strict lockdown and social distancing measures restricted the movement of workers and paved the way to remote and flexible working, removing office centricity. We take you through some of the ways businesses have adapted, and continue to adjust to remote working, writes Keith Tully of Real Business Rescue, restructuring, turnaround and company liquidation specialists.
Establishing Virtual Communication Strategies
As a result of remote working, many employers turned to software already available on the market to integrate seamless communication portals into virtual workspaces. Software such as Microsoft Teams is readily available, making it easy to provide access to entire workforces securely and instantly. Tools as such are vital in the maintenance of workforces as in addition to collaborative working, it allows businesses to maintain brand identity and establish a virtual presence in the working lives of employees.
Many western businesses have turned to the likes of Microsoft Teams as a temporary replacement for video conferencing and instant messaging. The platform which is universally available has replaced traditional conference calling facilities for many companies. Begbies Traynor Group, UK’s leading corporate recovery specialists are permanently switching to Microsoft Teams to benefit from the integrated conference calling facility. Zoom is a similar alternative and Slack, professional communication software with a modern flair and multi-faceted chat facility.
In addition to communication software, many customer-facing businesses have been forced to quickly integrate e-signature facilities into their offering to allow for full-service delivery and satisfy legal requirements.
Fort Knox Approach to Security
It’s clear that working from home and remote working poses a higher risk to data security as the environment is not under the control of the employer. Businesses with regularly dealings with sensitive data are bolstering security to cover remote working and enforcing security procedures before granting access to company networks. If you’re a workplace with no business continuity plan in place, patching a strategy to match this calibre can be timely due to the security layers involved and higher than anticipated costs.
Businesses are also revisiting insurance policies to extend cover for work equipment at sites other than the designated office, including for theft and loss.
Redirecting Investment to Fund Remote Working Technology
Some businesses may be at different technological stages as many may be geared to allow for regular remote working and some may just be experimenting with this form of working. The first key area of investment during this period looks to be IT infrastructure to allow for information, internal networks and company servers to be accessed from home and to offer different levels of access. In the wake of Covid-19, many traditionally operating businesses have recognised the importance of the versatility posed by a modern IT infrastructure, enabling different uses, from the likes of hosting virtual training tools to the integration of online HR.
While businesses are pumping money into IT infrastructure, they are also making costs savings as the temporary shutdown of offices has reduced overheads and minimised the maintenance of work facilities.
Maintaining Employee Health and Wellbeing
Maintaining employee wellbeing remotely is challenging and time-consuming as face to face contact can be done simultaneously with different teams in an office setting. The virtual equivalent to this can be done through the likes of collaborative software, stimulating a sense of belonging. A report conducted by Slack found the following concerning employee health and wellbeing paired with the use of the platform:
“Slack users are nearly twice as likely as non-Slack users to report that their sense of belonging improved while working from home.
“What’s more, we see a decrease in feelings of loneliness and isolation: 27% of non-Slack users say loneliness is a workplace challenge, compared with 18% of those who use Slack.”
Businesses are finding unique and creative ways to keep staff motivated, such as monthly postal treats, fitness challenges and daily motivation emails. At Real Business Rescue, we recently held a virtual racing event, Friday virtual tavern meet-ups and an online cocktail masterclass to cater to a variety of team interests. On the brighter side, many staff members are savouring the time otherwise spent commuting to work with family and picking up new hobbies.
Static Workplaces during Work from Home Covid-19 phase
The challenges of working from home or remote working vary for each industry as some jobs cannot be adapted due to the nature of fixed objects, resources and subjects. This includes the likes of gardeners, teachers, interior decorators and labour workers, to name a few. The teaching industry has adapted rapidly by offering virtual learning, online education resources and one-to-one video support.
Workplaces around the world are making long term arrangements to allow for remote working in the event of a second lockdown or as a result of a change in workplace policies. Selected employees may never return to an office environment having worked remotely, illustrating higher productivity and a better work-life balance. Tech giants recently announced permanent work from home policies, such as Fujitsu, Slack, Square and Twitter after noticing limited interruption and better productivity. Many traditional workplaces are looking to extend existing work from home policies, with future scope to make this permanent.
As lockdown measures ease across the world and the working world phases back into operation, workplaces are adjusting to enforcing social distancing in the workplace, refining hygiene standards and competing with employee expectations for greater flexibility. The ripples of change continue to be felt across workplaces on a global scale as we continue the fight against coronavirus and its destructive effects.
About the Author
Keith Tully is a partner at Real Business Rescue, part of Begbies Traynor Group, and specialises in advising businesses in distress on restructuring and turnaround solutions. He has over 35 years’ experience in the insolvency sector.