We recently held a roundtable event with Kelly Olsen, Chief Operting Officer at SThree, James Hanbury, Senior Partner at Computer Futures, Paul Jennings, Head of ICT Service Operations at Imperial College London, and Pádraig Belton, Technology and Business Reporter at the BBC. We discussed the topic of how technology can support a long-term remote workforce and after it Kelly decided to pen her thoughts on the subject below.
How can technology support a long-term remote workforce?
Events of the last few months have changed the world.
And as the needs of the workforce continue to shift towards remote working we’re more reliant on technology than ever before.
When the first rumblings of the pandemic and its immediate consequences became apparent, there were inevitably questions around how businesses could keep moving during lockdown while guaranteeing the safety of employees.
What’s happened since has been incredible and many businesses are now looking at how remote working can continue long-term.
We have all embraced technology at a pace never seen before as we prioritise keeping people safe while continuing to serve our customers in the best possible way.
And things that were almost unthinkable two months ago are now the ‘new normal’. At SThree, for example, we went from everyone working in an office to 98% of our people working from home in just 15 days.
But will this ‘new normal’ last?
Last week, I was part of the Computer Futures discussion about the workforce of the future alongside James Hanbury, Senior Partner at Computer Futures, Paul Jennings, Head of ICT Service Operations at Imperial College London, and Pádraig Belton, Technology and Business Reporter at the BBC.
What struck me was that we are all facing many of the same challenges. And what we all agreed on was that remote working is working well and is here to stay. The idea that in future an offer of employment may well be remote-optional is definitely on the cards and Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has confirmed this for Twitter.
The pandemic has forced us all to work differently and through this situation many will ultimately enjoy better, more flexible working experiences. Technology has made this possible and will be fundamental to long term recovery in the transition from surviving to thriving.
Working, staying connected and promoting wellbeing through tech
Many businesses have invested in their remote working systems and environments and as a result, we’ve already seen thousands of hours saved on commuting, which can only be good for wellbeing, the environment and work-life balance.
Communication technology, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack are making it easier to stay connected with colleagues in a way that is different but can still be as effective as physical office-based interactions.
And having a virtual whiteboard capability is something I’m going to love. Whilst it’s still a bit stilted in that you’ve got to wait for someone to finish speaking and it’s not the same as being in a room, the ability to work on things together, design things together, run workshops and run agile sprints, will be incredibly useful going forward.
There are also a range of tools that make quick check-ins and other morale boosting activities, such as virtual gatherings, fun quizzes, and sharing pictures of pets, possible.
Of course, there are challenges in ensuring people aren’t always ‘on’ and managers can take care of their people remotely by using one of the many work planning tools available.
Ultimately though, it comes down to people making the effort to stay connected with their colleagues and their teams.
With each day that passes, however, trust is being built between business leaders, their teams and the technology that can support them in the long term. That bodes well for the future.
On returning to work, opening offices will very much be our decision. As we open them it will be thoughtful and careful with a gradual return that suits the ‘new normal’.