The coronavirus pandemic has caused a growing number of organisations to consider a permanent shift to remote working, but doing so will also require a cultural change
The business world was catapulted into turbulence and uncertainty in March when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and companies were forced almost immediately into remote work. Though it has been a highly testing time for many businesses, the crisis has also showcased the virtues of flexible working.
For organisations that had already embraced remote working to some degree, their perceptions of its value have been verified. For those that had resisted or been sceptical of remote working, their views have been challenged having now experienced it first-hand. They may have been forced into it, but they are now seeing positives outcomes.
One of the key inhibitors to companies embracing remote working in the past was a prevailing view that it might hinder employee productivity. However, a recent study of 2,250 office workers by LogMeIn and OnePoll revealed the contrary with 37 per cent in fact feeling more productive in their home environment. They’re also happier. Two in three workers said they are financially better off without daily commuting and lunch bills, and 56 per cent said they are spending more time with their friends and family.
Where challenges have existed in the sudden shift to mass remote working, these are in the area of security. LogMeIn, which has kept businesses collaborating throughout the pandemic with its video conferencing, chat and webinar tools, builds end-to-end encryption into its VoIP (voice over internet protocol) platforms, prevents unauthorised use of its services or compromise of company assets, protects the privacy and integrity of confidential communications, and integrates seamlessly with other networks and security tools.
“Those key pillars are the foundations of how we build our products at LogMeIn across all our business units,” says Joseph Walsh, senior manager for international product marketing, unified communications and collaboration, at LogMeIn.
“We always strive to do what we can to make sure we’re as secure as we possibly can be for our customers, but there are also a number of things our end-users can do. When hosting video-conferencing meetings, for example, they can use features like meeting lock for enhanced privacy and remove anybody who shouldn’t be there. They can implement additional security levels like putting passwords in place for meetings and only give access to content to specific people.”
Though the world was already moving towards a more flexible work environment before the pandemic, with research by Global Workplace Analytics reporting a 140 per cent increase since 2005, COVID-enforced lockdowns have accelerated the trend by several years.
Facebook has led the charge in announcing its plans for a permanent home workforce, with an “aggressive” remote hiring spree driving its objective for half its employees to be home based over the next five to ten years.
The social networking giant has said it is likely to adapt salaries to match local costs of living, but changes will also be required around culture and specific considerations given for each employee’s lifestyle and home circumstances. Employers need to be especially empathetic and flexible to the different stages of life their employees are in while working for them. For example, a parent with school-age children has different needs than a young professional in a house share or somebody living alone in a small apartment.
The future work is going to be a more flexible work environment, something that is dynamic and can adapt to each employee
This empathy plays into a wider strategy around corporate culture. Trust is a massive element of remote working and employees who feel trusted by management will be happier and more productive. Employees also need to trust their management that their output and performance will be measured in the most appropriate way. When LogMeIn’s whole workforce began working from home, it published a content resource centre giving advice to first-time remote workers and those managing remote teams.
“A lot of it is just simple stuff around the importance of getting up like you normally would in the morning, having a shower, having a dedicated workspace and treating the day like you would if you were going into the office,” says Walsh. “That all falls under that cultural umbrella, and trust, maturity and empathy are crucial. Culture will make or break companies as they continue to progress in this new normal we find ourselves in.
“The future work is going to be a more flexible work environment, something that is dynamic and can adapt to each employee. At different stages of our working career, we’re in different stages of our personal life and we have different requirements. Work needs to be flexible and adapt to that because the benefits are universal. An organisation gets more productivity, employees are happier, and that creates a longer relationship between the employer and employee, reducing costs and staff turnover.”
LogMeIn didn’t only seek to provide additional support to its employees during the COVID-19 crisis, but to its customers too. The company made all its tools available for free to thousands of organisations, both existing customers that were consuming some but not all of its solutions and frontline organisations in healthcare and education, so they could stay productive and operating at full force with such a scattered workforce.
While other platforms have struggled with spikes in demand, LogMeIn has led the way in reliability. The constant availability of unified communications tools is vital as companies continue to embrace remote working, and business continuity will remain crucial in the next year to 18 months as restrictions are eased, but a vaccine is yet to materialise. Any business continuity plan needs to place people at the forefront of its thinking, and how they can be supported in their surroundings and work environment.
“You need to empower the workforce with tools like ours that are easy to use and encourage maximum collaboration and productivity,” says Walsh. “We facilitate anything from a large town hall broadcast, addressing 100,000 employees, to team sessions and one to ones. Once you have the empathetic element of corporate culture, you also have to ‘put your arms around’ the IT team.
“With thousands of employees in thousands of different locations, they need remote management and monitoring tools and as much self-service IT troubleshooting and chatbot functionality as possible. We’re the work-from-anywhere company and are here to support anywhere workers in the flexible new normal we’re entering.”
For more information please visit goto.com