With the vaccine roll out gathering pace in the UK, for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began it seems there really is light at the end of the tunnel, and a way out of the seemingly endless cycle of lockdowns we’ve endured for the past 12 months.
But while we’re desperate to return to ‘normal’, some things will come out of the pandemic having changed forever; and the way we work is one of them.
In a world post-Covid, businesses will have to achieve a balance between returning to the old ways of working that were effective pre-2020 and embracing the new ways of working that have emerged during the pandemic.
As businesses shape their ‘new normal’, it is the perfect opportunity to completely re-evaluate working practices. So, how can your organisation make a success of the new work normal? Let’s look at some of the things that have changed and how to make them work to your advantage.
No matter how much people may (or may not) want them to, things aren’t going to go back to normal in terms of going into the office Monday to Friday for eight hours a day. Lockdown has shown that most of the office-based workforce don’t actually need to be in the office every day; the world hasn’t ground to a halt and business has (mostly) been able to carry on as usual with people working from their home office instead of the company one. And of course, many organisations have seized the opportunity to downsize their office space, reducing overheads in the process. Even if we return to the office one or two days a week, it looks like we’ll never return to the old days and ways of working.
To make the new work normal a success, organisations need to create a supportive remote environment for staff, ensure company goals are clearly defined and communicated so that people have purpose, and finally, provide staff with the tools and resources needed to ensure the goals can be achieved.
Encourage boundaries between work and home life
To avoid the sensation that workers are “sleeping in the office” rather than working from home, it’s important that boundaries between work and home life are encouraged by encouraging teams to switch off in the evening and not be available at all hours. Companies can create these boundaries by setting out expectations that emails don’t need to be answered after a certain time, encouraging people to sign off at the end of the day and really mark the time between work ending and the evening beginning.
Not all interactions need to take place in pre-arranged Teams meetings. Spontaneous, casual phone calls and IM chats can replace the face-to-face interactions that used to happen in the kitchen or by the watercooler. Let people know they can pick up the 'phone' to one another any time, and that it doesn't always have to be about work. To make these interactions feel more natural, there is even software available that can pair colleagues at random and have them ‘cross paths’ in the virtual workspace so they can chat and/or get to know one another. And following on from this, be sure to celebrate the positives of remote working. We know lots of formerly office-based employees are lamenting the loss of face-to-face contact with their colleagues, but there are many positives to working remotely which are easily overlooked; no more miserable commutes on freezing cold winter or boiling hot summer days; greater accessibility and easier working practices for disabled people; more flexibility for staff members with carer or parent duties and the potential to attract and retain a wider pool of talent, as physical location is no longer a factor in job hunting.
Communicate clear goals
Be clear about company goals; have they changed now due to the changes to the way we work? Are you still working towards goals set pre-Covid? Have clarity across the business so that everyone understands what the organisation is working towards and how their role fits in with that. As well as being imperative to the success of an organisation, this gives staff direction and purpose, which is so important when working alone. Management also need to identify what teams and individuals need to feel supported in achieving company goals, which might involve more change to working processes and approaches.
Invest in the right tech
Long-term remote working will probably require you to invest in new tech. Whether it's replacing employee laptops with a newer model or deploying solutions designed for remote working, most companies will likely need to spend on technology to make remote working more effortless. The cloud was already being leveraged by the majority of companies pre-Covid, but the switch to long-term remote working means those companies yet to embrace the cloud need to catch up quickly. Cloud-based solutions let employees securely access the apps and data they need from home, in a reliable, centralised location, allowing you to stay flexible and agile. By comparison, on-premises systems are clunky and cumbersome. The cloud is ideal for meeting the challenging and complex needs of a disparate and distributed teams within the same organisation.
Don't forget internal comms
It's more important than ever to make sure that information can flow freely through your organisation, so time and effort will need to be invested in internal communications. Aside from having weekly or daily team huddles to discuss work matters, it can be beneficial for organisations to have a weekly all-company check-in where news and updates can be relayed to the entire team. It's also an opportunity for employees to ask any questions they might have. Making sure managers and teams have regular contact time, and offering wellbeing check-ins with HR are more ways of ensuring good internal communication is maintained even without the office environment.
Staying agile and transparent will be key to successfully navigating the uncertainty of the year ahead, and leveraging cloud technologies and other solutions that can better equip businesses for remote working is essential. While we might be able to hold on to some of the old working practices of the pre-Covid world, others are gone forever. Organisations that embrace the change, re-evaluate how they operate and balance effective old working habits with fresh new ones will be able to make a success of the new work normal.
Microsoft 365 has everything you need to stay secure and agile in the new working world. Core has a range of Microsoft solution workshops where we showcase the capabilities of M365, with practical demos and insights from our experts. To book your remote workshop or for more information click here.