As companies scramble to operate during this crisis, it's natural to ask what the long-term effect on businesses and modern workplaces will be.
• The COVID-19 pandemic urges companies to optimize their internal communication digitally as remote work becomes an imperative
• Cloud platforms enable safe data processing for working remotely, but alternatives are needed to overcome potential bandwidth or internet issues
• Employers can make use of tools for managing the work processes and create conducive environments for employees used to working in-office to effectively do their job remotely
As of late March, more than 800,000 cases of coronavirus had been reported globally, with China, USA, Italy, Spain and Germany among the worst affected. As reported cases rise in most of Europe and the United States, a growing number of companies urge employees from affected areas to work remotely, since lockdowns and heightened precautionary measures become more widespread.
The uncertainty surrounding coronavirus and its economic implications test the company’s ability to offer workplace flexibility, maintain employee safety and keep up the productivity despite worker shortages in order to weather the storm.
With the advancement of digitalization came the trend of working remotely. A 2018 study on flexible working conducted on 18.000 professionals in 96 countries revealed that remote work has been linked to more productive workforces, business growth, business competitiveness, recruitment and retention of top talent, employee satisfaction and cost-effectiveness for companies.
However, establishing effective remote work processes is not as easy as it seems. Especially for highly regulated industries or sectors with customer-facing operations, such as retail and finance industry, remote work may not always be an option, which challenges companies to come up with alternative plans in order to keep the employee safety during this period. Yet, finding innovative solutions for these processes can help transform and drive businesses forward amidst this uncertainty.
A virtual workplace
Over the last decade, innovative tools offering in-app communication and teleconferencing, as well as cloud-based software have made remote work and managing employees easier. When utilizing these tools and creating work processes, companies should consider two important factors - data security and employee experience.
For remote work, having secure network protection is of crucial importance, especially when dealing with sensitive information like customer or employee data. Some industries, like finances, are moving towards embracing “zero-trust ecosystems,” that provide greater authentication measures and access control within the cloud. As cloud applications are web-based, processing and analysis are done outside of the local server, which provides additional security.
“By having all the necessary data in the cloud and by having the right security in place with the right permissions, the cloud will make it easy for you to work wherever you and your team happen to be,” says Kara5’s CEO Vojdan Karapetkovski.
Although the cloud-based infrastructure can provide the foundation required for more secure and accessible systems, alternatives must also be within arm’s reach in case of limited Wi-Fi or internet problems for remote workers – something that may not always be predictable. Furthermore, a great influx of remote workers can place stress on the ISP and network bandwidth, which can lead to slowdowns and impact productivity.
Employees might be asking themselves, what will happen if their internet goes down if their mobile network goes down, or during the lockdown, if they do not have people who can repair their internet to ensure they have connectivity. Companies also need to come up with solutions to issues like these.
For industries that include consumer-facing operations, such as logistics, retail, delivery, etc., testing remote work from home or extended leave options puts the management and internal communications to the test. For instance, Walmart launched an emergency leave policy for around 1.4 million U.S. workers that give workers the choice of deciding whether to work or stay at home due to the fear of the corona virus. The ride-share company Uber provides drivers with disinfectants in order to keep the cars clean, gives financial assistance for up to 14 days to drivers who are diagnosed or in self-isolation, and offers the additional service of using the cars for delivering food to customers. For these industries, the major challenge is to respond to the demand, while ensuring health and safety for employees that may be affected. For remote employees, using communication apps effectively and creating collaborative environments can keep people engaged. However, despite the fact that there are a wide variety of tools available to companies, it’s not always simple to introduce remote work processes into a culture that’s predisposed to working in-office.
Digital conference rooms, stand-up meetings, and personalized communication can be used to keep employees on the same page and create a connected digital workspace across the organization.
“Teems need to evaluate the effectiveness of their daily practices — how to write efficient emails, how to achieve outcomes in meetings, how to communicate with clients clearly and even how to be good leaders and mentors when you are not in the same room with your teams,” says Kara5’s CEO Vojdan Karapetkovski.
Deriving benefits from the new situation
The coronavirus crises will put remote-work strategies and alternative plans to the test, as companies begin to experiment with ways to digitalize their processes and workplaces. With companies from different industries piloting programs, the new insights gained from these efforts could pave the way for innovations and faster adoption of remote work practices in sectors it was deemed impossible before.
“The current crises is at the same time a test and an impetus - a test of whether companies can truly build an efficient digital workforce that can work from anywhere, and an impetus for digitalization and workplace evolution. Although not obvious at first sight, companies that overcome the challenges placed in front of them and adapt digitally, will subsequently reap the benefits that come from the digital transformation” says Kara5’s CEO Vojdan Karapetkovski.