Working from home on the odd occasion used to be a privilege that companies offered to trusted employees, but it was never intended to be as widespread as it is right now. In fact, when building a case for the NBN in 2010, the Gillard government set a target of 10 per cent of the population working from home half the time.
A decade later, things have changed significantly. Technology improvements have made it easier to be productive from anywhere and, in 2019, more than one in three Australian workers already regularly worked from home. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drove organisations to direct all staff to work from home where possible, creating a dramatic spike in the number of people who worked remotely.
Unfortunately, many public and private sector organisations weren’t prepared to have their entire workforce working from home. Organisations were caught out with a lack of hardware and access to the company’s data. Furthermore, many employees accustomed to working in the office simply didn’t have the required digital mindset to work remotely, so struggled with both working in isolation and required additional IT support to setup equipment and connect to systems.
The rapid acceleration to digital transformation that supports a predominantly remote workplace has proven to be a key challenge for Australian and New Zealand organisations.
It is essential for organisations to develop strategies that not only address their immediate circumstances but also help them to future proof against unknown events. There are four key steps organisations can take now to be better prepared in the modern workplace:
1. Focus on the employee experience
While companies often focus on processes, equipment, and keeping the business running, the most often-overlooked element of success is the employee experience. Any employee survey conducted over the past decade will support the fact that communication is the bedrock of an organisation’s ability to operate. Therefore, it’s essential for organisations to put employee communication high on the priority list.
To support workplace communication, the tools and platforms employees use to get their work done must be easy to operate, intuitive, and responsive. Organisations can consider using ecommerce portals to let employees shop for their own workplace tools, for example, giving them more ownership over their workday experience.
Companies can save costs by giving employees access to the appropriate tools they need to do their job. While some employees will require powerful laptops capable of processing huge amounts of data, others may require lower-specification machines, which reduces outlays. Putting the right equipment in people’s hands for the right purpose can have a dramatic impact on cost reduction and ensures employees are productive in their roles.
2. Accelerate the digital transformation journey
This isn’t the first time the economy has been subjected to a shock and it won’t be the last. Therefore, it’s imperative that business leaders take this as an opportunity to understand where the gaps in business continuity are, where they really sit in their digital transformation journey, and what they can do to make sure they’re fully prepared the next time the business is subjected to a shock.
Organisations that are well into their digital transformation journey have been the ones to transition to 100 per cent remote working seamlessly, while those early in the transformation journey continue to struggle. It’s important to remember that digital transformation isn’t just about working remotely or overlaying digital technology onto existing processes. Instead, true digital transformation is about being able to improve and change business processes so they’re supported by technology that can be securely accessed at any time, from any device and any location.
3. Invest in innovation rather than cut costs
In a stalling economy, organisations often look to cut costs. Historically, businesses that successfully emerge from economic challenges are the ones that take a pragmatic approach to strategy. They maintain staff where possible and invest in technology and innovation that improves process efficiencies and develops new market opportunities.
This can be tricky if capital is tied up in fixed infrastructure including IT. There is an opportunity, however, for public and private sector organisations to rethink how they access technology and infrastructure to reduce fixed capital costs and redeploy resources to business growth activities.
While this is already happening for most organisations in terms of software as-a-service applications and infrastructure, it creates a more powerful argument to adopt broader as-a-service usage models and managed desktop solutions. For example, a managed desktop solution that can be scaled up and down on demand and paid for via a consumption-based pricing model helps organisations increase process efficiencies and scale their IT costs to better match business needs.
To achieve the maximum return on investment for devices that are in their technology fleet, businesses must have visibility and control. It’s a concerning fact that many organisations aren’t certain what devices they have or how they’re being used, leading to underutilisation of assets. Gaining real-time fleet visibility is essential to making informed business decisions.
4. Collaborate effectively
It’s important that IT and finance managers work together to balance their often-conflicting priorities and get the best results for the organisation. This comes back to everyone collaborating effectively with the overarching strategic business goal in mind.
Organisations of all sizes can take advantage of independent financial partners that offer insights into opportunities for cost savings through operational efficiencies during workplace transformation. However, there are no quick fixes and every business has different needs, so it’s important to work with a partner that can add value to the business with flexible solutions and realistic, pragmatic advice.
Despite the rapid and broad-scale adjustment to a remote working environment, organisations are beginning to realise the productivity and efficiency gains that can be achieved in the modern workplace. To capitalise on these gains, organisations must now consider how they can adopt a more stable, digital model that future-proofs the business and reduces their risk exposure to external market challenges.
Click here to find out how you can create a digital workspace that offers substantially more freedom and fulfilment for employees.