After undergoing weeks of lockdown, people are starting to get into the stride of working from home. We know how to set up and join a virtual meeting, and balancing work and family is becoming less of a tight rope walk and more of a routine. Where once your children or pets barging in while you spoke to colleagues was the stuff of viral videos, it's now welcomed and embraced by all. We're in this together so who's judging?
Jon Chambers, Director of IT and Communication Services, Ricoh UK.
However, as things begin to shift and become more normalized, you have to ask yourself what will the future of work look like? Will technology allow us to keep operating like this should we want to? Will companies become more flexible and inclusive to those with families and disabilities? Have our future priorities changed? At Ricoh, it's our job to look at the workplaces and technology used by businesses, so it’s these questions we aim to answer.
Increased investment in technology
Companies have had to adapt drastically, and many have employed technology to enable this. After all, most businesses have not been designed for working from home on mass, if it's something they even offered before. This means, where technology would usually have been implemented over time, in phases and with extensive testing over weeks and months, it has now been deployed at speed.
It's all the more impressive when you consider the sheer number of hiccups and issues which organisations will have had to tackle to do this. From setting up VPN's to access networks from home to introducing employees to Microsoft Teams and increasing cybersecurity measures. IT departments will have had to implement multiple complex projects all at once, in record time.
This implementation is incredible and reveals the strength of IT teams across the country. You can tell which companies have invested wisely in their IT departments and consider them a pillar, as opposed to those who see them as an addition. Those who have invested, have seen a smooth transition which has been easier for employees and customers like, those who hadn't invested have had a trickier time.
As a result, there has never been a more explicit example of why businesses shouldn't let technophobia cloud their judgement. They shouldn't give up on updating their software and systems just because there was a little hurdle at the start, because without investing in technology and your IT departments your business will always be a step behind.
For many, remote working will have allowed for a better work-life balance for them, and as such, they will be asking whether this is something they can continue doing. While in recent years, many companies have or are in the process of implementing working from home policies there are still some who have been against it due to practical reasons, such as technology not being in place. However, for those who opposed flexible working policies, there is little excuse once the lockdown ends not to allow employees to continue working from home in some capacity or other.
This could lead to a more inclusive workforce, one which allows those living in different regions or with families to be a bigger part of it. Again, like technology, this isn't something to be scared of – having more perspectives at the table gives organisations a bigger perspective on the world, ultimately allowing them to provide a better service to their customers.
What are our future priorities?
With the speedy adoption of new technologies, digital transformation will likely continue to become a big priority. As briefly touched upon, businesses will have to overcome any technophobia and resistance to change if they want to restore their productivity levels quickly.
This entire process will likely have highlighted the technological gaps organisations had. Whether a workforce has been reduced or activity increased, employee workload will undoubtedly have grown. As such, the adoption of technologies such as RPA will be pivotal in helping to unburden staff. By removing repetitive and time-consuming tasks, employees will be better able to deliver more focused customer service and perform more complex and necessary tasks to bring output back to pre-pandemic levels.
Keeping staff trained on how to use the technology around them will also become a more consistent priority. A better educated workforce will allow the service desk and IT departments to focus on bigger issues such as fixing cybersecurity issues and updating software. Not only will a greater investment act as a safety net for any future unpredictable crises, but it will also allow businesses to grow and operate more smoothly than they ever have before.
Overall, while this pandemic has sent shockwaves through the business community, it will also have acted as an overdue wake-up call. It is one of the most detailed demonstrations of why technology is critical to the functioning of a business. It's also revealed how agility and quick reflexes are more important than legacy processes. A lot is being written about the new normal, but perhaps the future will be what it should have been all along; a tech-driven and people focused environment where progress and development are as significant as profits.
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