The past 24 months have tested every business, in every industry, in every way imaginable. From their ability to operate throughout COVID-19 lockdowns, to the provision of their services despite decimated supply chains, to the rapid need to move to remote working and access to technologies which allow staff to continue to perform their role and collaborate with team members, clients and suppliers.
The enormous stress this created for individuals dealing with their own personal situation, through to businesses trying to keep the doors open whilst supporting the wellbeing of their staff, often pushed everyone to their limits.
This was a period where Human Resources needed to take a step forward in many organisations and lead the way, implementing policies to ensure the welfare of staff and their families, while still supporting the broader business to consider and implement ways to keep the business operating and maintain company culture and welfare for all.
This was no small feat, but it also provided a catalyst for businesses to reassess the way they do business, and look for ways to streamline processes enabling the rapid advancement of technology to support the operational efficiency of the organisation.
Therein lies the challenge and also opportunity to bring people and technology together for the betterment of staff and our businesses.
This shift over the past 24 months has raised many questions and driven many changes, perhaps none more than:
- Do we need our staff in the office every day?
- Were we more or less productive when staff were working from home?
- What did we lose or gain over the period of staff working from home?
- What changes do we need to make to our remote working policy?
- How do we advance the roll-out of our digital transformation to improve productivity and mitigate future risks?
In many respects, the tech industry was better positioned to deal with the challenges that the pandemic presented, as many of the digital transformation and remote workforce technologies were already in place. Additionally, many tech companies have established channels through external staff, contractors and consultants who often have a remote offshore workforce.
At TAS, we were fortunate that much of the technology required for our staff to work remotely was already up and running. This allowed us to focus on rapidly implementing the procedures to enable all staff to work productively from home, prioritise the welfare of our staff and support our clients to enable their work from home requirements.
TAS recently carried out a ‘readiness to return to the office’ survey amongst our staff, which gave us great insight into how employees felt about returning to the office. The majority of staff felt equally productive, if not more so, working from home as compared to working in the office. An overwhelming majority of staff indicated a preference for a hybrid arrangement post-COVID-19, whether spending one to two days per week in the office, returning to the office on a fortnightly basis, or only coming into the office for critical in-person meetings, workshops and client-facing appointments.
Staff also commented that while they have enjoyed being able to work from home, they have missed the social interaction with their colleagues and team mates, the ability to collaborate more effectively in person, to have informal and impromptu catch-ups, and the ability to hear what other teams are working on by merely being in close proximity. This feedback highlights the importance of ensuring that in-person interaction continues even with increasing technology adoption; technology cannot replace human interaction altogether.
The survey crystallised the importance of flexibility in a hybrid workforce strategy, with TAS’ future working landscape to strike the balance between collaboration from home with collaboration in the office. We will leverage technology to enable this collaboration regardless of where one is working, whilst looking for ways to continuously improve the way we work and collaborate. Strong leaders are required to navigate through this to empower and enable their staff.
Technology as an enabler – an opportunity for tech companies
Without technology, the hybrid workforce and remote work wouldn’t be viable. TAS continued to recruit and onboard a staggering number of new staff through lockdowns even though we could not meet candidates in person. While the experience was different, technology allowed candidates to gain a real sense of their potential employer and see first-hand how we embraced remote working.
TAS and the technology industry have a real opportunity to leverage this new normal of working. Video calls and video meetings are just the start. Virtual coffee rooms and breakout rooms can help make up for the sorely missed physical coffee catch-ups we used to do pre-COVID. TAS held virtual trivia nights and virtual Melbourne Cup events with sweeps for staff, all of which was made possible through technology.
There are also opportunities for smarter ways of working through process automation of workflows, data and information, to remove those repeatable and basic, yet necessary, activities and hence allow staff to focus on meaningful work. The pandemic has prompted many people to re-evaluate where and what they place importance in and how this spills over to the workplace, where they are seeking meaningful purpose-driven work. This is pivotal to the hybrid workplace.
The way forward in 2022 and beyond
It’s clear that the pandemic has changed many things about the business world, including how we work, the tools we use and how leaders manage and collaborate with their teams. With the business landscape continually changing over the last 24 months – sometimes with dramatic U-turns practically overnight – leaders must have flexible, agile mindsets aligned with technology. As we prepare for 2022, leaders will need to balance business priorities with staff engagement and productivity in a hybrid landscape, and technology is a critical enabler throughout the journey.
Get in touch to find out more about leveraging technology to enable the new normal of hybrid working and how to strike the balance with people and technology in your organisation!
We are happy to share our learnings and introduce you to technology that enables this.