Anthony Lamoureux, Strategy and Development Director at Velocity Smart Technology
Back in July 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that the year’s defining event – the coronavirus pandemic – is likely to set the world back “years and even decades” in terms of economic progress. This is the unfortunate consequence of businesses and wider economies adapting the new reality of lockdowns, social distance, and the COVID-conscious consumer.
A vaccine is now starting to be rolled out, but businesses in the UK and around the world will still be looking for ways to adapt their systems, processes, and offerings to minimise any future risk or disruption for employees and customers alike.
In fact, many businesses are starting to reconsider the fixed-location, bricks and mortar approach of the office, with a recent poll from Bupa Health Clinics suggesting two-thirds (65%) of employees are anxious about returning to the office as lockdown measures begin to be relaxed.
The rise of the remote-first workforce
One of the biggest changes is the rise of a “remote-first” workforce, where companies scale down their traditional offices and encourage staff to “dial in” from their laptops at home. And while this new paradigm has clear benefits – especially during a pandemic – it also has a few drawbacks that are less apparent.
For instance, not all employees have access to the reliable connectivity and technological infrastructure typically found in an office setting. This can hamper communication and productivity, placing strain on interoffice relationships, the company culture, and business performance as a whole. Remote workers also do not have access to key business functions, including tech support.
If an employee spills water on their laptop when in the office, they can usually get set up with a replacement machine almost immediately. If they’re working from home miles away from their nearest colleague, however, such an accident is far more disruptive. And when you’re trying to keep a business afloat during a global pandemic, every unproductive minute of that employee’s time is cutting into your bottom line and, ultimately, your survivability.
So this leads us to an important question: how should IT Directors be servicing their remote workforce?
IT support must evolve with the rest of your business
A company is only as modern, resilient and capable as its weakest or least tech-savvy department —and an organisation might not even know what that weakest link is. If your approach to tech support hasn’t changed in the last 20 years, you can all but guarantee that it’s weighing your employees down and, in the context of a post-COVID world, putting them at risk.
So how should you evolve your IT support? Here are a couple of ideas:
Create and enforce a comprehensive IT security policy
It’s difficult enough keeping your systems and data safe from prying eyes in an office, but this is exponentially more difficult with a remote workforce. Adapting your IT policy to this new normal is a step in the right direction that can in many instances reduce the need for IT support in the first place. Your updated security policy can include: forbidding certain communications over public Wi-Fi, use of company-mandated cyber security software, and requiring multi-factor authorisation wherever possible.
Invest in contactless IT support
Remote IT support is nothing new, but things get tricky – and costly – when a machine needs to be replaced and a team needs to be sent out to retrieve and replace the malfunctioning device. With contactless IT support, employees have access to a working device in a matter of minutes and without having to interact with anyone from the tech team. And, with a contactless IT solution, that employee will immediately have access to the files on their faulty laptop.
This means that in the time it takes to get a coffee, that employee can get back to work with a functioning machine without skipping a beat. And because they didn’t have to engage with anyone face to face, their exposure to contagion was kept to a minimum.
Embrace the new normal
The main point is that, even when lockdown restrictions are completely lifted (whenever that may be), businesses have shown that we can survive and even thrive in the face of disruption.
Business continuity plans are important to this, embracing the move to digital and a workforce which has proven that it can not just work remotely, but arguably more efficiently and more productive than before.
Only time will tell what the working office post-lockdown will look like – be it a smaller space made for hot-desking or a full-time space at the kitchen table – but if there’s one thing that we can be certain on, it’s that we’ll never say it’s been ‘business as usual’ in the same way ever again!