It’s rare for businesses and institutions to face huge shifts in working practice. And, on those occasions when a firm chooses to change location, review working practices or update multiple offerings, leadership would usually demand a detailed plan of action and a period of time to execute it. Recent events have – for many businesses – forced unforeseen change. So, where contingency planning hasn’t provided all the answers for your business, how will you create the plan for your new way of working?
With these 4 steps to Navigating the New Normal, I’m providing some guidance to help us all build the right foundations for our business’ new normal.
Preparing for Business Continuity
When your business is facing a crisis, finding a way to maintain continuity is the first priority.
For organisations with a predominantly desk-bound workforce, having to restrict access to office locations can cause a number of issues – ensuring systems access and flexible processes will be the initial concern.
Remote working isn’t new, so many organisations will feel quite comfortable suggesting employees take home their laptop and create a makeshift desk. But is this enough? Systems and processes designed for occasional remote working by a small number of staff might not be robust enough to support an entire workforce homeworking. Are the secure systems able to maintain the number of users necessary? Is access possible on this new scale? Can we ensure employees are using only company devices and secure networks?
There are solutions for all these concerns, which will be dependent on an organisation’s existing infrastructure. And, while businesses will make immediate decisions to enable business continuity in an emergency, following up these decisions with consideration and an eye for the future is the only way to ensure continuity going forward.
Developing a Digital Capability
Many organisations were already developing their cloud-first agenda before we all started talking about Covid-19. The reality, however, is that this work will likely have been pushed at a rate – and possibly even in a direction – which companies hadn’t previously expected.
While embracing the cloud will bring many benefits, understanding the impact of these large-scale changes will take time – and meaningful data. To understand your organisation’s usage trends as well as it’s readiness for cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools, will require information and assessment. And, only once the right data has been gathered can a meaningful strategy be developed.
The world has changed, your processes and systems have changed, ensure those changes are built on a clear understanding of what you have and what you need to build the right capability for your future.
In our current position, as humans as well as employees, keeping our focus and being productive may not be our main drive. Particularly in roles where remote working has – in the past – not been possible, expecting employees to pick things up at home will undoubtedly face hurdles.
Organisations have the opportunity to develop new processes and strategies with tools which will benefit everyone:
- Online communication tools to maintain relationships and encourage collaboration
- File sharing through cloud services for the same
- Chatbots to reduce enquiry traffic through helpline services can be used both externally with customers and internally to manage queries
And, while these tools will make change easier to handle, it’s also well recognised that employee engagement is a major factor in productivity. So, when considering new tools, think about the implications for the user. Ensure employee engagement is at the forefront of these changes, enabling those employees to see true benefits and realise the value of increasing productivity for everyone.
Balancing Innovation and Security
Many organisations have moved quickly to ensure continuity, and this speed has – necessarily – brought with it risk. It is essential that these organisations continually review.
Retrospective checks on security and governance are needed to ensure vulnerabilities haven’t been introduced, to confirm systems are managing the necessary scale, and to ensure teams responsible for managing these requirements are in control.
Creating an environment and culture where these responsibilities are framed correctly will also be key.
Reintroducing the Physical Workspace
So, what about when this is over? When the office doors are open again and the desks have been dusted off – how will your organisation react?
For some, the instinct will be to pull everyone back behind their desks to return to “business as usual”. For those who previously pushed against workplace flexibility there are likely to be questions from employees – and now isn’t the time to lose the momentum you’ve gained for change.
The ideal would surely be to use this time to review – to understand the benefits of our working practices before and during this crisis – to make changes for the better. Which of those changes in working practices are improving life for our employees and the business? What can we learn about the physical space we have and how we have used it?
Having made bold steps into the future, organisations who strengthen their position and continue to ask questions will find their future opens up in a way they may previously have missed. The fact is that many organisations too scared to develop agile solutions in the past will have either leapt to make these changes in haste, or struggled to survive. Having taken those steps to change, now is the time to review, refocus and reinforce – to ensure these changes aren’t short-term fixes but strong, positive developments which will lead to future growth.
It’s important we look to the future, and seek opportunities to collaborate with those who can support us going forward. We’d love to talk.
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Written by Terry Chana – XMA Workspace Solution Director