The news in the UK this morning suggests that working from home will be part of a strategy from the government in minimising the potential spread of Covid-19 coupled with potential emergency legislation banning large gatherings until the summer, following similar examples in Europe and America.
Can you get your staff connected?
For some companies, this will be easy to accommodate from a technical perspective. The combination of cloud services, virtual desktops and VPN solutions are commonplace for various workforces. But for those who have centralised offices for processing and contact centres, this may not be quite so easy. Typically these are not laptop users, and immediately you have a hardware issue to solve – virtual desktops are a popular way of delivering corporate services in a secure way where constraints on data access can be tightly enforced, but while these can be spun up in minutes, the connectivity and security concepts are normally work that takes time and resources to implement safely.
In terms of contact centres, you have the added complication of telephony – while most of the big vendors have capabilities to provide access to call queues via VOIP, how many companies have chosen to implement this, and with an expectation of this being used en masse for potentially months? And even they have, are all their employees equipped to do this from home? Broadband speed/latency and equipment all become factors suddenly. Have a thought for those IT departments who will be asked all those questions in the next few days, if not already.
Managing from afar
Assuming this is in place or can be implemented, how are companies going to cope with a prolonged remote workforce in terms of management? Companies which are used to being able to meet in groups, and work face to face and on whiteboards and Kanban boards suddenly find themselves disconnected. Again, this is not a new problem for some companies – those with distributed development teams have had to use technology to overcome this for some time, but for most this has not been the case. Will there be a rush of companies to implement collaboration solutions like Slack or Microsoft Teams to help people work more efficiently? These tools enable better communication in theory, but managers now must work out how they track workload and progress from a distance which takes a change in mindset – especially important with project teams where timelines (and burn rates) are key.
At Platform Action, we deal with clients both in the UK and abroad and have a number of staff who work remotely a majority of the time, so we have seen how this can impact productivity if not implemented well, and more importantly embraced by companies as a standard way of working. We have helped companies employ various collaboration solutions to help centralise activity, such as Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence where you can maintain visibility of entire projects from user stories to development to end user service desks and operational reporting. These types of solutions provide team managers the detail they need in real time, regardless of where they and their teams are, without a multitude of spreadsheets and documents ricocheting around the mail system.
Whether driven by health concerns, carbon emissions or retaining geographically dispersed employees, how to manage remote workers and productivity will be as important as the technology that enables it.
Get in touch to discuss your views or to explore how we at Platform Action could help you.