Before Covid struck, many of us had assumptions about what the future of work would look like. For some, it was all about investing in the most advanced technology on the market. For others it was focusing on mental health. Priorities differed amongst businesses and amongst leaders, but one thing all these ideas had in common was they would largely be implemented in the same environment: the office. For many decades, this was the focal point of any organisation, but Covid-19 has meant that for many businesses, the office is no longer the principal place where work gets done.
Over the last 18 months, many business leaders have seen the benefits remote working brings, and the ways in which it can complement the traditional office-based environment. This has led to the development of a new concept - hybrid working. Due to its success, this ‘hybrid-first’ approach is now being reflected in the way that firms roll out new technologies for their employees, and bodes well for the future sustainability of businesses and how they adapt to a new working world. But how exactly is this being achieved?
Moving towards a permanent hybrid working model
With restrictions now being lifted across the country and a successful vaccine programme in place, life is gradually getting back to normal. However, Covid has had a monumental impact on not just our personal lives but also on the way we work, and this impact will continue to be felt long after the pandemic. With many away from the office for over a year, some employees have become accustomed to remote or hybrid working, so there’s no guarantee that the workplace will go back to exactly the way it was pre-Covid.
Organisations need to move beyond the temporary working practices they had in place to something more long-lasting and reliable. The last 18 months can be seen as an enforced ‘trial period’ of hybrid working, which has been a valuable proof of concept both for employers and employees.
The somewhat makeshift nature of home working when it was first introduced last year has now given way to a more permanent evolution in working culture. From a tech standpoint, what leaders in IT and the wider business need to do first is go back and look at what was already implemented. Organisations need to ask themselves if they deployed everything in a secure and compliant fashion, or whether there are any holes in their strategy that could result in a costly data breach further or falling foul of data protection regulations down the line.
Further still, organisations need to also approach the management of employees – and the technology that enables them to do their jobs – in a much more fluid manner.
Ensuring a successful long-term technology rollout
As a level of confidence in businesses and the economy returns, we’re seeing IT teams start to embrace the hybrid working reality in terms of technical rollouts. When working on such projects, it’s now more about the fact that any employee could be anywhere on any given day, rather than introducing new tech based on the position they hold within the company, or whether they’re permanently based in the office.
This is a sensible approach, as it simplifies how IT departments manage blanket rollouts for technical solutions. The fact that companies are now much more aware of how a hybrid approach works also means that IT departments are putting the medium- and long-term plans in place to ensure the technology deployed effectively meets demand.
Also, IT security and governance have generally been very well managed throughout the upheaval of the last year, so we’re hoping to see this continue. This is especially important given the continuing introduction of new rules across various industries, designed to regulate the management of sensitive data during home working. For example, in January, the Financial Conduct Authority ruled that financial services organisations must record all communications while working from home, forcing businesses to comply with regulations following a long period of leniency necessitated by the challenges of the pandemic. We can expect more of these regulations to be enforced going forward.
What the right tech rollout will look like
For hybrid working to succeed it’s imperative to have effective communication tools. Platforms that enable you to make and answer calls from a desk phone, computer or mobile are nothing new – they have been the bedrock of unified communications for many years. However, the ease with which people interact with one another using these tools are what ensure their lasting success. To help maximise efficiency and ultimately increase competitive advantage, it’s important business leaders make full use of the most innovative tools. Alongside the latest unified communications capabilities, companies operating a customer service function should also ensure they have the right omnichannel tools in place to make conversations with customers easier.
From a technology stack perspective, SaaS is very much at the top of the shopping list for hybrid specifications. This is due to a number of attributes that make it ideally suited to the task, including its low-to-zero capex requirement, per-seat licensing models, rapid deployment, scalability, low maintenance, self-sustaining or vendor-managed upgrade policies, and little to no downtime.
Looking a little further ahead, there are a few key areas for IT departments to keep an eye on as they develop their hybrid approaches further. One of these is interoperability with various different applications across the organisation.
Interoperability is a vital consideration where companies are simultaneously deploying a number of SaaS solutions throughout the business. CRM systems are a key example of where this needs to be achieved, given the close links these platforms have between both the employee and customer. This need for seamless integration is only set to grow further as hybrid working strategies become more established, so it’s key that employees are able to easily access all the office systems they need from wherever they’re based.
The future looks bright
When forced to completely change the office environment overnight, it is hard to know the right way to approach the situation. Transforming working methods takes time, money and dedication if it is to be successful. Every business leader has their own methods and every organisation has differing needs when it comes to hybrid working, but crucial to any company is having the correct technology in place to ensure employees are able to work effectively and efficiently.
Aside from this, IT departments should keep up the great work they’re doing in terms of security, and continue evolving to meet the needs of the hybrid workforce. Achieve these objectives, and there’s every reason to be positive about the future.
Aaron Foster, Chief Technology Officer at TelcoSwitch