Ensuring the long-term success of secure remote working

By Charles Barratt, - Employee experienceFuture Workplace

FUJITSU Work Life Shift – delivering long-term flexible working for your employees

Over the past year, firms that had merely dabbled in flexible working – and many more that had never even considered it – have been forced out of their comfort zone. But amidst all the 2020 pandemic chaos and uncertainty, an incredible entrepreneurial spirit has spread around the world, as businesses of all kinds have been forced to figure out how to enable their employees to work remotely.

A year on, and new work patterns have become normalized, many organizations can look back at what they’ve achieved with a sense of appreciation and pride. As we reflect back, the consensus is that a full return to the old ways of working would be a step backwards for many organizations, as with the shift to digital workplace solutions that have enabled secure remote working, they’ve gained resiliency and flexibility they never had before.

In this blog, I will be discussing how businesses can build on what they’ve achieved so far. I’ll look at what it takes to create a long term, flexible working strategy capable of maintaining the wellbeing and productivity of your workforce.

The rise of remote-first culture

Traditionally, many leaders believed that secure remote working could negatively impact employee productivity. 2020 pandemic lockdowns forced those leaders to change that mindset altogether.

Having a remote workforce means placing increased trust in your employees. Leaders’ concerns shifted from worrying about productivity to worrying about workers’ mental wellbeing or whether their teams are socializing enough.

As such, many workers have felt a significant shift in how their organization operates. People came to appreciate home offices were homes first, and interruptions such as kids bursting into meetings stopped being a dreaded fear and became an amusing icebreaker.

And at the same time, organizations became faster – both at failing and recovering.

The pandemic caused industries to adopt many of the tenets of ‘remote-first’. A remote-first mindset is about ensuring every worker is treated equally, whether they’re in the office or a different continent altogether, and it’s both a technological and workplace culture change challenge.

For example, some firms have had to onboard new employees during the lockdown. Onboarding employees remotely involves the logistical challenge of getting hardware out to them, and the cultural challenge of integrating them into their new team, virtually.

Fostering a remote-first culture is about finding permanent digital workforce solutions to these kinds of challenges. And reflecting on how it worked during this period will go a long way towards building a sturdier, more agile, long-term culture that will benefit your organization long after this pandemic is over.

Remote first means being able to offer an enhanced workplace employee experience with a better work life balance. It also means being able to attract talent from anywhere in the world, as you’re no longer restricted by distance.

It also gives businesses the freedom to explore new ways of working. Real estate may even become less of a priority, as companies instead focus on ways to facilitate collaboration.

Entering the next phase – the future workplace

The next phase requires organizations to reflect on what they achieved in those early, chaotic weeks of the pandemic. What worked? What didn’t? And how can they do better?

For instance, what were the consequences of circumventing the red tape historically associated with remote working? Were there security issues that need to be plugged? How much of that red tape turned out to be unnecessary or a hindrance?

For most organizations, the expectations they had at the start of 2020 have all changed and so it’s important to reset expectations.

There needs to be a shift in mindset – focus on what you can achieve. Define the investments that need to be prioritized and make sure each one is a strategic investment, one that will support the long-term objectives of the organization and keep the wheels turning.

Business continuity plans discovered over this period should transform into business-as-usual plans. The agility gained today can be transferred to other situations that may require widespread secure remote working; whether it’s political unrest or unprecedented weather conditions linked to global warming. Regardless of the predicament, your organization will be able to just carry on working.

Similarly, start thinking now about how to amend employee experience initiatives. During the 2020 pandemic shock phase, many employees maintained their productivity levels despite challenging remote working experiences. They appreciated it was a chaotic time and were grateful to have the security of a job.

However, as we enter the next phase and the shape of the recovery comes into focus, workers still living with bad remote working experiences will not feel that same drive to remain productive and may start to vote with their feet.

So, encourage staff to take breaks and use video chat when you check in on them to make sure they’re doing ok.

And finally, stop focusing on how you did things when things were “normal” – this period requires all of us to think differently if we want to flourish going into the future.

Find out more about FUJITSU Work Life Shift, our global solutions for workforce transformation.

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