FUJITSU Work Life Shift – a positive opportunity for us all
Technological changes within the workplace is not a new phenomenon. But the pandemic has fundamentally changed our perceptions of what can be possible when businesses are forced to react rapidly. The crisis and our consequential reliance on tech has challenged our scepticism of ‘anything technical’, and as such, many of us no longer feel meetings must be face-to-face.
What’s really galvanized this shift towards technology is the parallel shift in our personal lives. Grandparents are now using Zoom to stay in touch with their grandchildren. Avid shop-goers have traded in shopping bags for online orders, and many others have converted to digital services like online banking while they stay at home.
Essentially, many of the cultural barriers to technology adoption have been lifted and this opens up a massive opportunity for workplaces to challenge the very foundations of their traditions. This moment has given us the chance to reimagine everything in a more sustainable, inclusive, and healthier way, which will create a more fulfilling and productive working experience for all.
And in this blog, I want to outline how we can make the most of the opportunity that has been given to us.
Enabling flexible working
A question every business will have faced at some point over the course of this year is: How do we enable our employees to work from anywhere?
Modern management and cloud solutions provide a platform for us to achieve this. However, it does introduce an additional element of cybersecurity risk. To counter this we also need to fundamentally rethink our approach to security.
Previously, we’ve placed our trust in the corporate network as the fort that protects our digital assets and data. Now, businesses ideally need to move to a ‘Zero Trust Net Security’ approach whereby everyone and everything trying to access the corporate network is treated as hostile, until their identity has been validated and we know exactly what and why they’re trying to access it. This approach means we can enable people to work from anywhere on any device, in the knowledge that they’re safe to.
Modern management and cloud solutions also grant workers access to the latest technology, which contributes to employee experience, productivity, and business’ competitiveness. As part of this, businesses need to regularly consider the tools its providing and how they help their workforce to collaborate effectively in this new paradigm.
Video and voice conferencing are a great start, but visual collaboration tools take it to the next level. In my team, it’s taken the place of those quick brainstorm conversations where we’d all just swivel our chairs round and throw some ideas about. And that’s the kind of technology that has now found a place in the new workplace we’re seeing.
Reimagining work processes with AI and Automation
Once you’ve got your teams working effectively from anywhere, it’s time to go deeper by looking at how they get work done.
I think one of the most impactful technologies here is automation. There are many mundane tasks, such as form filling and data transference, that take valuable time away from employees. By automating these tasks you’re able to give more time back to employees who can then dedicate it to tasks that bring greater value to the customer, such as forging better connections with clients, and resolving the individual problems directly impacting them. This also creates valuable thinking time, enabling your workforce to learn, explore, and innovate – all vital activities needed to thrive in an uncertain world.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is another example of a technology that can free up time for employees and give greater value to the customer. Using AI to manage customer claims can save employees from spending ages typing out individual responses. That means if there’s a surge in enquiries from customers, the robots can easily scale up responses, so customers can get their answers quickly.
Adapting workplace culture
Is your culture accepting and adaptive to new ways of working? Workplace culture is often overlooked as a priority when rolling out changes.
However, unless you support employees in adapting to new ways of working, nothing will change. You may rollout cloud, but without cultural buy-in, your employees will still be sharing their files across email, rather than collaborating online (which is what gives your organisation the agility it needs to move at pace).
You’ve got to challenge engrained behaviours and encourage an explorative attitude. And this is going to become all the more important as no-code and low-code become more common in the workplace because employees will have the capabilities to easily build their own ideas.
Employee wellbeing is another aspect of workplace culture that’s essential to consider when implementing new technology. Flexible working has removed the bookends of the working day, which has blurred the lines between work life and personal life. Businesses need to ensure their employees are working in healthy, sustainable ways, but this can be hard to manage when employees are hidden at home.
For me, analytics provides us with the insight to help our employees through these changes. Spotting patterns of behaviour and providing nudges to help us change our ways of working. But this needs to be done with great care. By ensuring we use these tools to support, not monitor, we can build trust, an essential component for any organisation aiming to be successful with flexible working.
The amount of technology that workplaces are using today has obviously been in response to COVID-19. But its introduction to the workplace was inevitable, and will likely be permanent from my perspective.
Sure, when restrictions lift, there will be some that do initially gravitate back to the office in order to catch up with colleagues and hit the refresh button. But in the long-term, allowing for more time at home will become part of business as usual – that may be hybrid working, or it may be completely remote.
Regardless, the work-life shift is irreversible, and with the right approach to technology we can make it work for the better.