Enhance, secure and enable your technology for the new normal
Since March 2020, technology has become more entwined in our lives than ever before. Connecting with friends and loved ones on video calls, home-schooling children on laptops, and being entertained via Netflix and Disney Plus – who didn’t watch Tiger King or The Mandalorian last year?!
Unsurprisingly online retail sales grew by 36% in 2020, the highest annual growth since 2007, according to the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, and social media usage increased exponentially. In a time where we were apart, technology enabled us to come together.
One of the greatest and quickest changes was seeing ‘anyone who could work from home’ take effect overnight; office workers across the country downed tools to set-up home offices and more than a year later many of us are still at our dining room tables.
While normality may be on the horizon, the world around us has changed and has forced changes to how we do business. Although there will be some travel back to ‘normal’, it’s clear that some, perhaps most, of that change is here to stay. Technology and digital tools have become more important than ever for us to work and communicate effectively. The laptop has gone from being a tool in the office to being, for many of us, the entire office.
As we reflect on this past year, we take a look at what businesses will need to consider for the new normal when it comes to technology in the workplace. There’s much more to it than just digital, it’s about how to enable people, communication and relationships in business to be more effective and productive.
Right at the start of the first ‘Stay at Home’ lockdown, the biggest challenge was for organisations that were not set-up to work remotely. Many employees only had desktops, so at Select Technology we experienced an influx of hardware requests for laptops, cables and keyboards from companies scrambling to get their workforces set-up, and to keeping businesses running from home. Some companies even requested that their employees use their own devices, which has both security and capability implications.
Although no one could have predicted the effects of the pandemic, the organisations that were more agile and could remain productive were those who had already adopted a work from anywhere strategy. As a company this is something we implemented a few years ago, so most of our staff already had laptops. This made the overnight transition of working from home much smoother.
Enhance your IT infrastructure
If your IT infrastructure wasn’t ready for that journey, try not to get caught on the backfoot again. Ensure that your employees can easily work from home should that need to happen, and that’s not just providing the right physical equipment.
Using a cloud-based solution for your data and systems, such as Microsoft 365, rather than less secure on-premise servers and VPN will mean your team can access documents, applications and data from anywhere, securely and quickly.
Make security a priority
Working remotely has security implications for businesses. Employees using unsecured wireless networks or saving files and data to their desktops are just a couple of examples of how business information can be at risk. In addition, according to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), cyber scams have increased 15-fold since the pandemic began. With all this in mind it is more important than ever to keep your business data and systems safe from ransomware, malware, and other cyber-attacks.
A solution like Microsoft 365 has advanced security features, such as setting restrictions on who documents can be shared with, stops employees saving files to their device or desktop, and provides multi-factor authentication. It’s worthwhile ensuring you have this or something similar in place to ensure peace of mind.
Collaborate from anywhere
One of the biggest challenges faced throughout the pandemic has been the loss of seeing co-workers, clients and partners face-to-face. Zoom, Google and Microsoft all quickly evolved their video call solutions to replicate in-person meetings, presentations and events digitally.
For us, Microsoft Teams became our go-to application and has enabled our working lives while working remotely. It has become so much more than a video call tool, with new features that allow colleagues and stakeholders to work collaboratively on documents and projects, as well as reaching much larger audiences via webinars and conferences. Previously, most of our interactions would have been in person, on the phone or on email. These tools have transformed and streamlined the way in which business is conducted. We have even won new business without having ever met our new clients in person!
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – migrating to the cloud makes it possible for your workforce to work anywhere and is a worthwhile investment for any organisation that continues to adopt remote working.
If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that people can work effectively from anywhere, so moving forward technology will need to enable the individual. Businesses will need to support their staff whether they are working from home, in a co-working space or in the office. Ensuring employees have laptops instead of desktops, setting up hot desks in the office and installing docking stations are fantastic solutions that businesses can implement fairly easily. Microsoft offers a hot desk booking application and there are many other tools and apps available to help with the return to the office.
Although we can soon start heading back into the office, hybrid working is likely to be preferred for many employees (and employers). In fact, according to a recent ONS survey, 55% of people favoured a hybrid model of splitting their time between working from home and being in the office. Businesses will need to embed this in their culture to stay competitive or employees may vote with their feet.
Larger corporations, such as Nationwide and BP, have already announced that all their employees will be able to work from home. We are confident that we will see small to medium sized businesses also leading the way to adopt hybrid working as it will be on a more manageable scale and could decrease overhead costs.
As we reflect on the past year, we take a look at what businesses will need to consider for the new normal when it comes to technology in the workplace. There’s much more to it than just digital, it’s about how to enable people, communication and relationships in business to be more effective and productive.
Get ready for the new normal
The past year has forced many organisations to go through digital transformation very quickly to ensure they can still do business productively and profitably, which has resulted in a shift change of how technology is viewed: that technology is seen as more than just a necessary cost.
Businesses that view digital technology and business transformation as an investment and embed it into their overall business strategy will ensure they create a sustained competitive advantage.
The consequences of the pandemic are huge and far-reaching, and the good news is that technology continues to evolve to support these new ways of working. By embracing what technology can do for your business and with a willingness to work differently you will enable business success, not just for now, but for the long-term.