As businesses slowly begin the phased return to the workplace, many employees may be considering whether they are better placed to instead continue to operate on a remote basis – either part or full-time – for the foreseeable future. The enforced lockdown of the majority of workplaces has accelerated working from home plans for many organisations, acting as a proof-of-concept and convincing employers of the possibility of operating via such a set-up.
Employees may increasingly demand a more flexible work arrangement for numerous reasons, including the reduction or elimination of their daily commute, the possibility of living further from their workplace and having more quality time to spend with family.
With the remote working and digital transformation genie now well and truly out of the bottle, how can employers shape their business strategies to align them with changing employee expectations for flexibility, while maximising the advantages of remote working and minimising the downsides. Here are three areas of focus for businesses to consider implementing into their corporate strategies as the COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
1. Business continuity planning
The scale of the pandemic caught a lot of organisations by surprise and in the first phase of the lockdown, there was an initial scramble for devices and remote working solutions to simply get employees working again. As a result, businesses are likely to place an increased focus at board level on business continuity risk planning, while likely also increasing the budget allocation for this to help prepare for any future surprises.
As part of this planning, businesses should review how exactly they produce and deliver their services and products and consider how to make these processes more flexible. As we have seen, remote working is a viable option for many businesses and maintaining the capabilities and supports to operate on a remote basis following the return to the workplace is important. In tandem with this, businesses who accelerate the migration of workloads to the cloud will reduce the reliance on on-premises infrastructure and the need to maintain access to this hardware.
Other steps businesses can take to make themselves more resilient include a thorough review of their global supply chain and just-in-time model. Businesses must ask if there are enough allowances built into these to cater for the possibility of future disruptions. Equally, organisations previously reliant on one central large HQ, may look into the possibility of moving to several geographically dispersed smaller offices to reduce risk of being heavily disrupted due to circumstances effecting one location.
2. Cost Savings
Despite being adversely impacted by COVID-19, many businesses have had to ramp up capital and operational expenditure in the last number of months to enable remote working and the continuity of services. As a consequence, making cost savings is now a necessity.
In addition to expensive rents, businesses may consider reducing their office footprint within cities because of the costs associated with retrofitting floorplans to cater for social distancing requirements. Returning staff to the workplace may also incur additional costs such as extra cleaning services, upgrading AC systems and installing perspex screens or automatic doors. Businesses should also be wary of rushing workers back too quickly into an unsafe environment, putting their workforce at risk and exposing the business to the possibility of litigation cases.
Employers must weigh up whether it is worth bringing all staff back to the office immediately or if it makes more business sense to downsize their office estate and maintain remote working as much as possible. Such an approach can pay unforeseen dividends, for example enabling more efficient talent acquisition on a global scale, rather than having to limit candidate searches to a small radius around the workplace.
3. Pivot to Digital
Lastly, the current period is an opportune time for businesses to revise their strategy to focus on how they may enhance the digital delivery of their products and services. We live in a digital society and it’s imperative that all businesses establish a digital presence and offer an online or home-delivery model from now on.
New and exciting technologies are making the digitisation of services possible for businesses traditionally tied to physical service delivery. Augmented reality and virtual shopping capabilities are revolutionising the retail sector. Rather than dropping in on an ad-hoc basis, mobile and web apps are enabling professional services to be scheduled efficiently and every type of session from a doctor’s appointment to mortgage application appointments can now occur on a virtual basis.
Organisations from every sector and of every size have been affected by COVID-19 in some way and how they respond now will be decisive to the future of the business. It’s crucial for business owners and senior management to carefully review their strategy and consider how it may be impacted by new and evolving factors. CWSI can help firms adapt to a digital and mobile-first world while ensuring that everything continues to run smoothly and securely. Contact us to find out more.