By now it’s well established that the pandemic brought with it the rapid digital transformation overnight that experts predicted to see throughout the next decade. While it’s been an uncertain and turbulent time for many businesses, especially SMEs, what the last 12 months have taught us is that technology is the enabler to do more and do it better.
The next challenge now facing companies is how to transition teams back to the workplace. Although there are conflicting reports in the media around how businesses feel about this transition, in our experience companies are hesitant about returning to the office full-time, with most employees reporting a preference for a blend of office and homeworking.
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Whether you are downsizing your office or embracing a blend of in-house/homeworking, not being in the office every day has undoubtedly cut costs for many businesses. Employees are reportedly more productive and the reduced commuting, travel and meetings, means less expenditure. The savings made can hopefully be passed on to the IT department, so they no longer have to find 10% cost savings year on year. Instead, internal IT teams are provided with an appropriate budget to help the business grow and succeed to facilitate the next exciting stage of the company’s digital evolution: hybrid working.
Satya Nadella, CEO of MicroSoft, has (now famously) said that we’ve experienced two years of digital transformation in just two months, and now the changes are here we need to ensure IT is dynamic – using new technology and tools to transform how business works and move it towards being more digital. There was a sudden burst of investment in technology at the beginning of the pandemic to quickly enable working from home, but this needs to pick up pace once more as we adopt a hybrid approach.
In the rush to make remote working possible, an alarming number of businesses took risks at the compromise of security. Many businesses had never invested in any technology prior to the government’s ‘work from home’ message. So that those workers could access the data and files they needed remotely, many employees had no choice but to use personal (and unsecured) devices to do their work, often sharing confidential files over email or uploading unprotected documents to Microsoft Teams in a bid to keep ‘business as usual’.
Remote desktops, new security updates for Microsoft Teams and virtual collaboration tools will all ensure hybrid working can be implemented without the compromise of a weakened security system – alleviating some of the pressures faced from an already tired tech team. Learning from the past 12 months, it’s essential that companies ensure their employees now meet the minimum-security requirements when working outside of the office – which can often be a headache for in-house IT departments.
IT is an investment – the Cloud
Hybrid by definition is the combination of two things. Running both in-house and remote tech will come with an initial cost, but businesses should look to the long-term savings which is where the IT set–up and infrastructure is most valuable.
The pandemic has brought permanent changes to businesses, with employers and employees alike favouring the opportunity to work well from anywhere. Windows Virtual Desktop, for example, provides remote workers with the same experience as a localised desktop or laptop. This keeps the business contained, with employees benefitting from having access to any applications they need to do their job, and businesses having the reassurance of built-in ransomware protection and recovery to protect themselves from any potential cyberattacks or data breaches.
This accelerated move to the Cloud is even facilitating business agility, acting as a springboard for further digital services. Since data is well-protected within the Cloud, companies can access data in Teams in a faster and more efficient way, and remote employees can work from anywhere with minimal compliance risks.
The Cloud is an enabler to make your business more productive as the workplace shifts to become digital, and so it’s therefore ever more important that companies choose a trusted partner to run both sides of hybrid working to enable proficiency. While we may need to do more now to facilitate this growth, doing so long-term means your company is better positioned for tomorrow’s business.
Tech is driving culture change
As with any change, moving towards a more digital way of working will be tougher for some – not everyone is starting at the same point on their digital workplace journey. But, as well as the shakeup of how we do business, the pandemic has forced us all to look at the main aspect for hybrid working. People.
Most companies care that their people have the tools they need to do their job well and from anywhere, and the challenge now is to create a culture that suits hybrid working. Employees should get to have more of a say in how they work; recognising that work is what you do and not where you do it from. Forcing staff back into the office may have a detrimental impact on wellbeing which goes against the changes that have been made to employee mental health in the last 12 months alone.
The balance for every employee is likely to be different – extroverts want more time in the office, whereas introverts will prefer remote working. These preferences mean individual requirements should be considered in the new digital workplace. How can you do this? You should focus on the values, outcomes, vision, mission and goals of your business. At Foundation IT, for example, we have added Health, Wealth & Wellbeing to our strategy, introducing health assessments, group yoga classes and sponsored walks for the whole team.
Adopting these new technologies and rethinking your culture will help facilitate the move towards hybrid working. We now need to look forward beyond the pandemic, and the changes it has brought with it. Whilst the journey may be challenging at first, it will be tougher for those who hold on to the old ways of working.
Andrew Sellers is the owner and Managing Director of Foundation IT. FIT provides IT infrastructure managed services with particular focus on Microsoft, including Azure, Windows Virtual Desktop, O365, Teams, AD, Exchange. FIT’s services are designed for people who believe their IT Infrastructure should be consumed as a service, we make it work.