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Heat sends workers home but more training on video comms needed

The extreme temperatures have again triggered a call for home working, but as Sharp has discovered, many SMEs are still adapting to how that works

With parts of the UK facing the prospect of record-breaking temperatures, calls for staff to work from home for the next couple of days have been sounded by employers.

With the barometer nudging 40°C over the next couple of days, with disruption to travel and the effects on people caused by that level of heat, the natural advice has been for those who can, to stay indoors and avoid exposing themselves to the sun.

“With rising temperatures continuing to soar across the UK, the language surrounding remote work has transitioned from convenience to necessity,” said Sion Lewis, general manager EMEA at GoTo. “Against the backdrop of the raging heatwave and official health warnings, employees should not have to endure scorching commutes, with slower services and expected delays.

“Luckily, organisations no longer have to choose between work productivity and the safety of their staff, due to the uptake of digitisation and remote work tools that can encourage collaboration and support from anywhere. Finding this balance is critical to maintaining a positive culture at businesses where employees feel valued and supported by their employers, which should be imperative to any organisation.”

But the jolt back into home working will not be a smooth experience for some, and there are concerns that the shift to hybrid working has not been universally successful across the channel’s SME customer base.

Research from Sharp has found that when it came to using video communication tools for meetings, many users were not fully up to speed with the technology, and the experience fell short of expectations.

Some of the issues revealed by the survey can be dealt with by the channel, such as complaints of confusion around the choice of video-conferencing platforms, but others are more cultural, with staff admitting they find it harder to concentrate in a virtual session.

What might underline those issues is the widespread lack of training that users at SMEs have received on video comms platforms, with only 47% having been walked through how to use the technology.

Nigel Oseland, a workplace psychologist who has worked with Sharp around the survey, said that although many people were hybrid working, it was wrong to assume that all of them had adapted to the situation.

“Many people are now used to hybrid working, but hybrid meetings can be challenging from a number of perspectives,” he said. “Sharp’s findings highlight the importance of keeping meetings interactive to encourage creativity, especially for those joining remotely, because it is that much harder to come up with new ideas virtually. It is interactivity between the remote audience and the in-person experience that helps create engagement, and technology can be key to driving this.

“Training on how to get the best from technology, as well as tools and techniques that underpin good meetings, will help to combat the issues that workers are experiencing remotely and ensure the future success of hybrid meetings.”

Sharp will also be reacting to the research and will encourage partners to focus on the interactive benefits of video meetings.

“These insights show that businesses need solutions to suit the needs of a hybrid future, ensuring that technology does not create barriers in meetings, but provides effective ways to engage with all participants,” said Ian Barnard, senior vice-president marketing and product management at Sharp NEC Display Solutions Europe. “A mix of interactive tools is needed to enable collaboration around ideas and the sharing of information, to ensure everyone is involved and effective.”

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