Business leaders must use lessons of the present to get future-ready

Research reveals the impact of Covid-19 on the digital workplace, and how technology will enable new ways of working

With the new normal rapidly becoming just the normal, employee welfare productivity, especially among remote workers, is increasingly becoming more important. Companies are now having to spin up new digital workplaces where remote workers both have the right tools to communicate, collaborate and also feel supported, a survey from Verizon Business has revealed.

Conducted in May 2020 and based on feedback from 1,080 global business leaders, the Recreating work as a blend of virtual and physical experiences report, carried out in conjunction with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, examined the impact of the recent rise in remote working in an attempt to identify the key areas business leaders should focus on as they help their organisations adapt to new ways of working moving forward. It focused on three key focus areas for maximising digital work strategies in the future: working smarter, prioritising simplicity and integration, and keeping security top of mind.

As many as 86% of the companies surveyed see the digital workplace coexisting with the physical workspace in the future, with 78% expecting to increase the amount of remote work conducted. Verizon stressed that this meant the increase doesn’t mean everyone will work from home in the future, but that organisations will be able to pick and choose which types of work, which people will require a physical presence, and where the company can gain efficiencies and productivity with virtual work.

Remote working should offer no impediment to productivity. Just over three-fifths (61%) of business leaders reported that the quality of remote work was on par with that conducted in the office. Key benefits of remote working were also revealed: 52% of respondents noted that hey experienced improved collaboration, 57% saw a boost in business agility and nearly half witnessed an increase in productivity (44%).

Many businesses also benefited from the use of collaboration technologies, such as the Blue Jeans suite, to maintain productivity, with videoconferencing topping the list (98%) and other tools, such as file sharing (97%), instant messaging (95%), other collaboration methods, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams (88%), and cloud-based collaboration (85%) all cited. In addition, the use of online interactive training to keep employees engaged in their own personal development was key (85%).

By May 2020, technology was already enabling a difference. Businesses that have a digital workplace strategy were consistently more likely to see greater returns from their investments than those that don’t. Just over (52%) saw increased productivity versus only 40% of those without such a strategy.

Verizon noted that to achieve these results, businesses need to go beyond a mere work-at-home policy to define the purpose and goals of the programme, the approach the organisation will take and how they will measure success. The use of technology is a key differentiator in this strategy.

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Logically for a company whose parent is the largest 5G operator in the US, the study looked at the next-generation communications platform and found that the potential of 5G technology extended beyond basic operational improvements.

A fifth of respondents said 5G would enable them to do work they have never been able to do before, while just over a quarter (28%) believed it will enable new business models to be explored, adding more value to their business proposition. Two-fifths of those surveyed expected 5G to become a reality for their own organisation in two years, opening the door to applications that employ higher-quality or lower-latency video and augmented or virtual reality.

Yet there were of course gating factors that could slow digital work momentum. Not surprisingly, the research revealed security as a potential barrier, indicated by 35%, and as many as 86% of respondents stated the importance of addressing data security to get the most value from their digital investments in the future.

“The global pandemic accelerated this move to a digital working environment, and business leaders need to use the lessons of the present to future-ready their organisations,” said Sampath Sowmyanarayan, president of global enterprise at Verizon Business.

“Seeing how their network, security and employee collaboration systems have operated during the pandemic should provide the blueprint for the road ahead. By acting now, they can capture the needs of employees and customers and create alignment across the organisation as they pivot towards the new normal.”

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