How has Covid-19 accelerated the digital workplace?
By Adam Flynn
There are differing opinions on whether the future of the workplace will be in the office, working from home or a mixture of both. Businesses have divided strategies towards remote working, some are eager to return their team to the office as soon as possible, whilst others are looking to shift to them working from home permanently.
However what most would agree with is that the new digital workplace tools and practices that were adopted over the lockdown period are likely to stay with us longer term. The 21/90 rule states that it takes 21 days to form a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change, therefore lockdown provided the perfect length of time for these new workplace skills to be adopted longer term.
Whether this is fully working from home or just more flexible workspaces, having the technology in place that will enable your business to operate in the most efficient way is a must.
Many businesses are encouraging their staff to work in the spaces that they can be most productive; from home when conducing calls and video meeting and in the office for relationship building, problem solving and strategic planning.
Although video technology has been with us for some time, it was not until the lockdown that holding meetings via video became truly mainstream. So, whether your chosen option is Microsoft Teams, Zoom or something else, we have all become accustomed to interacting in this way.
Having the right connectivity for video conferencing is vital, especially if lots of your team are accessing it at the same time. If you’re conducting client or sales meetings over video, you will probably want to upgrade your hardware, because conducting a meeting over a laptop may not provide the best audio. There is a range of compatible hardware available from headsets to full meeting room conferencing equipment that will provide you with the best impression.
When the lockdown forced most people to work within their homes many organisations sourced solutions that would enable their team to continue collaborating with their colleagues, suppliers, and clients. Our recent blog shows the range of collaboration tools and apps available and whatever the requirement there was a tool to meet it.
The most well-known and frequently used collaboration tool is Microsoft Teams. It’s popular with organisations because it’s part of the O365 platform that’s already familiar to their teams and it also enables multiple functions, such as, file sharing, chat, video conferencing and even as a telephony solution.
Online tech disrupters such as Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb had already encouraged consumers to move to online booking rather than via speaking to a person. Online shopping was already mainstream, over lockdown many either tried it for the first time or increased their frequency. Amongst the first-time online shoppers were many in the older generation who had perhaps been reluctant but are now likely to stick with the changes.
Customer interactions online
It was already recognised that there was a shift towards younger people preferring to interact online rather than on the phone. Many organisations have found interacting online using tools such as Video or Live Chat to be a quicker and more cost-effective way to interact with their customers.
People became accustomed to less face-to-face interaction during lockdown and social distancing and has since become the norm for interactions with anything from a consultation with a doctor to dealing with customer services. With the increased need to pre-book online for everything from gym appointments to restaurants, online interactions are only likely to increase.
Rise of the machines
The rise of the machines may not look as exciting as envisaged in Science Fiction movies, but we were already becoming accustomed to interacting with machines instead of people. Whether it’s at the supermarket checkout, buying a train ticket or chatting with online chatbot, robot and AI have quickly replaced jobs that were traditionally carried out by humans. An increase in social distancing and less human contact will encourage customers to opt for a machine first approach and lead businesses to find new solutions to meet the demand.
Digital businesses grow
Whilst it has been an extremely difficult period for many organisations others have flourished during the lockdown period, benefiting from our change in behaviours towards technology. For many organisations it has accelerated their plans towards digital transformation to meet new customer demands. A few examples are shown below.
- Amazon; All online specialists saw a rise in orders, however Amazon have further cemented their position as a global powerhouse.
- Netflix; attracted an additional 26 million customers in 2020, largely due to a surge in use during lockdown.
- Zoom; which although fairly unknown at the start of 2020, now has almost 13 million active users.
- Microsoft Teams; as a leading collaboration and video conferencing tool it saw users jump 70% in 2020 to 75 million daily users.
- Domino’s Pizza; are often cited as a company with a digital-first approach have taken on 6,000 extra UK staff to meet an increase demand in 2020.
These are just a few examples of how our behaviours towards technology changed during the lockdown period and for many organisations it has accelerated their plans towards digital transformation to meet new customer demands. Although traditional tech companies have seen the benefit during this period, those that had already adopted a digital mindset also benefited.
Having the right digital workplace strategy alongside this will be vital to ensuring an organisation grows and an initial plan of action that an organisation should look at includes:
- Assess how your organisation coped during lockdown.
- Plan an IT strategy to enable future employee flexibility and remote working.
- Ensure you can easily adapt to any future workforce restrictions
- Improve business processes and digital collaboration
- Develop a robust plan for future business success
- Ensure you can digitally interact with your customers