As the presence of the global pandemic is felt across the world – governments are scrambling to try to ready their citizens for its impact, while, companies are trying to find a new normal in order to maintain operations, retain employment and create a level of social connection between employees even more important than ever.
What we have seen in recent weeks is nothing short of a revolution in terms of how people, teams and companies are adapting to remote working.
Across every size of business, people are reimagining their notion of the workplace. The role of technology in the time of COVID-19 is enabling us to help companies to survive and for the lucky few, perhaps even help them to thrive.
Either way, it is causing companies to explore new ways of delivering products and services to customers, but is also forcing organisations to strategise, design, execute and collaborate in ways never seen before so quickly.
High speed 4G and broadband connectivity, cloud-based file sharing, higher quality video conferencing as well as social and collaboration tools, think Workplace, Slack, Teams to name a few, provide the infrastructure which is enabling us to get our jobs done remotely. In fact, it has enabled us to move our entire companies to a virtual environment within days.
As cities and entire countries enforce social distancing and curfews, millions of people have been told to work from home. Work indeed has new meaning for many as it provides refreshed purpose when we are looking at the fundamentals of our lives when many of the more discretionary activities in our lives are not possible for the moment – socialising, shopping, entertainment outside the home.
Through necessity, leaders are now embarking on a productivity and indeed a social experiment that has the potential to drive a seismic shift in how we think about work and working from home. The big multinationals and the SME’s alike have sent hundreds of thousands of office workers home with the expectation that work can be done effectively. It may be necessary but is it as productive and enjoyable?
YouGov Omnibus research in 2019 shows that 20% of HR managers believe that staff work to a slightly higher standard at home than in the office. More notable is the fact that only 7% of HR decision makers believe employees work to a much higher standard.
Other studies show that, with the right technological infrastructure, working from home can be more productive. There are many variables at play here in terms of the nature of certain types of work, teams and individual preferences of course.
One thing is clear, this moment of COVID-19 will provide a way to assess the effectiveness on a never before seen global scale, as we move at speed to this new and scaled remote workforce. The results have the potential to change our view on the subject forever.
Ann Francke OBE, the Head of the Chartered Management Institute believes that COVID-19 will enforce a paradigm shift in productivity and workplace attitudes, having the potential to change the workplace forever. She urges that, everyone will need to embrace a different sort of workplace behaviour.
This could not be possible without incredible advances in technology. Those technologies are, however, often an expensive part of a digital transformation that big companies are moving through. In poorer parts of the world, it is a different story.
As COVID-19 takes hold in sub-Saharan Africa, technology will also come to the rescue of businesses and their employees – but it is a region where a significant majority of people work in the informal sector, in jobs such as construction work, tailoring or vehicle repair work.
Contract-based cloud services or video conferencing hardware may not be widely accessible due to infrastructure or affordability reasons. The International Labour Organisation estimated that 66% of all employment on the African continent is informal and in Ghana and Kenya respectively, the informal sector accounted for 90% and 83.6% of total employment in 2018.
Whilst many companies in the developed economies turn to cloud and HD video conferences, millions of people in the developing world are turning to their mobile phone to keep in contact with customers and employees, and keep their businesses running.
For office workers in the West, time will tell if there are productivity gains or indeed social benefits. We do know that businesses will adapt to survive. Wherever we are in the world, affordable technology – and access to it – is a game-changer to achievement.
For now, the battle is underway to eradicate this dreadful virus from our communities. But technology is providing us with some hope of keeping our economies and businesses afloat and our communities socially connected if physically isolated.
- Leaders are now embarking on a productivity and social experiment that has the potential to drive a seismic shift.
- Hundreds of thousands of office workers have been sent home with expectation that work can be done effectively.
- Only 7% of HR decision makers believe employees work to a much higher standard at home.
- YouGov Omnibus research shows 20% HR managers believe staff work to a slightly higher standard at home than in the office.
- 66% of all employment on the African continent is informal.
- In Ghana and Kenya respectively, the informal sector accounted for 90% and 84% of total employment in 2018.
By Fiona Mullan, Chief People Officer, Ding.