For many business leaders, it took a pandemic to recognize that we live in an unplanned world that needs better support for a more global and digital workforce.
This modern-day situation has shown us that getting remote work to succeed requires a fundamental shift in considering what “working remote” really means. This process means removing hierarchical structures and enabling speedy “hyper decision-making.” It means supporting a myriad of existing and new touch points as part of the multi-experience economy. It means designing our businesses with both customer and employee experiences in mind, in equal measure.
This is the new reality we are transitioning to as the world begins to reopen; one where we must balance in-office and remote workers with more care than before COVID-19. We must employ a “work from anywhere” mindset that takes into a range of considerations including where our employees can best serve the needs of the business—wherever that might be.
There have been several important lessons learned as we help prepare us for a “work from anywhere” mindset:
Human connection can exist without in-person connection
This fact was proven long before the pandemic with people all over the world communicating, making purchases, scheduling appointments and other activities virtually anywhere, with only a device. What this situation has proven is that human connection among employees for advancing customer and business outcomes—albeit enhanced by in-person interaction—can prevail and even thrive in a world of social distancing.
Executives saw that employees could still authentically connect and get work done, not just from home but wherever they were located when the global shutdown took place. Therefore, our original work-from-home mindset must evolve to give employees the freedom to work anywhere they please—reflective of a digital nomad lifestyle.
Traditional industries have it in them to transition
When push comes to shove, even rigid industries can be flexible. If traditional industries like finance and education can lay a groundwork for remote work, any business can.
And more likely, these industries don’t have to rush into making big investments or overhauling existing infrastructures. Communication and collaboration tools are more accessible than previously thought. Diverse new work styles and opportunities have proliferated professions. For example, remote work has given rise to wider talent pools, reaching those who do not wish to relocate.
There will, undoubtedly, still be long-term challenges that exist (i.e. lack of at-home connectivity in many school communities, security for handling sensitive financial information), but it does make us more aware of what is possible with the right tools and strategies.
Accept fatigue, then reenergize your workforce
Many businesses will realize that productivity either remained constant or saw a boost during this time, but that doesn’t mean remote work cannot result in fatigue.
Businesses will need to be more creative with how they use a combination of technology and the physical office space to foster positive culture and increased productivity.
For example, there are teams that log into group video meetings while they work together, completely in silence. Some companies create “visibility buddies” where team members are placed in pairs in order to shout-out each other’s accomplishments.
There are themes that can be created for team meetings, such as”bring your pet to work day,” “pajama day,” or “prom night.” And then of course, there is the good ole virtual happy hour, which I personally can get on board with.
While making the transition from “work from home” to “work from anywhere,” there are several key steps your company can take to treat customers and employees well.
Place customer and employee experience on the same plane
The link between employee experience and customer experience is well-established in business, especially within call and contact centers where customer satisfaction is critical.
Just like customers, employees have journeys and feelings that translate into the value they deliver to the customer’s experience and your company.
As they work through their responsibilities, employees will be expected to communicate more diligently as they work from the location that suits them. Similar to how your business interacts with customers, your employees deserve valuable interactions, especially considering the myriad of ways they can communicate.
Organizations should look to evolve how they address their customers’ and employees’ changing wants, needs, and desires.
Prioritize effortless interactions through technology
These days, people are communicating over every fathomable mode of interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers now expect a unified and effortless experience, regardless of how your company is engaging with them. Customers and employees should be able to communicate efficiently with technology they are comfortable with in the way they prefer.
Part of the next phase of COVID-19 recovery is reimagining the digital experience, especially working from whatever location your employees find themselves in.
Restructure to make decisions at all levels
Hierarchical decision-making will prove ineffective as the world begins to reopen and the majority of employees continue to work remotely. People are working, brainstorming, deliberating, and aligning schedules from a host of locations: On the road, in line at the grocery store, at the gym, among other places.
Hyper decision-making will be the new imperative for organizational success as we move forward, and that means promoting employees’ increased involvement in decision-making processes. It is no longer practical to wait for the final decision from the upper-most level of the food chain.
This isn’t to suggest a lack of respect for positions of authority, but rather a key piece of strategizing for the new business environment. Going forward, rapid and constantly changing developments will be the norm, and the speed and acuity of action must reflect this change.
We can’t plan for tomorrow or even today, but we do know that the future of work is here now. Work from home must be “work from anywhere” to be successful in the long-term.
Simon Harrison is the senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Avaya, where he leads the global marketing function to engage new and existing customers and partners, drive adoption of the company’s software solutions, and support Avaya as the leading player in a dynamic digital communications market.