The way we work is evolving at its fastest rate as a result of COVID-19. Although businesses and organisations have been using digital communications for years, we have all recently been forced to fully embrace and adopt digital technology. The recent lockdown has encouraged companies to harness the power of the digital revolution and the benefits it brings, as the more efficient internal processes and communications are, the more efficient organisations can be for their customers.
It has been suggested that remote working is here to stay. Employees are increasingly wanting flexibility in where they work. Google trends show that interest in remote working has been steadily increasing over the last five years, peaking in mid-March this year with the outbreak of Coronavirus in the UK. In 2016, only 7.1% of the British workforce worked from their own home, or different places using their home as a base. In April 2020, statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, as a result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
If remote, flexible working is here to stay, businesses and organisations will need to ensure that their employees are able to communicate effectively via digital sources. Paul Beaumont, General Manager at Central Network and Technologies, an IT service provider, shares his thoughts on how IT and HR departments can enrich communication in the digital workplace.
Ensure you have effective phone systems in place
Phones are an essential way we communicate with one another. If you have an effective phone system in place, your employees can seamlessly communicate with each other and with customers from the comfort of their own home. This can also help to ensure that you are continuing to provide great customer service. The ability to take phone calls and possibly high-volume calls is crucial.
You might decide to just keep it simple and divert individual extensions to employee mobiles. However, this is not the best solution for call centre based, customer service staff. A better solution might be to give your employees handsets to use at home, however, you need to bear in mind that this would take some time to implement.
One of the main options to consider might be the use of softphones. A softphone is a software program for making telephone calls over the internet rather than dedicated hardware. This means your employees use a phone from their PC or Laptop. It is a useful tool, but if your system is not cloud-based, you may need a virtual private network (VPN) to facilitate this.
In a world where 80% of our time at work is spent collaborating, communication tools are crucial. Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) software can be used across a company to bring employees together. The platform offers workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and application integration.
The software amalgamates with Microsoft 365 and includes extensions that can integrate with non-Microsoft products. With MS Teams, all your conversations, meetings, files and tasks can be accessed from one single app on one single interface, improving efficiency and saving you time from scrolling through previous emails or trying to locate a document hidden amongst hundreds of files on various company drives.
Cybersecurity, GDPR and business continuity
Sharing company information and data to external computers on unsecured servers can lead to breaches in confidentiality – if not handled correctly. There are several ways you can ensure your data remains safe. Firstly, you should prohibit the use of employees using their personal email address for work purposes. This poses serious risks of IP theft, losing company privacy or violating customer privacy. It can also disrupt network operations because of exploits that can be implemented on computers.
Another thing to consider is enabling two-factor authentication when accessing your systems remotely. This will give you and your system added protection. Finally, if you do not already have one, you should create a remote working policy for your employees, explaining the do’s and don’ts when working from home.
The most dependable and secure way to ensure employees can work remotely is via a virtual desktop infrastructure. A virtual desktop gives employees flexible access to a workstation. The operating system and applications that make up the workstation are hosted on a remote server and managed by an administrator. Providing you have remote access and bandwidth to support connectivity, employees can – relatively easily – connect to your systems.
There is no doubt that remote working is a rising trend. IT and HR departments should work together to ensure that employees can access their work emails, documents and data from the comfort of their own home. By ensuring that they have efficient phone systems, digital collaboration tools, virtual desktops and do not forget about GDPR and cybersecurity they can allow for home working that is both efficient and safe.
 ONS Labour Force Survey
 ONS Labour Force Survey