Unprecedented restrictions on travel and physical interactions since the COVID-19 pandemic struck look set to continue for the foreseeable future. While this has driven the adoption of more digital video platforms in businesses to facilitate distributed collaboration within organisations, it’s becoming clear that the implementation of these technologies must provide improved inclusivity, a more humanised interactive experience, as well as increased productivity and return on investment.
Even when we begin to return to more familiar work routines many of these behavioural changes are likely to continue in the future. Whether considered positive or negative, there will be several outcomes related to workplace dynamics, employee expectations, and resource management that everyone should prepare for post-COVID. The transformation in how we communicate, collaborate, and interact using digital technology has happened in a matter of weeks rather than months or years, and people are still adjusting to it. Lack of physical presence, muted body language and a reduction in the range of visual and audio cues that complex interpersonal communications rely on often leave people feeling more fatigued and isolated from their organisations even if they feel physically safe.
Transient Change Becomes Permanent
Before the pandemic, remote work had struggled to establish itself in the mainstream, as companies worried about its impact on productivity and corporate culture. New research from McKinsey shows that only about 30 percent of organisations had some sort of remote working in place pre-COVID. Now, more than 75 percent of firms have shifted to a remote working strategy and while that rate may decline slightly post-COVID, it is expected to remain at more than 50 percent, indicating the remote or distributed working model is here to stay. Given this new reality, businesses and employees must maintain and increase productivity in safe environments while ensuring maximum ROI on technology investment.
Safety is not just about bio-secure, socially distanced environments. Whether this is in the office or remotely, people need to feel physically safe from the pandemic as well feeling digitally secure. This means equipping employees with the right combination of software and hardware to work together productively and confidently and with the right level of cybersecurity.
Greater digitization and automation, more demand for independent contractors, and increased reliance on remote work have the potential to deliver improved productivity, lower costs, and enhanced resilience. Historically, innovation has driven beneficial changes for workers and humanity at large, and new workplace trends hold the promise of greater productivity that will fuel broader well-being. The trick will be in reducing the risk of unequal outcomes, ensuring companies of all sizes can benefit, and preparing workers for these shifts.
Human Connection Matters
We live in a physical world as well as a digital one but for the vast numbers of people working remotely due to the pandemic it’s easy to forget that. It is vital to remember that we are humans not just ‘users’, and the solutions rolled out to workforces must address the human condition.
It was hard enough before in business meetings to ‘read the room’ and it’s even harder now. We need to recognise that we have not developed essential skills for a digital life: No eye contact, poor video and audio quality, can’t see how others are reacting, no body language and no sense of gut or instinct. A new trust is required and so is a way of verifying that trust.
People used to be quite sensitive and self-conscious about using video communications but in the age of social media societal norms have shifted and consumers are far more active and engaged. Businesses have for the most part, lagged behind this trend but with the expansion of workplace video from conference room to home office, workers have become more used to it. However, this new business complexity also poses new productivity challenges.
Business Intelligence as a Service
Capturing and interpreting data from video interactions unlocks new productivity gains. The use of AI algorithms to recognise who is involved in a conference from analysing data collected from smart camera and audio systems enables optimisation of a range of services for participants to utilise that are tailored to their individual and group needs. High quality video interaction like this creates more trust in collaboration and increases the velocity of business decision-making. It also boosts a sense of connection between people by reinforcing the psychological aspects of human interaction.
As our business communications become more and more virtual, these interactions can be recorded, processed, and analysed after the fact to ensure that workflow notifications are sent, and tasks are actioned appropriately. The data also enables more automation in how resources are allocated and optimised. The resulting efficiencies in business complexity, cost, and time-management will create an environment where the IT department can deliver what business leaders want from their employees in the new normal without alienating and isolating them.