As restrictions relax, businesses are considering what a return to the office might look like in the long-term. However, as outbreaks of COVID-19 are detected, the uncertainty of what this means for the workplace throughout Australia is evident.
Over the past decade, many companies had begun to embrace a culture that supports remote working to increase productivity and staff morale. This trend has never been more relevant than in recent times, as millions have worked from home to control the spread of COVID-19.
Employees’ experiences of home working have been mixed. While some have enjoyed the flexibility of remote working and the ability to better manage their work-life balance, others have struggled with the isolation and miss physically interacting with colleagues.
There is however, a common realisation that technology provides the vital link between colleagues, customers and supply chains when physical contact is not possible.
As the world begins to open up, many people will expect their employers to adopt workplace policies that allow them to choose how, where and even when they work.
Many companies are now focused on finding a more balanced approach that offers employees a mix of home and office working. Technology is facilitating this, allowing teamwork to be maintained in most cases, regardless of location.
This balanced structure will best deliver the physical interaction that humans need to thrive, with the convenience, flexibility and cost-efficiency of remote working into the future.
Companies are likely to continue to need to find ways to reduce the number of employees working in the office at any one time, whether on designated days or in smaller groups.
Having fewer permanent office-based staff has additional benefits. Office space can potentially be reduced, lowering financial overheads, and these cost savings may make a significant difference in ensuring business survival.
Business phone systems remain important even during lockdowns
Here at Comsource, we’re finding that shifting phone systems to employees’ homes with our Softphone App is working well for most of our customers.
Using the power of the Cloud, our Softphone App lets employees take the power of their desk phone with them wherever they go. The app allows them to make and receive voice calls, send messages – as if sitting at their desk in the office.
Another option is to simply take the office phone and plug it into a home modem, but this can present difficulties. There is, of course, the need to physically go to the office to collect the phone. Some customers have also experienced minor problems when their home modem has been configured by a different service provider to that in the office.
Softphone technology has the additional benefit of allowing employees to see the presence of their colleagues via the app, and feel more connected to workplace operations. It also makes shifting from home to office much simpler.
Workplaces will adapt to employees’ preference for increased flexibility
Technologies such as the Softphone App and video conferencing software, which has enabled businesses to keep connected to their employees, customers and suppliers during COVID-19, have permanently changed the landscape of working from home.
These technologies will continue to make the choice to work from home easier, even when the pandemic is over.
According to the NBN Australian COVID-19 Behavioural Change Survey, working from home could become the new normal, even after the coronavirus threat is behind us.
More than 80% of respondents said the experience of working from home had positively changed how they think about managing work/life flexibility.
Less than 10% of businesses offered employees the option to work from home prior to COVID-19, and these arrangements were often informal. Now, 67% expect to continue work from home more often after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
This presents a challenge into the future for businesses to keep workers from losing touch with the workplace if the right supporting structures are not in place for working from home. Solutions to address this could include the ability to work from home two days a week for example, and the rest in the office.
Where to from here?
The threat of a resurgence of the virus remains ever-present, as does the uncertainty of what the future holds.
A hybrid model where employees can work remotely when required will provide the necessary agility if further lockdowns occur. A business with the flexibility to fine tune its infrastructure to the needs of its people and to events beyond its control will be at a distinct advantage.
As people return to the office, they will expect remote working to play a bigger role in their work life.
By meeting this demand with the right tools, companies can best support their employees to do their job safely, effectively and productively, no matter what the coming months might present.