The pandemic has shifted the way we think about and do our work, but that goes beyond a focus on the employee experience and initiatives that drive engagement. That shift has also been reflected in the way we think about technology and the way we apply it to the experience of working.
The last nine months have made one thing abundantly clear, technology has to be woven into the fabric of every aspect of the work experience. From how we communicate, to how we manage performance, interact with customers and maintain vital business processes.
The ability to do so has proven that office spaces are not as required as once thought and now, as companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon look to change the way their people work forever, it’s becoming clear that the office space has to be replaced by a suite of technology solutions that empower people to work in the same way they did prior to COVID-19.
But even if employees are not going to remain remote, it turns out technology is also playing an important role in getting them back through the door. Some of the technology needs HR teams have to consider these days are things they wouldn’t have imagined being concerned with in January, but the same could be said for much of the HR function in 2020.
Bringing People Back
Getting people to come back to an office in the middle of a pandemic is tricky, to say the least. There’s a host of compliance issues and challenges around physical space, to say nothing of keeping up with employee wellness, which has become a top priority for many in HR.
Some workplaces have daily attestations from employees who are front line workers. When they come in, they have to affirm that they have not been in contact with infected persons and are not showing symptoms. Human capital management systems can now help with keeping all of this structured and organized and even offer touchless kiosks that serve as time clocks.
Mobile apps are also proving useful. Some are plugging into Uber to offer rides to employees who can’t drive or are not comfortable using public transportation. Other apps that have been developed allow employees to book a workspace, schedule arrival times to the offices so as to avoid high traffic areas and gauge readiness to return to the workplace.
Contact tracing apps are another big one. By making these mandatory, devices used during working hours can identify employees who have come into contact with an exposed person. This can include badge scans and employee locations throughout the office, making it easier to limit the spread in an office environment.
All of this is crucial in building trust in the effort to bring employees back to the office. As a majority of employees wish to remain remote, convincing them that a return to the office is the right decision will require a sense of trust and the use of mechanisms that people trust, one of which is technology.
For those who do remain remote, technology is shaping their work experience like never before. To create a better experience, there are things to consider beyond having Slack or Teams and a Zoom subscription.
There’s a whole host of mechanisms by which productivity can be tracked, though how necessary they are on a large scale is debatable. For certain types of work they may be required, but for others, simply removing to a results based monitoring style may be all that is needed.
COLUMN: Defining a Remote Future
“If you needed to micromanage your team in the office to ensure high productivity, you were already looking at systemic underlying issues,” Darren Murph, head of Remote at Gitlab said in an HR Exchange Network interview earlier this year. “Dozens of university studies have found that remote employees are more productive than in-office counterparts, largely due to a massive reduction in interruptions and healthier lifestyles due to not commuting.
“Ensuring that productivity remains high requires leadership to equip remote team members with the hardware and software necessary to do their jobs well. This includes an ergonomic workspace. It also requires intentionality on matters such as informal communication, and where work happens.”
When we think of technology stacks, we often think of software, but Murph’s point about hardware is valid. Obviously employees need reliable computers and a good internet connection, but there are other factors to consider. The way someone sounds in the room they work in can be distracting if the built in microphone isn’t able to handle the room, so to speak. Providing headsets and items such as improved webcams can ensure that everyone has the same sound and visual quality. That standardization can help make it easier for people’s presence to be felt in a conversation and ensure that their able to communicate effectively.
Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets