The past year has seen unforeseen changes in workplace practices. From policies to technologies, businesses of all industries have had to adapt their ways of working and increase investment in new tools and systems to accommodate a fully remote or hybrid workforce.
Eugene Young is Country Director for UK&I at DocuWare.
Business leaders can take the lessons learned from the past year and create robust policies and technology practices that will benefit their organization for years to come. By demonstrating strong leadership and setting the right tone, organizations can become more responsive to new and sudden changes, as well as create a more productive and happier workforce, adapting to new expectations and creating a flexible work environment that will attract the best talent.
Creating a flexible work model
Demonstrating flexibility towards employee needs can help bolster morale and culture. The emergence of a more flexible workplace has not negatively affected efficiency and productivity. According to CIPD, workers with flexible hours are more likely to be engaged and can potentially help generate 43% more revenue and improve working performance by 20%. Employees are using the extra time that was typically spent on commuting to either get an early start on work or do other activities such as exercise, which in turn helps create a better work-life balance.
Companies that offer tools and services that enable employees to work from any location are likely to continue to thrive as we slowly emerge out of this pandemic. It means that the workforce can adapt to rapid changes quickly without causing major disruption, as they are already set up to work from any location, at any time. Additionally, offering flexible hours can be beneficial for employee productivity, mental health, and the ability to attend to non-work responsibilities. This can allow existing employees to continue working and is attractive to any potential new talent.
Even before the pandemic arrived, questions around flexible working were becoming more and more common during job interviews. Candidates were already evaluating companies based on the flexibility on offer. Fast forward to now, and flexible working is an expectation at the top of nearly every candidate’s mind. It will become more commonplace for candidates to be offered the choice to work when and how they want.
Remote working is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, in some form. Business leaders who are hesitant to implement long-term flexible working practices need to adjust their corporate culture and put more trust in their employees. Organizations that do not accommodate changing employee expectations for flexible working could end up losing the best talent.
Empowering the workforce with the right tools
To address the talent and technology gap, businesses need to invest in the appropriate tools and systems. Technology investments have been crucial during this uncertain time. For example, the shift to remote working has highlighted the importance of investing in the cloud. Employees are no longer bound by internal networks, meaning that work can continue to happen for businesses anywhere. It can also be more cost-effective for businesses, as more organizations are adopting subscription-based models depending on the needs of the business, rather than making huge and unnecessary investments.
The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of cloud-based document management solutions. Automated workflows that can happen independently of human intervention, cybersecurity tools and solutions with an easy to use and easy to implement e-signature function are in high demand. With data being the core of every business, these tools have been vital for employees to access digital documents and manage well-structured data anytime, anywhere, and on any device safely and seamlessly. The right investments can also help ensure that a flexible workplace model is sustainable in the long term.
Introducing the right tools and services and implementing automated workflows will enable employees to be more productive and independent. Long email chains, manual processing, or having to chase for an update can be solved with programmed workflows. For example, an invoice can be sent to and processed by the relevant department, approved with digital stamps, and automatically alerted when the task is complete or requires further action. By equipping teams with the right tools to better manage processes, as well as replace paper-based tasks with digital workflows, staff can be freed to focus on high-value tasks. Also, having intuitive systems in place enables employees to learn on the go and do their best work.
Encouraging greater collaboration
Collaboration has become more vital than ever as employee interactions become increasingly digital. Working as one organization in a distributed environment requires new skills and tools to enable work to flow seamlessly between departments. The move to a digital or hybrid workforce has enabled organizations to establish more efficient communication mechanisms and workflows between previously siloed departments. This means that information can flow more effortlessly and ensure work is completed promptly.
In order to encourage greater collaborations, businesses should be investing in tools that enable colleagues to work alongside one another live in Microsoft365 programs, for example. This means collaboration can happen in real-time and has real benefits to creating a more effective remote workforce. In addition, ensuring that any new technology or document management software solutions seamlessly integrate with current systems, also means disruption is minimal. Employees can work together to improve products and services and create new ways to engage with customers, all of which will enhance the customer experience and drive business success.
Leading from the front
Business leaders have been presented with a great opportunity to shape the future work model. Setting the right tone at the top will help instill broader cultural change and establish long-term company values. To ensure a productive, satisfied, and collaborative workforce, business leaders need to have flexible policies and practices. Investment in the appropriate tools will be key in bringing out the best in employees, as well as attracting and retaining the best talent.
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