[Editor’s Note: Know This, Do This is a blog series from System Soft Technologies. What is this series for? It’s a cycle of articles that take you on a journey, exploring ways innovative technology can help leaders drive transformation and growth.]
Fall is almost here. This back-to-school season is shaping up to be unlike any other. For many, the “classroom” and the “office” might be co-located at the kitchen table. Homework now intersects with work from home.
Business leaders must be proactive, assisting their employees to navigate this work-life intersection with productivity-enabling technology. Why? Because “work from home” (WFH) is now a more permanent fixture than anyone could have imagined seven months ago.
Stanford research reveals that 42% of the U.S. labor force is now working from home. And even more significantly, these at-home workers account for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economic activity. No longer just a trend, the transition of working from the office to the home is evolving into a long-lasting way of work.
As we say good-bye to the cubicle and hello to the digital workplace as the new normal, now is the time to proactively provide the right tools and technology for at-home employees, fueling productivity, security and collaboration.
In this edition, we look at five sure-fire, innovative technologies that can lead to new and more efficient ways of WFH for the rest of this year, and beyond.
We recommend treating the current situation less like an experiment and more like a permanent fixture for the future of work.
Getting that done right means using technology, which includes:
- Automating the business processes you can through Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
- Introducing rapid software development techniques like Low-Code/No-Code to spur business agility.
- Implementing a Digital Workplace for personalized employee experiences.
- Placing a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboard on every knowledge-worker’s desktop.
- Administer policies and technology to secure the applications and data, which WFH employees depend on.
Do these things and you will get an “A” on home-work. Your employees will love you for it. So, too, will your bottom line. For those that have gone to the head of the class, we’ve seen them realize higher revenue growth, increased collaboration, improved process efficiency, strengthened employee engagement, and enhanced customer service.
Remote Working Stats of 2020
Nearly everyone can agree that remote work is changing the global workplace, especially in a world exposed to a pandemic. Even before March 2020, millions of workers craved and demanded flexible work alternatives. Some companies are heeding the call and seeing the value in offering remote work options to employees.
Here’s a closer look at remote work statistics in 2020. These data illuminate how the workplace is changing. And, the continuing pandemic only reinforces that remote work is not a trend, but a seismic and secular pattern.
Through the Employee Lens
Not meeting WFH employee expectations will negatively impact engagement, productivity and attrition. Here are some statistics to reinforce that point:
- Remote work has grown 140% since 2005. (Global Workplace Analytics)
- 80% of employees want to work from home.
- 35% of employees would change jobs to work remote.
- Remote workers save $2,500 to $4,000 per year.
- Remote workers are 13% more productive than traditional office workers. (Stanford)
Through the Employer Lens
Not supporting remote workers will create cost disadvantages for organizations. More statistics to consider:
- Companies can save up to $11,000 per employee per year. (Global Workplace Analytics)
- Work at home will save U.S. employers $30 billion.
- 5% lower attrition for remote workers.
- 47% of employers intend to allow employees to work remotely full time, even after the pandemic has ended. (Gartner)
These data reveal that the novel coronavirus outbreak will likely be viewed as the moment when the way we used to work fundamentally changed—forever. There’s no going back to the “old” normal.
Brief History about Remote Work
Organizations need to understand that effective remote work programs require more than just giving their employees smartphones, laptops and email access. A Zoom and/or Microsoft Teams account just won’t make the grade.
History has shown us that companies large and small have been trying for decades to make working from home work. While the historic trend has been consistent, it hasn’t been nearly the tsunami that’s arisen since January 2020.
As long ago as 1985, the mainstream media was using phrases like “the growing telecommuting movement.” Peter Drucker, the management guru, even declared in 1989 that “commuting to office work is obsolete.”
Telecommuting was a technology-driven innovation that seemed to offer benefits to both employees and executives. The former could eliminate ever-lengthening commutes and work the hours that best suited them. Management would save on high-priced real estate and could hire applicants who lived far from the office, deepening the talent pool.
Results Are Mixed
The history of remote work has proven that a piece-meal approach has had mixed results. There were those organizations that adapted to desktop computing and the automation of processes during the 1980s. The decade of the 90s gave us those that understood the possibilities of the internet and ecommerce. Still others used data and knowledge to differentiate themselves from their competitors at the turn of the century. The past decade has seen organizations take advantage of collaboration and communication platforms to connect remote employees.
Yet, the current health and economic challenges require that a more holistic, secure and robust approach be taken.
In 2009, for example, IBM transitioned 40 percent of its 386,000 employees in 173 countries to remote work settings. But in 2017, with revenue slumping, management called thousands of them back to the office. Other companies that have pulled back on telecommuting over the past decade include Aetna, Best Buy, Bank of America, Yahoo, AT&T and Reddit.
Why have these remote worker transitions not worked? Remote employees often felt marginalized, which made them less loyal. Some felt that creativity, innovation and collaboration seemed to suffer.
So, the lesson learned here is that to get an “A” grade in remote worker transition requires a multi-faceted platform, which leverages the following facets of technology and securely integrates to deliver a robust employee experience.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA (Robotic Process Automation) technology allows for easy automation of repetitive, high-volume and tedious processes. Demand for RPA was already high before the world shifted to working from home. Why? Because organizations realized that moving many tasks from people to machines was a win/win. Lower costs for the company. Less boredom for the worker, often unencumbered from low-value work and free to take on more strategic and valuable initiatives.
For example, a major health system moved more than 40 people, who were handling health records management, to remote work settings. RPA bots were developed that transitioned most of the workload from this team, redeploying all of them to revenue generation activities. An “A” grade, for sure.
Bots Reduce Risks, Lower Costs
System Soft Technologies (SSTech) believes that RPA bots can be used to manage some of the additional security risks that are inherent when key information and data is being shared via remote workers’ computers. We’ve seen bots developed that track security events across the virtual private network (VPN), connecting at-home workers. This automation has had the dual benefit of reducing security risks and lowering the costs of security operations.
With remote working, there will need to be a rethinking of processes and a focus on what can be automated via RPA. Your workers will thank you for it. So, too, will your investors.
Rapid Software Development
Software fuels the world of commerce. Software development has always taken longer and cost more than desired. This was the case when IT workers were in proximity and located in their offices and cubes, where all their shiny toys (e.g., servers, disk arrays, network devices, et al) were nearby.
But, nowadays, IT teams are at home and trying to triage a growing backlog of requests. With top lines being challenged, IT leaders are being asked to do more with less. That’s a big problem. But, there’s an answer: Low-Code/No-Code (LC/NC) platforms.
Low-Code/No-Code development platforms offer blocks of pre-built modules that accelerate the process of writing computer code and rely on graphical interfaces for drag and drop software development. Business users can build code and work with IT for configuration and deployment.
SSTech has used a Low-Code/No-Code platform to build a loan and grant portal for 35 remotely-located processors at a financial institution. The development process took only four weeks, and teleconference sessions were held with at-home executives to frame the customer portal and back-end processing requirements. Workflow was automated for the virtual processors. Subsequent enhancement of the system can be handled by non-IT staff members, who are all working from home.
Forrester believes that Low-Code/No-Code has the potential to make software development as much as 10 times faster than traditional methods. We believe the win/win here means that organizations can develop internal and external software faster and do so with a remote group of business users.
[Watch our webinar: Why Senior Business Leaders Need to Embrace a Low-Code/No-Code Platform Now.]
Collaboration, Communication and Employee Experience
Pre-COVID-19, there were many companies that felt their employees needed to be in the office and close together to enable collaboration and communication. This list included Yahoo and Google.
Well, the pandemic has quickly changed their philosophies and policies about remote work. Google recently announced, thanks to COVID-19, that its workers, who went remote earlier this year, will remain that way at least through 2021.
SSTech has been implementing robust Digital Workplaces (DW) that sit on top of Microsoft Office 365 for clients to spur collaboration, communication and a more compelling employee experience.
[Watch our webinar: Optimize Your Organization with Microsoft Teams and Conquer the Next Crisis.]
Employees receive the content they need, where they need it, and when they need it. The various facets of a comprehensive Digital Workplace are depicted in the following graphic.
Illustration: The various facets of a comprehensive Digital Workplace.
Digital Workplace platforms enable personalization, self-curation and the ability for each employee to have a work setting that reflects their roles, needs, preferences and geography. Communication is automated, so that messaging can be provided to each employee, giving a sense of community. Implementation of a comprehensive Digital Workplace platform can be achieved in months.
[Watch our webinar: Drive Employee Productivity through the Digital Workplace.]
It’s easy for employees working from home to lose sight of the key metrics that reflect on the organization’s and their goals. Most companies possess an over-abundance of data. But, it often exists in too many locations and isn’t consolidated to benefit decision making.
We strongly suggest that each key knowledge worker have a personal KPI dashboard available to them, so it’s easy to understand performance metrics at any point in time. The best dashboards support historical (what happened), predictive (what may happen) and prescriptive (how to change what may happen) analytics.
SSTech works with many different data lake platforms and tools to extract, rationalize and load data analytics enviornments, which are ported to key employees with powerful visualization.
For a major telecommunicatons provider, we implemented a balanced scorecard with PowerBI that was delivered to WFH employees in support of marketing and customer service. The net impact of the dashboard: The Net Promoter Score (NPS) went up and customer attrition levels went down, even with many employees working on these key metrics quarantined at home.
So, why not put a dashboard on the desktop of every knowledge worker at your organization? We’ve seen powerful ROI for the implementation of KPI dashboards for remote workers, whether working in finance, sales, marketing or IT.
Remember the pre-COVID-19 days when children were in school, joyfully engaged in the playground? There’s always a fence around school playgrounds to keep children in and others out. Pretty simple, and very much needed.
Well, that’s a strong analog for what’s required now when employees are working from home. Risk goes up. Control goes down. Access to corporate systems and data may emerge from a disparate set of less-than-secure hardware/software/network environments. Simple passwords aren’t enough.
Organizations must provide policies, procedures and technology to secure valuable data, applications and IP. There are many products that must be considered, implemented and managed to create a guarded environment for WFH employees. Those include secure Wi-Fi, multi-factor authentication, secure VPN, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), anti-virus scanning capability and malware protection.
It’s essential to provide easy-to-consume guidance for all employees about how to implement and use these tools. Ensure that compliance and tracking are in place. These are not the times when companies can let their guard down. More than ever, there are “bad actors” who are looking to breach an organization’s data and technology assets.
It’s not clear when knowledge workers will be able to return to the office. And, even when it’s safe to do so, companies might choose to keep some or most of their workforce remote.
According to a recent Gartner survey of 317 CFOs and finance leaders on March 30, 2020, it revealed that 74% will move at least 5% of their previously onsite workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.
So, if your organization is preparing for now or the future, all roads lead to the School of WFH. Get the best grades you can and graduate with honors by requesting a QuickStrike Assessment from SSTech. This rapid review will provide a clear path as to how these powerful technologies can be implemented, so your employees—both remote and in-office—can deliver compelling results.
It can all start with our Employee Experience Platform.
[Watch our webinar: The 6 Critical Technologies You Need for the Post-Pandemic Economy.]
About the Author: Stephen Moritz
Stephen Moritz serves as the Chief Digital Officer at System Soft Technologies. Steve, an avid warrior of fitness and health, champions driving business transformation and growth through the implementation of innovative technology. He often shares his knowledge about Digital Marketing, Robotic Process Automation, Predictive Analytics, Machine Learning and Cloud-based Services.