The uncertain, often unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded new levels of flexibility and responsiveness from governments and businesses. Organisations who were once optimistically drafting return-to-office plans might now find themselves dealing with a return to tighter government restrictions, while others with fewer pandemic-related restrictions might nonetheless be struggling with keeping hybrid teams cohesive. And it can be difficult to keep an eye on the bigger picture when ICT decisions need to happen fast or business objectives become fluid.
But it’s never been more important to do precisely that. A blend of remote and in-office workers puts IT teams at the heart of business-critical efforts to bring employees together, regardless of variety in devices, workspaces or locations. At the same time, reactive solutions can eventually create overcomplication, security risks and even inconsistency in customer services. Those making decisions about ICT face the tough job of staying strategic during a time when it can be hard to plan six weeks into the future.
We’ve helped numerous customers grapple with these challenges and have even dealt with many of them ourselves here at Telstra. That’s why we’ve put together a checklist to help you cover your bases and lay the groundwork for a flexible, supportive ICT strategy, with a focus on both short-term fixes and considerations for the future.
- Physical equipment and office spaces – Those working remotely should use a dedicated business computer where possible. Home computers tend to harbour more cyber threats and whilst these are relatively harmless if all you’re doing is watching Netflix and checking emails, they can become a serious risk if business data becomes exposed. Headsets and individual phones may also be required in the office to prevent the spread of germs on shared equipment. Further, workspaces and meeting rooms will need to be reviewed to ensure adequate spacing and proper hygiene.
- Collaboration solutions – The location and timing of a working day have become more fluid during the pandemic. Your team can greatly value from implementing instant messaging to communicate with each other quickly, regardless of if they’re 1.5 metres away or across the country. They can also see when colleagues are busy or away from their computer. Simultaneously, video conferencing has been the most prominent technology success story of 2020. Video calls have replaced in-person meetings, training sessions and live events. They’ve kept people connected with colleagues and customers for work meetings and personal catchups. Evaluate if your current collaboration tools fulfil the needs of your team.
- Project management – The increasingly distributed nature of team collaboration means it’s more important than ever to be on the same page. Project management software keeps everybody across which projects are live, who is responsible for each step in the process and when the next deadline is going to arrive. By having a system that the whole team can view and running regular meetings to talk through the project board, you’ll help ensure the team remains focused and across what needs to be done.
- Content management – Teams need fast, reliable and secure access to documents, files, images and lots of other content to get their work done effectively and efficiently. A content management system makes it easy to find what they need and share it with others wherever they are to keep your business moving. By holding content in the cloud, it won’t matter if your team is in the office or working remotely – they’ll have the same access.
- Training and troubleshooting – Whichever tools you use to meet the blended IT needs of your remote and in-office workers, it’s more important than ever to provide the right level of support. This means offering different levels of training so that people get the most value out of them and making it easy to resolve issues if they arise. Holding training sessions with everyone in one room may not be possible, and with people logged onto their own computers, you may have to work harder to keep people’s attention. Consider making it easier to digest by breaking the training up into segments.
- Team culture – When everyone moved to remote working, we saw a ‘flattening’ across teams where there was no longer a head office team, satellite office team or remote working individuals – everyone shared the same experience of logging into meetings or presenting to colleagues. It will be important to ensure these clusters don’t return as hybrid working patterns take shape. Further, it will remain important to continue creating virtual ‘water cooler’ moments, using collaboration solutions to initiate casual discussion and inject moments of fun during the day.
General guidelines are a good starting point, but no two organisations are the same and ICT solutions are rarely one-size-fits-all. We can help with solutions tailored to your unique needs – find out more about Telstra’s communications and collaboration solutions.