The participants of NNIT's 2021 Expectation Barometer believe that remote work and digital collaboration are two initiatives that will become the new normal for the future workplace. But how can you keep an organization together when employees work in different locations and in different time zones? And how can you increase the use of digital tools without compromising employee satisfaction?
Over the past year, COVID-19 has disconnected us from the physical workplace and tested our ability to collaborate across channels and time zones. New digital tools have opened the door to greater flexibility and autonomy in the workplace. At the same time, they have challenged our social and sensory competencies, both of which are important for good cooperation.
Two out of three participants (69 percent) in NNIT's 2021 Expectation Barometer indicate that establishing an optimal remote work and collaboration IT setup is a top priority for companies right now.
So, how can organizations integrate digital tools in such a way that they do not risk reducing employee engagement, but instead contribute with support, efficiency, and motivation?
According to Brian Troelsen, Head of Market Intelligence and Partnerships at NNIT, a key aspect is to articulate what you are actively doing as a company to meet the changing needs of your employees during COVID-19:
"Your staff is your company's primary fuel. Do not underestimate the mental and physical consequences that COVID-19 has had on their well-being. Prospective employees will undoubtedly start to ask more about how employees were treated during COVID-19, and what the organization actively does to offer a work setup that provides optimal conditions for thriving and flourishing in a new working life."
Rethinking the attractive workplace
As much as 80 percent of participants of this year's Expectation Barometer expect remote work to become the new normal in the workplace of the future. According to Brian Troelsen, this is an indication that companies should rethink the concept of an attractive workplace in a post-COVID setting:
"For me, there is a triple win to be stopping and rethinking how you can take advantage of the behavioral changes that COVID-19 has prompted in order to create the most attractive workplace for both existing and future employees," he says and elaborates:
"Firstly, there is a key value proposition in being able to offer employees more flexibility through working from home. Secondly, flexibility contributes to a work culture where autonomy, voluntariness, and desire form the foundations of a workplace based on trust - not on power and surveillance. Thirdly, there is a financial gain in it– both for the employees and the company, as more remote working means reduced transport costs (and time), and more significant savings in the office.
Use data as a constructive agent for increased well-being
Remote working means increased digitization, and increased digitization results in more data being generated. According to Brian Troelsen, this data can be used constructively to increase employee well-being in the workplace:
"Companies can make use of tools that collect data points about their employees' digital behavior. Perhaps you see a tendency for a lot of people to shut down their computer and take a well-deserved nap in the middle of the day, because it makes them more productive in the afternoon. Perhaps a lot of people start their working day earlier when they work from home. With this data, companies can adapt the working day to the employee's preferences, based on their digital behavior.
However, Brian Troelsen emphasizes that you should only track digital behavior if it comes from a positive and trusting place, and not with the intention of controlling or monitoring employees:
"The purpose must be to offer a working day that suits the individual - not to act like Big Brother. Remember: As a company, the trust you show usually comes back in the form of happy and loyal employees. Therefore, you should remember to be conscious and transparent about the purpose of the data that you collect.
Digital tools require training and adjustment
This year's Expectation Barometer also indicates that almost half of the respondents (41 percent) have trained the organization in using new working methods to support agility and speed – and with good reason. It has never been more important to sharpen the organization's digital competencies if they are to contribute to efficiency and growth and not result in a mess:
"One of the tools that many organizations have adopted under COVID-19 is Microsoft Teams. Unfortunately, we see a lot of them using only around 30 percent of the platform's available features. They are not making the most of it," says Brian Troelsen, who continues:
"Often, time is also wasted ensuring that the microphone and camera work, and if you do not know how to share a presentation or record the meeting, the other meeting participants must spend time helping. Although it seems simple, the importance of training the organization in the use of digital collaboration should not be underestimated."
Fortunately, there are significant gains to be made if the company can master these digital disciplines. This is not just about tools used via the computer:
"Digital tools can also include augmented and virtual reality, which can be used to create business value even when you are not physically present. For example, with Microsoft HoloLens an employee can get a job done while giving instructions from anywhere in the world. That way, companies do not have to rely on physical contact anymore. This is a tool that greatly increases productivity and strengthens resilience.
Develop your dynamic adjustment skills
The past year has not only shown us that digital forms of collaboration are here to stay, nut it has also given us a taste of how organizations must be able to adapt to the constant changes that directly affect our everyday lives. The world requires dynamic adjustments more than ever before, and customers' demands for customized solutions must be met by flexible specialist skills.
This is also apparent in the results of this year's Expectation Barometer. It appears that around one in three respondents (37 percent) have reorganized to strengthen their organizational resilience.
"The demand for agile teams has increased significantly over the past year. Among other things, the gig economy is gaining ground, where you hire loosely connected employees to work for the organization for a limited period. The challenge is to integrate these individuals optimally into the rest of the organization, so that the collaboration creates value for everyone," says Brian Troelsen, who concludes:
"Overall, these are resources that increase the organization's resilience, because they are equipped to carry out customers' tasks in a fast and cost-effective way – without compromising on the quality of the work delivered.
How far have you come in your digital journey towards increased resilience?
You can still participate in NNIT’s 2021 Expectation Barometer Survey. Taking the test will give you your own digital resilience score and the opportunity to benchmark yourself against nine digital leaders from some of Denmark’s largest companies. Take the test here.