Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic first sent people into lockdowns and closed offices, managing remote work remains a challenge for organisations. With offices now re-opening, employees are being given the option to decide where they would like to work. Organisations are finding it important to do this at a time where the “great resignation” means as many as 20 per cent of the workforce are looking to change jobs, and Australian employees have said they would rather quit than give up remote work.
At the same time, hybrid working models can cause headaches if they’re not properly managed. Research by GoTo shows that among organisations that have shifted to a hybrid work model, the single biggest challenge is the ongoing organisational change required, followed by patchy Internet connections and technology coming in third.
This is all an opportunity for the channel to provide technology and consulting services that help these businesses refocus hybrid working on to maximising the user experience, GoTo Director of Channel, APAC, Yvette McEnearney said. In doing so, they can help their customers drive company-wide comfort in these new ways of working.
“What we find is that many businesses have too many, or even duplicative, types of technologies in use,” McEnearney said. “The channel can act to make things simpler for them, consolidating the environment down so that the users don’t need to have four or five different applications open at the same time. Our channel partners have found that consolidation and ease of use is something that resonates across the entire organisation.”
Channel partners further find themselves being able to reduce costs through consolidation, McEnearney added. At a time where cost efficiency is critical to healthy businesses, channel partners that can actively ease the burden of IT costs are being significantly valued by customers.
Technology-driven solutions to business problems
According to Gallup, there are five particular questions that businesses should pay close attention to as they build their hybrid work practice:
- 1)Where are employees working now, and where will they work in the future? This is to determine whether employees would benefit from splitting their time between working locations and to what extent they would.
- 2)What happens if organisations do not support remote flexibility? There will be some businesses that insist on a return to office work, but those leaders need to consider the implication in terms of losing employees to rivals that do offer remote work. As noted above, this something that employees insist on.
- 3)Why do employees prefer remote work? It’s also important to understand what it is about remote work that appeals to employees, and ensure that the technology solutions are there to help facilitate those benefits. Generally, employees prefer the flexibility and feel more productive when they can work on their terms. Enabling this means 24/7 access to the network, communication and support tools that adequately highlight the employee’s presence and availability, and the ability to securely log in from anywhere – not just home, but also remote via hotspot and the like.
- 4)What will the future workweek look like? Following on from the above, the 9-5 office hours are gone, with people choosing to get some work done on weekends, in the evening, or mornings. Some people will want to spend one day in the office per week. Others would rather spend four. Policy and management need to account for all these scenarios.
- 5)How can we make hybrid work more productive and engaging? There is the risk that people working remotely can feel isolated, like they’re missing out on opportunities and, ultimately, disengaged with their teams. Addressing this requires a mix of HR management and IT-driven solutions, to provide employees with the right tools and ensure that they contributions are given equal weight to those from people within the office.
In addition to all the above, organisations need to understand when hybrid work makes existing technology solutions redundant, McEnearney said. “For one example, for many of our partner’s customers, there was the opportunity to move telephony to a new system,” she said. “The legacy telephony system sitting in the office wasn’t being used and meant nothing to remote workers, and people were starting to use their mobile phones to talk to customers, but this was causing a cost blowout. The channel had this opportunity to move the technology to cloud hosted telephony platforms, which solved the cost of mobile phones for remote workers, and ensured that the business was gaining transparent insights into their monthly phone costs.”
Once that is in place the organisation can start doing more complex things with the communications platform, such as video conferencing, and one-to-many webinars that simulate the town hall office meeting. Whether remote or in-office, employees of those businesses felt engaged and supported by their organisations.
Channel delivery is the most effective
As McEnearney noted, building a stronger approach to hybrid work is effectively a transformation within the business, which makes it an ideal channel play.
For its part, the channel needs to focus on the expertise story, and substantiate the benefits of these hybrid working solutions, McEnearney added. “Customers need to know that their partners have done 100, 200 hybrid work deployments before theirs, and so they have a really good insight into how to drive that transformation and delivering on the promise of hybrid work,” McEnearney said.
This focus on unlocking the value of hybrid work will continue to drive business IT for some time to come. Most businesses in most sectors will need to grapple with hybrid work in some way, and with such a proliferation in the number of technologies and solutions available, the role of the channel in consolidating technologies and building solutions that focus on the user experience will be enormously valued.