Michael Davies, CEO, ContinuitySA a Dimension Data company
My vote for Word of the Year for 2020 would have to be pivot—a verb that was suddenly on everybody’s lips to describe the abrupt and often radical changes that were needed in a world suddenly turned upside down
When the crisis hit and lockdowns began, it was all hands on deck, and technology played a major role in helping organisations come to grips with the new reality of distributed workplaces and interrupted value or supply chains.
Eight months on, technology remains important, of course, but there is growing emphasis on the other two components of true business resilience: people and process. Based on an extensive series of meetings with clients across the continent, these issues can be expected to define 2021:
A NEW WORKING ENVIRONMENT.
Many of Continuity’s clients are planning to ask staff to return to work early in the new year, but it’s clear that the new work environment will have to be more flexible.
Already we are seeing apps that automate the whole process of booking visits to the office to ensure that headcounts are kept within the parameters of current social-distancing regulations. Apps will also make it easy for people to complete the necessary health questionnaires and generate QR or other types of admission codes per visit. Apps will also automate the process of applying for necessary permits for work/ travel during curfew times.
A hybrid work from home and work from office work style is also being seen as a way to reduce the office footprint and save costs in a recessionary business climate. Organisations are looking at a hub-and-spoke approach with smaller head offices complemented by satellite offices that employees visit intermittently. Already
some clients are opting for managed office space at our facilities to provide this more flexible infrastructure.
NEW WAYS OF MANAGING PEOPLE IN THE NEW WORKPLACE.
The emerging hybrid workplace means that managers must devise new ways of managing remote employees. A greater focus on outcomes- or activity-based productivity measurement is becoming evident; managers will have to learn new tricks. Technology is likely to play a big role in this type of management. Another management challenge will be ensuring the wellbeing and engagement of isolated employees. A related challenge is a difficulty of maintaining a vibrant corporate culture when employees do not habitually work together physically— and how will new hires acquire it when they may spend large amounts of time working remotely?
A NEW APPROACH TO ASSETS.
Remote working has meant that company assets— furniture and equipment—migrated to employees’ homes. Now that it is clear we won’t be returning to the status quoante; organisations need to work out how to track those assets. How will they be insured and, if they break, how will they be repaired?
Another huge question mark is the impact of a larger than before hybrid work environment on the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
CYBERSECURITY WILL CONTINUE TO BE A TOP PRIORITY.
Many of these distributed corporate assets are electronic. External hacking is one aspect of a growing security issue, but remote working can also compromise data security in other ways—consider, for instance, flatmates working on confidential information in a common work area in a shared flat.
“COST TO COMPANY” WILL BE REDEFINED.
Changing work patterns will mean that commuting and business travel costs will go down, but employee connectivity and ‘working from home’ costs will increase. All of these factors will have to be integrated into employees’ remuneration packages.
A hybrid work from home and work from the office work style is also being seen as a way to reduce the office footprint and save costs in a recessionary business climate. Organisations are looking at a hub-and-spoke approach with smaller head offices complemented by satellite offices that employees visit intermittently.
VIRTUAL MEETING FATIGUE WILL PROMPT A NEW ATTITUDE TO MEETINGS.
Many of our clients report that in-person meetings are becoming more popular as a concept, based on the realisation that virtual meetings are not as rich in nonverbal cues. I predict that just as the work model will become a hybrid one, the approach on how meetings are to take place will also become more flexible. We will not go back to the old days, but some in-person meetings will be judged essential.
Other issues will doubtlessly emerge as 2021 progresses, but one thing is clear: adaptability and flexibility will remain critical. We can expect uncertainty to remain a characteristic of the business environment, and so the resilience conferred by a well-constructed and constantly updated business continuity plan will be absolutely essential for sustained success.