William Copley, MD of Armstrong Bell, discusses why flexible working is vital for business survival in the event of a second wave and what business owners need to consider to implement long-term flexible working
Since the start of August 2020, employers have had the right to request employees to return to the office, following the lift of national lockdown measures. However, with local lockdowns increasing and the threat of a second COVID-19 wave looming, it is imperative for business leaders to maintain a flexible approach to how, where and when staff members complete their work, maximising chances of survival should we be forced to close our doors once again.
Key to this will be implementing the right tools and technology to create a flexible or ‘Smart Working’ solution that maintains operations and ensures both team collaboration and customer relations do not suffer.
That said, what exactly do business leaders need to consider when creating a flexible working solution and why will it be fundamental to business survival both during and post COVID-19?
When lockdown was originally introduced, it is unlikely that most UK businesses had the right tools in place to enable company-wide remote working, with many purchasing laptops on mass and introducing other new tech solutions to enable their employees to work effectively from home. Though initially challenging, this sudden change accelerated digital transformation, forcing both employers and employees to adapt to new technologies and quickly.
Despite the significant impact on the UK economy, it could be argued that the first wave of COVID-19 has introduced several positives by teaching business leaders the importance of flexibility; demonstrating that those who were able to think quickly and change their work model during the peak of the pandemic, were those more likely to survive long-term.
This, of course, wouldn’t have been possible without embracing new technology, telecoms and connectivity solutions, therefore introducing and proving the value of ‘Smart Working’ for businesses UK wide.
The Smart Working revolution
Although the Smart Working revolution started a few years prior to the pandemic, the majority of business leaders have now deemed it fundamental for long-term survival, particularly under the threat of a second COVID-19 wave.
In brief, Smart Working is a business productivity revolution that provides people with the tools, the culture, the workspace and the technology they need to choose when, where and how they do their jobs.
This means people can be available any time, any place in a simple, fast and flexible way enabling businesses to reap productivity boosts from employees who always have access to work, whilst enabling employees to benefit from workplace flexibility.
This revolution goes beyond the realms of video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams or other cloud-based video conferencing and puts the whole business into a virtual space. The business no longer needs to rely on a physical premise to maintain operations and output, it can be delivered by employees any time, any place.
Many businesses have experienced the benefits of Smart Working during COVID-19, with organisations such as Facebook, Twitter and Barclays all moving to permanent remote working. As a result, more emphasis is now being put on each employee’s output of work, rather than the number of hours spent working, increasing productivity whilst improving work life balance.
Flexible working long-term
It is impossible to predict what’s in store over the coming months, which is why taking the steps now to implement an effective flexible or Smart Working solution is paramount for upholding operations.
Flexible working is not only the key to survival during COVID-19 but could also increase the chances of business survival long term, by eliminating hefty overheads and allowing businesses to focus on product and service delivery.
COVID-19 aside, long-term flexible working also provides a host of benefits by enabling businesses to attract new talent and drive business growth without geographical limitations, whilst eliminating the need to invest in additional infrastructure.
What’s more, many businesses have reported an increase in productivity and staff happiness since introducing flexible working, as it removes the cost and time pressures of long commutes and enables employees to focus on their performance and output as opposed to the time spent at their desk.
Ultimately, it is likely that flexible working will become the norm both during and post COVID-19, so it is vital that business owners take the time now to review the technology they have in place, in order to create a fully connected organisation that can operate any time, any place and with anyone long-term.