Summary of Digital Boardroom – Thursday 4th June 2020
What new skills have you developed during the lockdown?
Many new skills that executives have learned have been down to necessity such as gaining knowledge of Video conferencing programmes and technology to aid employees working remotely such as Microsoft Team and Office 365. However, with such a wide range of options and different organisations using different platforms, it is important to know which are the most secure and not to waste money on doubling up on software that does the same job.
Also, managers have learned to be more personable with staff. During this difficult situation with people working in different places with different home situations and set ups, it is important to understand the need for flexibility and take an interest in how people are physically and mentally. Many have remarked about having much more in depth conversations with colleagues, more than they ever had in person.
The majority of companies have seen a great deal of benefits from remote working with things getting done quicker and people taking an interest in the technology they are using and wanting to learn more about it.
Keeping the business culture and concerns over mental health are key at the moment. Are you doing anything different to keep people in the loop?
As we are apart many organisations are encouraging people to over communicate via video, phone calls or emails. Some may find it to be overkill, but the goal is to ensure that all employees are in a good place and to speak up if they have anything to say. Many have remarked that the use of video calls has allowed employees to be on equal footing as they all have a voice rather than seeing a hierarchy like they would in a physical meeting room.
There have been concerns over security as people work separately and away from protection of company firewalls and secure systems as well as broadband speeds depending on employee locations and their home situations, such as if they are sharing connections with other people in their home. Therefore calls for caution have been placed with regards to sharing data and accessing certain programmes.
Every industry has different challenges: some still have people working in offices or warehouses, some are working out of their comfort zone and some have had to furlough large numbers of employees. Therefore during the lockdown it is important to keep the community spirit and look to give people out of work or in new situations opportunities to contribute and learn.
How are you monitoring employee productivity while working remotely?
As mentioned previously, productivity has massively increased during lockdown as people have been able to focus more and get things done faster. There are different ways to measure productivity, however a key thing to bare in mind is not if they are working enough, but working too much. Monitoring time in front of a screen and telling people it’s OK to stop will reduce the risk of people burning out and feeling pressured to do more.
How will remote working factor into your future plans? How are you predicting what business will look like after this?
Before the pandemic many organisations will have had a very clear belief that all work needed to be done in one place. However, boards have now realised that things can be done out of the office and therefore, big conversations are expected to occur about who needs to be on site full time, the idea of ‘hot desking’ and expensive rental costs in areas such as Central London.
These changes will need to be enforced initially due to the need for social distancing, but measures such as the amount and need for certain equipment and office space may be extended beyond that as a way to cut costs, give people flexibility in how and where they work and provide employees the best way to work for the task at hand.
Some people may desire to come back to the office due to socio-economic reasons such as families and social interaction, while others may prefer this new way of working. Whatever is decided, employees need to be provided with the right tools and employees need to show that they can be trusted to work sensibly and to the same level of productivity and efficiency as they always have done.
Many employees will currently be working on several devices for different projects, adding to costs and the risks of losing data or being attacked. The potential for ‘virtual desktops’ or being able to combine necessary tasks into one device which can be monitored and secured remotely is a solution many executives are keen to explore as way to streamline working practices and contribute to cost saving measures as budgets will remain uncertain for some time.
What lessons have you learned from any mistakes you have experienced?
It is clear that business continuity planning needs to be looked at more closely in the future. In the past it may have been viewed as a box ticking exercise as things like pandemics were never expected to actually happen. Now it has happened, and with the fear of multiple waves possible in the near future, more care, attention and planning needs to be undertaken to improve on current plans and help employees transition more seamlessly.