Key priorities for workforce resilience

Businesses globally found themselves in a tight spot earlier in the year – with Gartner reporting that 91 percent of teams in Asia Pacific already implemented ‘work from home’ arrangements since the outbreak[1] in the first half of 2020. Buzz-phrases such as “the new normal” and, “jump back into Zoom” have emerged from 2020, making remote working become widely accepted. Many of us are just glad that the year is almost over.  

As we look to 2021, with countries and businesses re-opening and gradually easing lockdown measures, many are doing so while complying to strict social distancing and operating guidelines. For certain industries, the option of returning to offices may not be feasible anytime for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, as businesses embrace the benefits of remote working to their employee’s mental health, independence and organizational cost effectiveness, it‘s unsurprising that a McKinsey report found that the levels of remote working are likely to remain higher than pre-crisis, even after the pandemic is over[2]. To add, nine in ten employees across APAC are expecting COVID-related policy changes to become permanent once everything settles down[3].

So how can we prepare for a new era of work? In the post pandemic world, we will see companies adopting a hybrid model – a combination of employees returning to the office and employees continuing to work remotely, forming an integral part of the workforce. The topic of remote working is one that needs to be discussed thoroughly and embraced everywhere.

Here are three tenets for business leaders to consider where the future of remote working is concerned.

Reimagine the Digital Roadmap 

As the pandemic rolls on and impacts economies, leaders are faced with the challenge of rebuilding business success by focusing on recovery and growth. This, combined with the demands of the workforce, adds pressure on teams that manage back end systems.

In the infancy stages of the outbreak, businesses have mitigated risks through emergency response plans, and have had enacted business continuity plans. However, there is a strong need for leaders to align business priorities to drive growth. These new demands and business priorities create an opportunity for IT leaders to look at their technology roadmaps. Businesses can start assessing their fundamental technologies and look to new innovative solutions which could empower staff and customers further to drive a productive workforce.

Invest in Productivity Tools for the Virtual World

Businesses can look at customizing innovative and productive tools to support individual employee needs while adapting to the sudden increase in remote workers. Reliability, performance, security, along with the data availability and applications are of steady importance for the success of remote working. Moreover, with the right tools, employees can feel engaged and empowered in utilizing such tools to perform their tasks, gradually becoming more innovative and empathetic.

For example, businesses can ensure that both returning and remote workers are utilizing the hybrid cloud’s Virtual Desktop Services. This hybrid approach helps organizations manage their IT infrastructure’s shared resources across clouds and regions, enabling employees to access company data, software and collaborative tools anytime, anywhere and from any device. Data is at the core of any such strategy – without data made available at the right place, time, performance, and cost, we cannot successfully employ a hybrid cloud strategy. Settling on a hybrid cloud enabled data strategy can result in operational cost efficiencies and greater flexibility to expand capacity for desktop and other services regardless of geography.

Invest in a People-Oriented Culture

Despite the many benefits of remote working, it is essential to note that a prolonged period of remote working may also lead to multiple constraints for employees; from struggling to find personal space at home, to managing business hours given the ease at which “work” can now be accessed. Employees may feel burnt out, uninformed, and disconnected from the workplace, with possible bouts of anxiety because of less face time with their teams. For this reason, business leaders must continue to constantly check in on their employees, recognizing that sometimes “offline” time is needed for employees to recharge. For example, at NetApp, we have a monthly “no meeting Friday” where we encourage all our staff to “go offline” for a day, focus on longer term priorities and most importantly, take time to re-connect with loved ones.

By focusing on work quality instead of the quantity of work hours, this positive mindset can alleviate some of these potential challenges. Now, more than ever, it is important to prioritize employees’ needs, which includes providing the right tools, training and support needed for them to succeed.

While technology itself is not the be-all and end-all solution, investing in the right technology is vital to make remote working easier. Whatever strategy we employ, the success of our “new normal” is making employees a priority, equipping them to work at their best, unencumbered by technology. Once this is taken care of, businesses can move past business continuity solutions towards a successful business recovery in the long run.

[1] Gartner, Coronavirus in Mind: Make Remote Work Successful!, 5 March 2020

[2] McKinsey, The COVID-19 recovery will be digital: A plan for the first 90 days, 14 May 2020

[3] Skillsoft, Nine in Ten APAC Workers Say No to ‘Normal’, Says New Report