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As remote work continues to be a more practical and productivity-enhancing opportunity for companies around the globe, finding ways to collaborate and improve communication in the workplace is critical.
In a recent webinar, researchers at the global marketing firm IDC, along with Asana Marketing Chief Dave King, confronted the issue companies face as they attempt to navigate what they call the “new future of work.”
During the hour-long webinar, IDC researchers Amy Loomis and Wayne Kurtzman shared insights into the challenges companies face in moving to remote work, as well as how some companies have already overcome those challenges. The researchers also presented ideas about what can be done (and how!) to ensure that collaboration in a remote workforce yields success.
But you don’t have to sit through the webinar yourself. Instead, read on to learn more about its insights and key takeaways.
The IDC Recovery Model
The webinar kicked off with the IDC researchers offering some insight into the company’s Five Stages to Enterprise Recovery Model, which provides a look at what it will take for companies to embrace what IDC calls “the next normal.”
As part of their research, IDC surveyed companies about their progress toward greater collaboration along with increased reliance on remote workers. The results were presented in graphical form. Along the X (horizontal) axis were five defined stages: Business Continuity, Cost Optimization, Business Resiliency, Targeted Investments, and Future Enterprise.
According to the results, 18 percent of respondents are in the Business Continuity phase, indicating that things haven’t changed much. Another 32 percent of companies are on the downswing in Cost Optimization to address the current economic slowdown, and 22 percent characterized their position as Business Resiliency, where they’re largely trying to stay afloat. Moving up the curve, 22 percent of companies said they are making Targeted Investments to improve their operations. And just 6 percent claimed to have achieved what the researchers call the Future Enterprise “next normal.”
A More Complex World
A whopping 86 percent of respondents said that they have experienced more difficulties since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic just to conduct regular business operations. Only 5 percent of the companies said that things are less complex than they were prior to the pandemic. That has made every decision far more important, according to the companies surveyed. They are now trying not only to navigate uncertainty in their businesses as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to mount, but also to determine how changes in their business operations will ultimately impact their employees.
Companies in the survey noted that the challenges posed by the pandemic must be overcome to ensure business continuity and employee productivity. Among these challenges are new remote-data security concerns and the inability of some employees to easily access data, their corporate network, and even other colleagues.
In fact, 31 percent said their biggest fear in a post-pandemic world is that using a remote workforce will lead to a drop in productivity. More than 26 percent of the respondents said they fear cybersecurity problems. Another 18 percent claimed that their corporate culture is simply not conducive to remote collaborative work.
But even though the leaders of these companies are understandably worried about the challenges they face, they claim that they aren’t scared. Quite the contrary, they’re facing down those challenges as if they didn’t even exist, the researchers stated.
“There is a great deal of optimism that companies can successfully navigate these challenging times,” said Loomis during the webinar.
She pointed out that nearly 80 percent of the companies said they were at least “moderately confident” about overcoming the inevitable challenges to productivity, security, and collaboration, and that they will ultimately perform well during these challenging times.
But to get there, Loomis explained, companies will need to “create fluid, integrated, intelligent digital workspaces to reduce friction navigating between applications and different types of content.” She said companies need to warm to the idea of using more applications and sharing content between those applications, in order to ensure that employees can work efficiently—rather than having to call on IT for help throughout the day.
The Rise of Collaboration
The researchers suggested that companies need to “drive productivity with secure remote access to essential resources,” such as corporate networks, stored data, and mission-critical applications. Companies also need “fluid, integrated, intelligent digital workspaces” with applications that will help boost employee productivity.
That may explain why more than 54 percent of the companies said they plan to invest in new collaborative applications in the coming months and years. In fact, IDC’s research found that the “adoption of collaborative technologies has accelerated by five years.” From office suites and file-sharing applications to work management platforms—along with an occasional Zoom cocktail hour—these companies are looking to spend.
“Collaboration is not just technical,” said Kurtzman. “It’s the cultural willingness to share and win as a team using the right technologies and the assumption that everyone can add value.”
Of course, measuring progress is critical in identifying whether a new remote workforce is actually succeeding, the IDC researchers said. They spoke to companies that have already implemented collaborative and productivity applications in the office to see what happened. The results proved that collaboration tools work.
In its survey of companies that have implemented collaboration tools to boost remote worker productivity, IDC found that 64 percent saw an increase in productivity of more than 25 percent compared to pre-implementation. Better yet, these companies were able to save 30 hours per person per week in nonproductive time.
Interestingly, the solutions also had an impact on talent. Of the companies that implemented tools to boost remote work, 76 percent said that they are now better equipped to hire talent, and 80 percent said it has helped them to retain their talent.
Letting People Be People
During a question-and-answer session, participants asked the IDC researchers how to ensure that companies can maintain “resilience” with a remote workforce, above and beyond the tools they could deploy. Ultimately, the researchers said, it’s all about allowing “people to do people things.”
The research team called on companies to ensure they keep a human connection with their employees by holding virtual onboarding processes and virtual events. It’s also important that employees “feel comfortable to have conversations as if they’re at work.” That is, in the office. Companies might even consider “selectively choosing in-person events,” if and when it is safe to do so. Of course, “safe” may become a reality only after COVID-19 case counts are minimal or nonexistent.
Ultimately, keeping the remote team engaged could mean the difference between business success and increasing problems during this time.
Remembering to Lead
More than anything, the IDC researchers suggested that an effective remote policy should be centered around leadership. And the best way to lead is to communicate effectively with employees and allow them to share their concerns.
“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” Loomis said.
By the end of the webinar, the IDC message was clear. The world is changing rapidly, and companies need to adapt. As soon as they embrace the remote workforce concept, arm their employees with the right tools, and give them the leeway they need to communicate effectively, businesses can succeed to even greater heights in a remote-first environment.