Helping homeworkers adapt to the new normal

Helping homeworkers adapt to the new normal

The switch to mass homeworking has for many organisations been swift, dramatic and not entirely painless. 

Recent figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics suggested that prior to 2020, less than 30% of the overall workforce had experience of working from home. And while remote working is just not possible in some sectors, we have seen examples in financial services, professional services and government where largely office-based teams have been able to swing to levels of >90% homeworking.

This week, we had an interesting session with BT’s digital workplace team on user adoption. The telecoms giant has experienced a spike in demand for its portfolio of communication and collaboration tools and private VPNs, adding 100,000 new users in recent weeks as the Covid-19 coronavirus swept across the world.

However, a lot of traditionally office-based workers are struggling to adapt to using remote working tools, both new and existing ones. Productivity, security and user experience are being compromised as a result, and BT shared some simple advice for businesses that are battling to get their home working strategies up and running. 

Mind the gaps. BT starts all workplace deployments with a discovery and planning phase designed to understand how teams are working today and what behaviour they will need to change in order to adapt to new workplace technology. Without understanding the gap between where you are now and where you want to get, most organisations will find themselves running into some big barriers in driving adoption.

Be clear on the business case. Businesses should place more emphasis on the “why” rather than the “how” when it comes to driving employee buy-in for new workplace tools. What are the benefits for different user groups in adopting new tools? People are busy and getting to grips with a new collaboration system is not something they want to add to their workload. Communicate the potential benefits clearly, bearing in mind that the reasoning may be very different for most users compared to management or the IT department.   

Roll out the welcome mat. Organisations should avoid dumping new workplace technology on the workforce unannounced as soon as it is ready for delivery. Be very clear in communicating on the appropriate channels for different teams (be it Facebook for Business postings, Slack, traditional email or a poster campaign) on when it is going to be available, where they will find new services and where can they find out how to use them. 

Education is essential. Speed of deployment has been vital in recent months, but businesses should caution against trying to roll out too many things in one go. It is critical that different user groups are provided with the training they need in the right format – be it a minute-long video clip, or a more formal webinar session – so they are confident in their ability to use the technology in the right way. One common problem is that users now have access to multiple collaboration tools and are confused about which one to use. In highly regulated sectors, some users find themselves frustrated at not being given access to the full functionality, such as screen sharing. These are the kinds of issues that need to be built into a successful education plan in order to avoid non-compliant shortcuts.

Adapt over time: Adoption doesn’t end once the technology has been deployed. BT typically provides adoption services support for at least three-month period after go-live, dropping new content and guidance where it is needed. The collaboration and communication tools themselves generate a wealth of data on usage and adoption trends. But businesses need to convert this into relevant insight in order to understand behaviour at a user group or persona level, so they can pinpoint where they need to focus their training and education initiatives.

PAC/teknowlogy believes that while many companies have implemented short-term fixes or work-arounds to their workplace strategies during the pandemic, many will start to think in the longer-term in order to build a strategy based around a significantly reduced office footprint and a much greater use of home and remote working. 

BT believes that this is already in the minds of some sectors such as legal, where the current situation is posing a major rethink of the decades (or even centuries)-old ways of working based around office-based working and paper-based documentation. The current shake-up of working practices will lead many to hit the reset button on their approach to workplace technology, but they will have to work hard to get their employees to adapt to the new normal.