The Remote Collaboration Conundrum in a WFH Environment and 5 Action Points for Addressing it
Infrastructure and Cloud Technology Services | 5 min READ           
WFH is here to stay and places a slew of new responsibilities on your IT organization. This blog discusses five ways to develop a sustainable IT infrastructure that can support remote collaboration in the foreseeable future (and beyond), maintaining productivity and profitability.
Ashutosh Mankar

Vice President

Infrastructure & Cloud Technology Services

Birlasoft

 
The Remote Collaboration Conundrum in a WFH Environment and 5 Action Points for Addressing it
The first step towards business continuity after the COVID-19 outbreak was to secure the workforce, ensure their safety, and move operations. We are now in the second phase, when our initial response is over and it is time to recalibrate workforce management and IT operations to business as usual. One could even argue that this is an opportunity for companies to come out as future-ready entities, safeguarding employees, and gaining from a dynamic market, with its pent-up demand.
However, one critical problem gets in the way of achieving this goal – the challenges around remote collaboration. By July, Gartner found that 82% of business leaders planned to roll out remote work at least some of the time. For industries where remote work is possible (law, service delivery, e-commerce, accounting, knowledge work, to name a few), working from home or WFH is undeniably the new normal. But newly remote workers are lagging far behind their more experienced counterparts in terms of productivity, workplace satisfaction,and engagement finds a Slack survey.
This is because going remote involves a massive cultural shift, upending work habits that employees have imbibed for decades. There is a yawning gap between new-age, 100% remote companies (e.g., Zapier) and large, traditional enterprises – that employers are expected to bridge in a matter of weeks, with little or no guidance.
 
Increasing Strain on Infrastructure and Expectations from IT
Most enterprises were in the middle of their digital transformation journey when the pandemic hit. Without a robust digital backbone, it is impossible to support the hyper-use of remote collaboration platforms as we are witnessing right now. WFH also explodes your regular network perimeter, bringing personal devices, unprecedented usage habits, and a growing reliance on web apps into the ambit.
This has its own set of security challenges, not to mention spreading the infrastructure so thin that productivity slows down.
Meanwhile, non-technical stakeholders would expect the enterprise to function almost as usual, given that the investment in digital transformation has already been made. The fact that companies are struggling to hit the ground running and shrink digitalization timelines from the expected quarters to the necessary weeks. One critical area suffers in the face of this unprecedented urgency: employee collaboration and productivity.
In this climate, IT is positioned not only as an enabler for the business but one of the key pillars for its success.
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5 Ideas for Empowering Employees to Collaborate Better While Reducing IT Workloads
Expectedly, employee use of collaboration apps is at an all-time high.
In addition to replacing face-to-face interactions, it provides a platform for staying connected with the external world and combating a sense of isolation that many of us are experiencing. For example, Slack found that its users were 9 percentage points less likely to view loneliness as a workplace challenge than non-Slack users. To put it very simply, collaboration tools are an integral part of everyday workflows for the foreseeable future – and enterprises need to quickly pivot, addressing bottlenecks.
  • Offer remote support - Employees may be able to work for the first few weeks, glitch-free, but IT issues will only become more common with time. In-person support would risk non-compliance and individual health, necessitating remote IT support practices, backed by a service catalog, remote device management, and predictive issue monitoring. This is the opportunity for IT organizations to prioritize the shift from traditional service management paradigms to make the shift to managing user experience (viz. moving from (traditional) SLAs to XLAs).
  • Optimize service desk costs - A cost-intensive service desk is no longer sustainable. As WFH continues, the enterprise will face IT inefficiencies that trickle downstream to hinder employee productivity. An efficient service desk, based on automation-first, self-service principles rendered in software will serve enterprises well at a time when IT budgets are predicted to dip by $300 billion globally.
  • Standardize support quality - Consistency is key when working with a dispersed workforce. To ensure that every region, office, department, and teams meet the same productivity benchmarks, they must be consistently equipped to collaborate and perform. Standardized technology, IT service definitions (service catalog) and well-defined processes are called for to ensure consistent and high levels of service quality, even in the face of challenges posed by WFH.
  • Opt for self-service - Self-service is an excellent way to reduce IT workloads without negatively impacting an employee's access to resources. Fortunately, cutting-edge technologies like AI-enabled chatbots and search optimized enterprise knowledge repositories make it easier to implement self-service at short notice, even in complex IT environments. This helps in reducing costs as well as improving user experience and overall satisfaction with IT services.
  • Study the employee experience - Progress in the life sciences, regulatory changes, and socio-economic movements will impact the new normal dynamically, in turn shaping the remote employee experience. Regular surveys, sentiment analysis, feedback gathering, and voice of the employee technology can help to understand collaboration needs and gaps as they evolve.
Analysts report that WFH could be the "only normal," even after the pandemic. Once the culture shift has taken effect, it is extremely difficult to press rewind – making it critical to invest in a strong IT framework that can support remote collaboration sustainably. These five steps are essential to pushing the needle in the right direction, facilitating organizational readiness for tomorrow's needs.
 
 
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