From Employee Retention to Green Strategies: Why Remote Working Will Stay Long After the Pandemic
Most organizations had some measure of a workable - if not, elegant - solution for business continuity long before the pandemic hit. This is largely in part to major events like the September 11th attacks and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. COVID-19, however, forced businesses to change at a scale and pace never seen before. It caused a tectonic workplace shift, especially for contact center and knowledge workers who had primarily used an on-site work model (an estimated 16 million knowledge workers began working from home by the end of March 2020). Avaya enabled more than 2 million new remote workers during this time with licenses for their employers, including education and essential workers in healthcare.
Research shows that over 80% of businesses plan to maintain a partially remote work structure even after the pandemic is no longer a threat. What many businesses initially viewed as an interim situation suddenly became something to be factored for the medium- to long-term. The pandemic will eventually become a memory, but the ability for employers to successfully support work-from-home models will become a permanent feature of the post-pandemic world.
Given the scale and criticality of communication for remote working, the focus now is on optimizing remote worker solutions and improving the overall experience. This means robust remote worker solutions that leverage high-speed internet access (which is increasingly commonplace) to deliver ‘office-like’ capabilities. Examples include video conferencing and web collaboration solutions, communications access and features on mobile devices, reliable audio integrated with contact center solutions, and the right tools to manage remote agents (i.e., performance reporting, contact/screen recording, quality management, speech analytics.)
As we look toward this post-pandemic world, I believe that business continuity risk mitigation will remain a reason to continue to enable remote working solutions, but it will become a secondary driver of quality remote worker and collaboration strategies. Primary drivers for these strategies will include employee retention, business cost savings, and support of green initiatives as the focus moves from “getting by” in a disaster to flourishing in the new normal.
Worker Choice/Employee Retention
Work-from-home has become the new normal, and that means work-from-home initiatives will move from a business continuity requirement to an employee retention requirement. There’s no consensus yet on the post-COVID balance of remote and in-office workdays, but some workers will elect to continue to work from home when possible on a full or partial basis. From an employee recruitment perspective, robust remote work solutions expand the pool of workers beyond those able, willing, and proximate to regularly come into a given office or contact center location.
Yet, of course, there are challenges. A functional, home-based working arrangement poses as many logistical issues for the employee as technology issues for the employer: suitable space, internet access, cooperation with household members, etc. Resource access, the security of data, and the ability to manage are amongst the top concerns for the business. With many of those already addressed to cope with the ongoing pandemic, the infrastructure for both parties is now largely in place and will continue to be optimized. For employees where remote working delivers work-life balance benefits, the ongoing ability to do so will be an expectation and retention factor.
The economic downturn, followed by only partial recovery, has reduced revenue for many businesses. This has set off a chain of business efficiency moves to reduce overhead, for which office space and data center space are significant components. This is a huge driver of continued remote working, where virtual meetings and collaboration significantly reduce commute and travel-related expenses.
For example, if roughly one-half of workers are remote at any one time, there is an opportunity to reduce office space footprint by at least a third. Common and conference space will still be needed for team meetings and deep interactions, but many offices and cubes can become shared spaces. Where data centers and their costs were once sacrosanct, cloud solutions (including Avaya OneCloud) enable businesses to add new features while reducing data center footprints.
Although pandemic-related concerns are a top-of-mind issue, climate concerns and expectations of responsible actions from the business community remain. As a result, climate issues will regain focus as the pandemic ebbs. Remote working and collaboration can pivot from a necessity for the pandemic response to a social good for an environmental response.
One of the few silver linings of the pandemic has been significant reductions in carbon emissions and fossil-fuel burn. Remote working and collaboration-based virtual meetings reduce energy consumption, especially carbon emissions from fossil fuel (e.g., automobile usage) while continuing to grow business and productivity. Remote working and virtual meeting strategies deliver real greenhouse gas reductions, and such programs should be included when calculating carbon footprint reductions.
For example, an initial problem-solving team may have an on-site strategy session for the highest engagement and alignment, yet employees work remotely and attend three subsequent sessions virtually – three of four total meetings – reducing commute and associated carbon footprint by 75%.
Another example is from an Avaya customer, Halloran HR Resolutions. Using Avaya Spaces for training reduces travel time and allows for shorter meetings and sessions, “A workshop session used to never be less than one full long day, including travel time. With virtual sessions, it can easily be half a day.”
The Post-pandemic Future
Remote working at scale has been a latent issue for many organizations for business continuity contingencies, employee recruitment/retention, reduced overhead, and support for climate initiatives. We’re now seeing these kinks being worked out, which will cement remote working as commonplace post-COVID.
As the pandemic environment continues, being ‘good enough’ is no longer acceptable. Many “quick” solutions enacted in a hurry need to give rise to more optimal and ergonomic solutions for remote work. Learn more about how Avaya OneCloud creates experiences that matter.