By Andrew Conway, CTO at Proteus by Xergy
Prior to the pandemic, remote work was not a new concept. Many people within organisations were relying on a hybrid way of working to fit in with their lifestyles. In particular, those employed at companies based in city hubs were either spending one or two days working from home to avoid repetitive long commutes, or missing out on time with family. Despite this normality for some, the sudden move to remote working for all employees at the start of the pandemic caused a number of issues for organisations that did not have a strategic remote working plan in place.
A lack of remote working strategy was costly for many businesses, as they looked for last minute solutions to solve problems. Securing cost effective IT equipment and then supporting employees with the transition to remote working, caused many businesses to become unstuck with the shift in March of last year. However, the necessity of speed to embrace remote working has eventually lead to new questions being brought to light as we look to ahead to what working life could look like post-pandemic. From once being in a position where businesses were unable to operate unless all employees were in the office, we are now seeing leaders question whether physical presence at work is truly the most efficient utilisation of employee time and business funds.
It has become clear that there is no longer a daily need for physical office space for all organisations, but rather a need for a smarter work approach. The optimisation and efficient use of technology, such as AI, is enabling teams to work smarter, not harder, and is being recognised to be of great benefit to businesses in the longer term. Through machine learning, AI can begin to recognise and take on the menial and tedious tasks, thus allowing employees to refocus their time spent on business areas in real need of human attention that would not necessarily benefit from the introduction of technology. For other organisations, the office is transforming into a hybrid hub. By creating an environment that is open to flexibility, while maintaining the collaborative human interactions that spark creativity, businesses will see teams forming that are truly supported in their health and wellbeing.
But it’s not just the office that is benefitting from the increased uptake of remote work. In the gig economy, businesses that would have previously never considered remote work are evolving. Project-based sectors such as the diversified energy industry are now seeing the benefits of technology for increasing workforce productivity. The result is streamlined processes that ultimately lead to cost efficiencies, a win.
It is in these sectors where serious disruption is occurring. Driven by remote work and the use of technology involved in this, priorities have shifted and digital capabilities have hugely improved. The working world is opening up to a new era of flexible work which in turns, creates a better supported environment for freelance or gig workers. Prior to this, gig workers have not been considered a business priority or even a true asset. However, they have a unique ability to navigate financial challenges and help companies grow. Gig workers allow businesses to streamline by only paying for the work necessary, precisely matching operational costs.
This new era holds a lot of potential and involves the ability to connect gig workers with projects anywhere in the world. Supported by new technology, the seamless matching of the best gig workers with a business’s needs, will save HR teams time going through online searches or relying on haphazard word of mouth. Digital tools that can automate crucial paperwork including contracts, expense forms and invoices, will also benefit the gig economy so businesses aren’t buried under stacks of forms. What’s more, the next generation of workers are flexible and as such, are looking for an attractive work environment without frustrating processes and slow decision making. It will be technology that can ensure businesses remain competitive with the best talent by creating this attractive environment for new hires.
The last 18 months have created a seismic shift in the way we work. Technology has been a perfect partner to this shift, creating disruption that has positively impacted the world of work for future generations. The phrase “the new normal” has been mentioned many times, however we can also apply this to the working environment, as hybrid ways of working become the norm. It is important for businesses to recognise that technologies such as AI and machine learning in the workplace are here to help, and are here to stay. As we look to the future and prepare for further disruption, it is vital to recognise the important part technology can play in supporting businesses in development and key decisions when implemented efficiently.