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Monday, 22 February 2021 18:06

Why boosting the productivity of remote workforces should be a priority for Australian businesses in 2021

Brendan Maree 8x8 Brendan Maree 8x8

Working from home – but how hard? Helping remote employees connect more effectively is a great way to improve productivity

GUEST OPINION by Brendan Maree, Vice President Asia Pacific, 8x8: So, how’s that remote working experiment working out for your business? It’s been a year now since the onset of the COVID crisis forced Australian businesses and organisations to shutter their offices and send employees home. In April and May of last year, almost a third of Australians workers were toiling in their home offices, according to Roy Morgan research.

The model was a positive experience for many despite the circumstances offering employees the opportunity to work more flexibly, save on travel costs, reclaim the hours consumed by the daily commute and accommodate family responsibilities.

Meanwhile, businesses have been quick to clock the benefits that remote working can generate on their side of the ledger. They include lower overheads and the opportunity to broaden the talent pool by hiring employees from further afield. So, it’s little surprise that some of Australia’s largest companies, including Microsoft and Optus, have announced that, as far as they’re concerned, remote and hybrid working are here to stay.

Other companies are likely to follow suit, settling upon ongoing arrangements that work for both enterprise and workers, and then putting policies and processes in place to support them.

Making collaboration a priority

For businesses that want to make remote working a success over the longer term, ensuring employees feel close to their colleagues and can collaborate effectively in a remote arrangement should be top of that To Do list.

As things stand, many home-based workers don’t feel like they’re in the loop. More than half the respondents to ServiceNow’s Work From Home Productivity Study of June 2020 stated that their primary challenge in working from home was feeling disconnected or alone.

It’s hardly a state of mind that’s conducive to quick or quality work.

Technology overload

The problem is not necessarily the result of a paucity of technology. In fact, the reverse. Many employees use desktops and devices that are awash with collaboration and communication tools. They’re designed to facilitate online exchanges and interactions that are the high tech equivalent of those that colleagues have been having in real life since forever.

In practice, however, these tools don’t mesh together to create a unified experience.

Instead, employees commonly find themselves grappling with a hotchpotch of apps. It can be a daunting proposition for less technically able workers and a frustrating one for those who want to focus less on the tools and more on getting on with the job.

Less is more

So, what’s the solution? Adopting a single platform for communications, collaboration and contact centre operations is one way businesses can empower employees to operate more independently and productively. It can also enable them to confer effectively and effortlessly with their colleagues, via phone, instant and group messaging and live video meetings, whenever consultation and collaboration are required.

Choosing a platform that’s cloud based allows organisations to avoid capital outlay and makes it possible for them to scale up and down, in response to fluctuating employee numbers. It also means employees can access the platform from anywhere that has a reasonable internet connection.

Towards a more productive future

The COVID crisis has put paid to deeply entrenched working practices and demonstrated that home based working models can be viable in the longer term. Making collaboration and ‘connectedness’ a priority will help Australian businesses that persist with the practice improve employee engagement and productivity in 2021 and beyond.

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