With the scale and scope of remote working being largely governed by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown regulations, it is not difficult to imagine the distributed environment becoming part of the status quo.

Ian McAlister, General Manager at CRS Technologies, says much of the success of a remote working culture will depend on how companies embrace flexibility to transition into a new operating environment and not revert to how things were pre-2020.

“Even with the vaccine being rolled out globally, many employees will likely never return to the stereotypical 08:00-17:00 office job. In fact, I believe companies can easily do away with this and save on massive overheads by reducing office space while keeping their staff empowered to be good at their jobs,” says McAlister.

Key to this will be how organisations deal with their external stakeholders such as vendors, partners and clients. But even in this, the mindset has already changed. Customers expect more digital-centric tools capable of giving them the self-service features they need, while vendors and partners have also embraced an increasingly automated environment where face-to-face interactions are minimised.

“Furthermore, with employees able to work from anywhere in the world, geography is no longer an issue. This essentially means the organisation can become a 24×7 operation, if needed.”

Process management

“Fundamental to this will be managing the process of remote working, especially around internet connectivity and what will happen if employees experience load shedding at home, their fibre links go down, or their mobile connectivity experiences an outage,” he says.

However, McAlister believes that this is where human resources policies and procedures must consider a holistic approach that also factors in where people live. With remote workers reliant on internet infrastructure, what are the repercussions if they cannot connect due to fibre going down or mobile networks being congested?

Considering all options

More than ever, resource management will become increasingly important. Internet access is one part of the equation, but so are sensibilities around work/life balance. These cannot always be remedied with policies.

‘Instead, management must evaluate employees individually and assess what is likely to work for each person. This will always require a balancing act. Trying to force too much control on remote workers can stifle innovation, while giving them free reign might lead to unstructured business practices.”

All told, it comes down to embracing remote working with more than just the technology, systems and processes in place. It is about weighing in the human factor and educating employees (whether they are managers or workers) on the merits of doing so effectively.

“Looking beyond COVID-19, the cost efficiencies and performance improvements resulting from remote working cannot be ignored. Companies must embrace the change in approach required and reinvent themselves for this more digitalised way of operating,” concludes McAlister.

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