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The practice coined ‘self-isolation’ has, as a direct result of recent events, become commonplace. In turn, organisations across the globe have been forced to reconsider their working practices: how, when a significant portion of their workforce is in enforced quarantine, can they continue to operate effectively?
The answer to this – and numerous other organisational concerns – is the creation of a digital workplace; of an agile and flexible institution that allows its employees to harness convenience when fulfilling their roles. Doing so is proven to not only improve employee satisfaction and engagement, but also organisational performance – something that I have experienced first hand.
Here, I’ll discuss both the benefits of developing a digital workplace, the tech an organisation will need to do this and its implications from a security perspective.
One of the key benefits of a digital workplace is that it allows an organisation’s people to work from any location with a suitable internet connection. Vitally, this not only leads to a more flexible and accommodating environment, it is also something that helps organisations to attract and retain employees.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s 2019 Working Lives Survey revealed that more than two out of every three workers (68%) want more flexible conditions. In particular, employees desired more variable practices to increase their leisure time (23%) and care for dependents (18%).1
Studies have revealed that flexible working improves attendance2, employee engagement and, with staff consistently reporting higher levels of job satisfaction, individual output.3
From an organisational perspective, 89% of employees have reported that flexible working conditions made them more productive. The same study revealed that financial incentives – so often viewed as the greatest motivator an organisation can leverage – generated the same response in just 77% of respondents.4
Finally, within organisations that have adopted flexible practices, managers have typically stated that employee performance has improved as a result.5
As a society, we are becoming increasingly mindful of how our actions affect the environment. Organisations are no different and many are looking at how they can minimise the negative impact they have on the natural world.
In 2017, approximately a fifth of all greenhouse gases emitted in the UK came from transport.6 By virtue of the fact that they minimise the need for their employees to commute, digital workplaces help to protect the environment.
An organisation cannot simply decide to adopt more supple frameworks and do so successfully without making changes to their digital practices. Before they can offer flexible working conditions, organisations must move from physical, on-site infrastructure to its virtualised equivalent.
The average employee, for example, uses 35 pieces of software every day.7 These applications are typically leveraged to undertake essential day-to-day activities and, as a result, must be accessible to employees that work remotely. Communal resources such as documents must also be viewed and edited – particularly where projects are concerned.
By migrating to the Cloud, organisations will be able to provide their employees with access to the numerous vital resources that they need to fulfil their roles effectively from any location they are able to connect to the internet.
Engendering a culture that encourages collaboration and teamwork is typically integral to success. Studies have even revealed that 86% of executives and employees have cited a lack of cooperation as the cause of organisational failures. Additionally, 97% of respondents posited that ineffective collaboration had negatively impacted projects and tasks.8
Technology, though, provides solutions. Project management software (accessible through the cloud), for example, is capable of aligning understandings to help actors perform their specific roles. The humble telephone, too, can enable communication across increasingly disparate locations provided a cloud-based telecoms solution such as ROCK IP is leveraged. This will allow all individuals to remain contactable and able to communicate with colleagues at all times.
Where organisations need to harness all of the components of communication to perform effectively and only face-to-face communication will do, video conferencing technology can be installed at their head office and accessed by remote employees through various devices. Associated applications can also allow various stakeholders to schedule video meetings with ease irrespective of their locations.
It would be remiss of me to prepare a text extolling the virtues of remote working and the digital workplace without drawing readers’ attention to the fact that such practices can generate considerable vulnerabilities if not managed correctly.
Each device that is associated with an organisation’s network provides a potential pathway that cyber criminals can exploit. We’ve discussed how poorly managed BYOD policies can cause gaps in cyber security measures previously, and this applies to devices that will be predominantly used off as well as on-site. Any organisation that allows flexible working must manage these devices and ensure that they remain patched and that anti-virus software and firewalls are kept up-to-date.
Businesses must also consider the fact that, if an employee is storing sensitive data – such as information pertaining to clients/customers – on a device that is regularly taken off-site then this data needs to be encrypted. Organisations that fail to observe this will infringe General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and can be subjected to a fine of as much as €20 million or, should it generate a larger fine, 4% of their annual global turnover.
It’s also essential that employees are provided with remote cyber security education. Human error is the cause of most cyber security incidents and the fact that employees aren’t working in a centralised location shouldn’t result in organisations neglecting the need to provide them with relevant training.
Embracing remote working practices and developing a digital workplace typically results in happier, more engaged and productive employees. It also helps organisations reduce their carbon footprints.
In order to effectively adopt these practices, organisations will need to migrate to the cloud, adjust procedures to ensure employee responsibilities remain aligned with objectives and revise their cyber security strategies.