Best Practices to Manage and Improve Productivity of Anywhere Workforce during COVID-19 Pandemic

New Approaches To Managing Anywhere Workers, For Better Productivity Now And In The Future. Best practices are emerging to empower the anywhere workforce and to ensure not just continuing but improved productivity for your entire organization going forward in 2020 and beyond.

Best Practices to Manage and Improve Productivity of Anywhere Workforce during COVID-19 Pandemic
Best Practices to Manage and Improve Productivity of Anywhere Workforce during COVID-19 Pandemic

The spring 2020 COVID-19 crisis saw many people scrambling to facilitate business continuity with whatever technology platforms they could ramp up quickly, with little time or concern for actually improving their organization’s productivity in the transition. However, best practices are now emerging for remote technology-based collaboration combined with new approaches to managing anywhere workers.

Organizations need to have two goals driving them: first, keeping personal productivity up for each worker, to avoid any individual team member losing momentum; and beyond the individual, personal productivity, keeping the larger team and corporate productivity going. Best practices can translate back to the office, to not just hit the ground running when your teams are back to normal but to have improved productivity for your entire organization going forward. Best practices are centered on the pillars of Mobility, Empowering Workers, Protecting Data, Scalability of Solutions, and Maintaining Company Culture.

Learn more about new approaches to managing anywhere workers, for better productivity now and in the future.

Content Summary

Best practices for raising both individual and organizational productivity
Mobility
Empowering Workers
Protecting data
Scalability of solutions
Maintaining your company culture
Conclusion

2020 evolved with most of us, quite suddenly, transformed into remote workers and remote meetings and class attendees. Across the country, millions of people suddenly embraced collaboration technology with different degrees of success. But weren’t AV and AV/IT professionals, and their end-user customers, ready for the new landscape, if not immersed in it already? Haven’t we been telling everyone for years: work smarter, work remotely, do more collaboration and videoconferencing with new generation AV, IT, and UCC tools? And haven’t many of us been marketing products and services for a while, solutions to meet remote work, meeting, and collaboration challenges?

While UCC and collaboration tools have been growing in use for years, the spring 2020 crisis saw many people scrambling to facilitate business continuity with whatever technology platforms they could ramp up quickly, with little time or concern for actually improving their organization’s productivity in the transition. However, best practices are now emerging for remote technology-based collaboration combined with new approaches to managing anywhere workers, for better productivity now and in the future.

Best practices for raising both individual and organizational productivity

Good organizational planning is not essentially about using new tools to accomplish yesterday’s goals. In the spring 2020 migration to work-from-home, followed by a return to “normal”, organizations need to have two goals driving them: first, keeping personal productivity up for each worker, to avoid any individual team member losing momentum; and beyond the individual, personal productivity, keeping the larger team and corporate productivity going.

Best practices are now emerging for both goals, and with a huge upside: you can translate remote collaboration technology-based productivity back to the office – to not just hit the ground running when your teams are back to normal but to have improved productivity for your entire organization going forward. Those best practices are centered on the pillars of Mobility, Empowering Workers, Protecting Data, Scalability of Solutions, and Maintaining Company Culture.

Jim Ganthier, Senior Vice President, Customer Solutions Strategy and Advocacy at Dell Technologies explained how his organization is thinking about productivity in a webinar produced by the Austin Forum on Technology & Society that took place on April 7, 2020, Tech For Effective Remote Working, Learning & Living.

“How do we make sure that productivity is anywhere?” asked Ganthier, referring to aligning goals with today’s anywhere workers. “A lot of the customer conversations that we had in the past were about improving individual productivity. But now the conversations are about how do we make the organization more productive? How do we make the whole organization more productive?”

The answer to that lies in leveraging both new tools and new strategies to address those crucial pillars of productivity:

Mobility

Facilitating the productivity of the new mobile workforce is the first step, today. And in the work-from-home boot camp companies found themselves in with the COVID-19 mandates, we just fast-tracked the trends that have been powering ahead for the last ten years: every organization’s increasing need to accommodate and empower anywhere/anytime workers.

In the enterprise space, even before spring 2020 disruptions, 50% of the global workforce was “anywhere workers”. In the U.S., it was predicted in 2019 that 72.3% of the workforce would work from a mobile location in 2020. Yet surprisingly, amid all this “connectedness” – and even more remote work in the COVID-19 disruption – according to a 2019 survey by Google, 65% of executives thought that siloed information and siloed teams were the biggest barrier to communication.

How do you give anywhere workers, including younger workers that bring their tech expectations to the workplace, the collaboration solutions they need, while simultaneously reaching your organization’s productivity, growth, and security need? The first part of the answer is the easier one: by providing the most efficient new-gen AV, network, video, and audio solutions for conference rooms, huddle spaces, hot-desking, and, yes, work-from-home needs. It’s all about tools for the mobile workforce, and your collaboration hardware, software, and service partner is key to that. In today’s AV, IT, and collaboration landscape, that partner role is best filled by a top value-add distributor. The second part of the answer: you need solutions that don’t just accomplish the minimum requirements for remote work and meetings, but point to a new culture of productive collaboration. To accomplish that you need to build the other pillars, starting with empowering workers.

Empowering Workers

UCC (Unified Communication & Collaboration) is now in a massive upswing as more collaboration, including remote working and remote class attendance, is the order of the day. However, just connecting laptops to Microsoft Teams or Zoom meeting is table stakes in the new collaboration landscape. Empowering workers to achieve is not just about jumping on simple remote meeting platforms.

To do a productive, robust collaboration, suppliers are now offering screens for meeting rooms and huddle rooms with integrated collaboration software. And even better, they’re offering bundles consisting of the above plus smart room cameras, and sophisticated DSP-based audio. The most productive collaboration teams in companies and universities are not just doing a quick web platform meeting but are bringing USB peripherals, and/or wireless peripherals such as large touch screens, document/video/file sharing, and better audio conferencing into the mix – all locked down with the best network security tools.

Microsoft Teams See Jump in Usage as Remote Work Surges
Microsoft Teams See Jump in Usage as Remote Work Surges

That being said, even the choice of your web conferencing platform is more important than many think, as you need to empower your workers with the best tools, not consumer-grade, simplified solutions. Microsoft Teams, the UCC platform that launched worldwide in March 2017 and has taken the world by storm, passed 44 million daily active users (DAUs) in March 2020. Microsoft Teams is a good choice for businesses that use Office 365 products – it’s packaged in with the Office 365 suite and syncs up well with other Microsoft technologies. And going forward, metrics that allow an organization to assess and tweak their collaboration needs, challenges, and solutions will be increasingly important. The Teams usage report in the Microsoft Teams admin center gives you an overview of the usage activity, including the number of active users and channels, so you can quickly see the number of active users and channels, guests, and messages in each team. Going forward more kinds of data analytics will be utilized by organizations to fine-tune all the collaboration systems.

“Lifecycle support” may sound like some kind of vendor term of little concern to managers concerned with the productivity of the workforce, but it’s crucial to empowering your organization. Why? It’s great to get something up and running, whether it’s simple web conference-based communication or robust UCC systems with peripherals, smart cameras, and the best digital audio for rooms. But how do you ensure that the systems perform to their maximum capabilities, to empower you, workers, to achieve tomorrow’s goals, not yesterday’s? You need AV and IT support to be available, anytime, for all your anywhere workers. Increasingly, your distributor partner is well-positioned to help you meet the challenges of that role. The best value-add distributor will have to resources to guide you into better lifecycle support for the collaboration packages you choose, including bundles on both the hardware and software side.

Protecting data

With more and remote work and collaboration, an obvious challenge emerges the dilemma of increasing connectedness and collaboration with the simultaneous need to increase the security of the data that all of those anywhere workers and devices spawn. Add in the Cloud aspect of much of that today, and you have major challenges if you’re not prepared. A few years ago, collaboration was mostly about software, but now it’s also about all the devices at the edge of the network, not just the software architecting it. Network security today, when it comes to collaboration, involves everything from encryption to sandboxing to asset tagging to new-gen dual authentication.

The need to secure your data is not just “important”, it’s listed as the number one priority of every IT manager today, period. But think opportunity, not just challenges: beyond your own data security needs, there is a huge growth opportunity for the channel in offering your customers network security products and services, not just the collaboration elements – on both the EDU and enterprise side. But you need to be trained ahead of time in the latest network security protocols, and have someone with you for the first few sales cycles, and with support going forward. Not surprisingly, the best value adds Distributors, today, are best equipped to empower your organization to understand, provide, and support today’s complex collaboration ecosystem, bringing all the solutions together, securely, so you earn the trusted advisor status with your customer (and the stickiness of that customer).

Scalability of solutions

Everything your teams do, and all the tools your IT and AV managers give them, need to be planned based on scalability. How do we scale those tools/features up, for our team going forward, and for our customers? You don’t always scale up solutions in the same way, but we should all be learning from roadblocks on how we’re going to address scalability going forward.

The best way to ensure that the collaboration solutions you and your customers choose can be scaled up in the future as more rooms, and/or workers need to be empowered, or room added, is to think increasingly of bundled solutions. In a changing market and with the changing needs of companies, just spec’ing in products (or selling products to customers) won’t necessarily get you the kind of improved productivity you need, unless you build all the pillars of productivity as described in this white paper. And it won’t necessarily be scalable down the road. Bundles, light bundles, or more robust system solutions are better suited to meet collaboration needs that can be scaled up later.

Fortunately, you can learn from the people, companies, and solution providers, including Distributors, that are forging new paths in team collaboration. They are doing that with new tools that are carefully bundled or curated to go beyond basic web-based collaboration to the kind of robust room-based systems that get better participation, better interaction, better data sharing, and better productivity. The best, most carefully curated bundles – and only a top Distributor is positioned to provide all possible bundled configurations – are all about curating the right combination of video, control, audio accessories, and security overlays. Including if needed, front-of-room Touch Displays (with both IP and RS-232 control access), whiteboarding (with annotation), wireless screen sharing, content collaboration, integration with room scheduling and room control, and more.

Maintaining your company culture

The most important goal of all in the move to more digital collaboration, both internal collaboration and/or remote collaboration? The answer is clear, and compelling: maintaining your company culture. No matter what tools you give your anywhere workers, you need to never lose focus on the need to keep all the best elements of your organization’s culture in place, and thriving.

Much of what makes your company special, and valued, and motivating, is informal. That includes communication on a personal level, empathy, respect for individuals’ unique “pace and space.”

“Informal communications don’t happen when working alone via electronic means,” commented Peter Schwartz, Chief Future Officer at Salesforce, to Comstock magazine on April 17th, after he was appointed to the newly formed California Future of Work Commission.

The best companies make those informal culture practices part of intentional goals, to cultivate health, growth, and success for every worker.

It’s been a challenge for many companies to keep that going in the transition to work-from-home. Amber Gunst, CEO of Austin Technology Council, recently told a gathering of tech leaders in Austin that even as companies went to remote work during the COVID-19 mandates, they needed to keep private communication going with workers.

“There needs to also be ‘private’ communication, just as there was in the office,” said Gunst. “If someone is dealing with frustration, they need a little more assistance with that. Execs and managers need to check in with people of the group comms, just as they would do in the office.”

Gunst also noted that with workers working remotely from home, you need to be flexible with time/hours. “Your people need some pace and space flexibility,” she added. And in fact, that trend toward more flexibility was already a trend going into 2020. Whether the worker is at home, or on the road meeting with clients, at conferences, or wherever, good collaboration means consciously maintaining all parts of your company culture, and company values, not just the technical tools of communication.”

Of course, the best executives and managers know that for improved productivity for the organization as a whole, company culture is essential, not a luxury, in a crisis, or going forward into what will never be an easy business climate for evolving companies and customers.

Conclusion

Best practices are now emerging for remote technology-based collaboration combined with new approaches to managing anywhere workers, for better productivity now and in the future. Those best practices are centered on the pillars of Mobility, Empowering Workers, Protecting Data, Scalability of Solutions, and Maintaining Company Culture. Top companies, and solution providers, including market-leading Distributors, are forging new paths in team collaboration with new tools that are carefully bundled or curated to go beyond basic web-based collaboration, for better participation, better interaction, better data sharing, and better productivity.

Source: SYNNEX COLLABSolv