When I look back on my career there will be events and dates that have significance. The 16th March 2020 was the day we suspended access to the FluidOne office because of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and I’m sure that it will be remembered as the day that changed the way we work forever.
Working from home has been something that I’ve done on and off for the past 20 years and as you can imagine, it’s changed significantly in this time. Having started my IT career working for a Citrix partner, I was able to use a dial up modem to access my work systems and data, this was pre-broadband (hopefully some of those reading this remember those days) and all in all not a great user experience, but it would allow me valuable time to keep up to date after a couple of days of customer visits. Over the past two decades technology advances have made the practicality, reliability and whole experience of WFH significantly better. The reality is that better internet connectivity, mobile data services and cloud based applications mean that for a lot of us, the ‘need’ to be in the office sat next to your colleagues or spending hours traveling in cars, trains or even planes to see customers, should no longer be considered a necessity.
While the value in building working relationships face to face should not be underestimated, what this period of enforced global lockdown will teach us is that we can do so much more online than we ever imagined. I’m convinced that when the world resets and we establish a new version or normal, we will have a completely different approach, appreciation and expectation of working from home. While I am not suggesting we won’t meet up with customers and colleagues, I am suggesting that we will be much more efficient with our time.
Many of us already had the tools installed on our laptops that allowed us to perform 90% of our job function remotely and it didn’t need much intervention from our IT teams to complete the tool set. The resistance had not been a technology barrier, it had been our habits or the habits and beliefs of our team, our boss or even our bosses’ boss.
Just over a year ago I read a great book called Atomic Habits by James Clear, that I would highly recommend that all of you read. In this book James talks about making small but regular changes to make a big impact. In the book he lays out tips and techniques to help you break bad habits and build good ones. The coronavirus has forced almost every office worker to break the habit of going to the office, the habit of our daily commute, the habit of catching up on the office gossip in the kitchen and the habit of the 200 mile round trip for the quarterly meeting with the same old customer who just likes to see you… Different people have different views about how long it takes to break a habit or build a new one, some people say 21 days some say a month and James Clear believes it is 66 days…
While I am not an expert on human psychology, and I don’t know how long we will be in enforced or voluntary lockdown (if it’s 66 days trust me it’s just a coincidence), I truly believe that by the end of this surreal time, coronavirus will have forced us all to build new habits in regards to the way we work;
- Very quickly we learnt the power of tools like Microsoft Teams and what value they really give us
- Video conferencing has become the new normal as our team meetings became online meetings rather then everyone huddled in the boardroom
- The address in our Outlook invitations is no longer the offices of customers but now our preferred online meeting tool
- Meeting customers at different ends of the country on the same day is possible, all be it online.
If we have really started to change our habits for the better, then do we need to evolve even further to make us more efficient? Can or should we look at our infrastructure, our tools and our staff training to ensure that we really exploit these new good habits? The answer is most likely yes, however the reality is that right now most of us are focused on getting to the other side of lockdown and assessing what the long-term impact has been on our businesses. Every organisation is different, every individual will have adapted differently and as a result in every organisation there will be different considerations. When we do get to draw breath and contemplate the future, here are some of the things I believe we will evaluate and deem to be normal.
- Training new starters on Unified Communications tools and collaboration methods will climb up the agenda and be much nearer the top
- Supporting connectivity options and data consumption will fundamentally change. In a world where everyone is expected to be online 24/7, to work from home effectively businesses will understand that you need a strong and stable internet connection
- Giving everyone in the organisation access to the same tool set will be a must as consistency of communication is key to the philosophy of being able to work from home
- Checking that security policies have been set correctly and, in the rush to allow access for home working, that inadvertently back doors have not been left unlocked to allow hackers to exploit company data
- Looking at what applications have not yet been moved to the cloud, and by hosting them on site are you restricting access or productivity.
My personal experience of the past four weeks is that most organisations have adapted well in very difficult circumstances – praise must be given to the thousands of IT professionals who have worked hard to ensure their systems and networks support the difficulties faced by the pandemic. That said I’m sure that everyone has been on calls and online meetings where people can’t access the meeting or connections drop out mid call, just as something incredibly important is about to happen.
In the next 12 months I expect to see organisations adapt their systems and policy to support our new habits.
If you would like to discuss how your organisation is looking to adapt for an increase in home working, then I’d be happy to share further insight and ideas.
FluidOne can offer advice on connectivity options including fixed line and mobile broadband solutions for home workers, mobile telephony and data solutions, Unified communication solutions including video conferencing and network security solutions.
Will Brooks, Enterprise Sales Director, FluidOne
Will is an experienced Sales Director with a proven track record of managing teams selling IT and connectivity Solutions in channel, direct, new business and client management situations in markets including server infrastructure, storage, virtualisation, Managed Services and more recently Cloud, connectivity and Unified Communications.
Will's management style is to actively encourage and create an environment that drives individual and team success, understanding strengths that ultimately benefit individuals and the business. At FluidOne Will looks after the Acquisition, Account Management and Strategic Partner teams.
Will is married with two daughters and lives in North Oxfordshire. While his days of playing rugby are behind him, he actively gets involved with his local rugby club; and is also a keen golfer.