person using black and silver computer keyboard photo

As countries went into lockdown many employers were faced with the dilemma of ‘remote working’ at scale.

Many roles that “couldn’t be done remotely” suddenly had to, and old barriers were quickly broken down. How efficient those roles were at home I’m sure will be the topic of much research in the months and years to come. For those who have shifted to full time working from home, we are seeing two very polar examples emerge. People who were already working at home and have the tools, systems and processes already in place, and those embarking on a completely new journey.

Those who have never worked from home were left scrambling to purchase equipment, learn new tools and re-build processes that relied on face to face interaction and in some cases physical documentation situated in an office they could no longer access. When the lockdown hit, the former could focus on tweaking their known approach and dealing with the stress of lockdown for them and their family. For the latter, they had the stress of a lockdown, and the added stress of re-learning how their role would function. 

For me this raised an interesting proposition, should all roles that are capable of being remote have a mandatory one-day per week remote rule? Knowing that at any time 20% of your staff are remote would have several benefits; 

  • All ways of working would adapt over time to allow work both in the office as well as remote
  • Ensuring remote working tools and devices are in place by IT, tested and functioning
  • All staff would be familiar with remote tools
  • Remote work would be designed into your cyber security plan from day 1
  • Plus, all the other documented benefits of remote work (e.g. increased efficiency) 

It’s rare that anything we put in place is going to be a positive experience for every employee – and this is no different. There are individuals who will find remote work is much harder for them and that is a very real consideration. We have seen with COVID-19 many businesses have been surprised by their lack of, or inability to execute on their business continuity plan (BCP). By having a mandatory remote work day you would have a significant part of your BCP built into your day-to-day work, having your business better prepared and more resilient when the next coronavirus hits or even if you just suffer a loss of site and everyone needs to work from home for the week. It would allow your staff to focus on the challenge of the business rather than re-learning their role.

This is part of a series of insights related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on business.

Image: Claudio Schwarz

Lee is the Chief Technical Officer at The Missing Link and a member of the Digital Disruption Research Group at the University of Sydney Business School.

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