Great Work Can Happen Anywhere, but will we get the tech, tools and training to deliver? 

By Carol Brooker, CIPR member of the GLG & T&C groups.

Great work can happen anywhere: on a beach (I am thinking of one of my CIPR mentors emailing me once while there); in a local café (J.K.Rowling in Edinburgh); in a garage (which Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak outgrew quite quickly) and in an office.

With previously unusual locations now being the norm in our post-COVID working lives, are companies and communicators being set-up for success with the tools, technology and training that they have been given to date?

The CIPR Thames and Chiltern and Greater London Groups are hosting a webinar on the 19th January to look at what the future of work will look like, now that so many of us have become accustomed to working from home. We will be joined by expert speakers, including Misun Jo, from Ericsson, and Sharon O’Dea, from Lithos Partners, who will discuss what the future of work holds for us as communicators and how we can all stay relevant.

An estimated 2.7 billion people, or more than four out of five of the global workforce, have been affected by lockdowns or stay at home measures according to research by Deloitte.

Leaders of government and business are developing measures to try to meet the challenges of the crisis. In the UK, we have had home working, where possible, during lockdown for some employees and the experience of being on furlough for others. Many have faced redundancy, lost jobs or are suffering financial hardship e.g. those on low incomes having to self-isolate or the three million from Excluded UK, small businesses with no response yet regarding recovery packages from the Treasury.

Misun Jo will illustrate how Ericsson has been trying to get the balance right between what systems employees require to work from home and maintaining its staff’s wellbeing. Misun Jo will also share with attendees how the company achieved remote working for 85,000 people within 7 days.

A survey conducted by the company shortly afterwards reported that while the systems which were set up at lightning speed worked well, the employees observed that they were stressed. Work life balance during lockdowns is undoubtedly difficult for many: juggling home schooling or work meetings with colleagues on Microsoft Teams from your bedroom.

Technology does benefit the workplace and home if we consider the success of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and WebEx in 2019. Misun Jo believes that technology such as 5G will enhance digitisation still further but the challenge is how we work. She will illustrate how we as communicators can prepare for the ‘new normal’.

Lockdowns resulting in remote working and the need for social distancing in offices has surely hastened changes to the working environment. According to The Briefing in The Economist, September 2020, “the latest data suggest that only 50% of people in five big European countries spend every work-day in the office. A quarter remain at home full-time.” [Source: Morgan Stanley].

Remote working demonstrates the advantages to working from home – less time to commute, less time in meetings. Others doing so miss the informal interaction and collaboration that takes place in the physical space of an office – round the water cooler or the coffee area. Unintended consequences of remote working are considerations such as productivity and trust or for HR in terms of onboarding or for the IT department in installing technology and managing cyber security issues.

Sharon O’Dea will demonstrate in her talk how digital tools add value today and how these could be used as organisations prepare for the future of work.  She has commented previously on the decline of the employer-employee relationship; the rise of portfolio careers, gig working and transactional working relationships; changing demographics; and the mainstreaming of AI at work.

During this event, Sharon will look at how we and the organisations we represent will adapt further in our working lives. Not everyone likes working with Zoom or Microsoft Teams where the nuances of colleagues’ communication and interaction are not possible. She will point out that enhanced skills are needed. Her view is that organisations‘ strategies, systems and people will need to support each other with shared cultures and values such as trust.

Other support structures are emerging, and we have seen the creation of shared ‘hub’ spaces in Ireland, for example. The government in Ireland has made a firm commitment to pump €12 million into supporting the provision of 10,000 remote working spaces in towns across Ireland. The new fund is being delivered through Enterprise Ireland [Source: The Anglo-Celt, November 19, 2020].

Sharon observes there is a question as to the future of physical office spaces themselves with the combination of remote working and the emergence of hubs. High speed broadband means the knowledge worker can be tapped into regardless of location. She says, “the remote working genie isn’t going back in the bottle”.

We could well be adapting our work experience to work anywhere, anytime, with anyone.

Join us for an insightful debate as to what the world of work will look like on 19 January 2021. Guests Sharon O’Dea & Misun Jo. Tickets available here.

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