Digital Workplace: Reinventing Communication for the Way in Which We Work

October 15, 2021

Digital Transformation

On September 14, 2021 Noord hosted a virtual boardroom in association with Maintel. The event consisted of an introduction from Dan Davies, CTO at Maintel, followed by a discussion among senior professionals on reinventing workplace communications in a post-pandemic world.

 

Introduction

Dan was joined by Dave Griffiths, Business Development Director, who was on hand to follow up with attendees after the session. Introducing the topic, Dan touched on three macro trends which are driving the need to reinvent communication for the way we work. These are the proliferation of public cloud, the onset of the global pandemic and the ever-evolving cyber security threats faced by many organisations.

With the majority of employees still working from home, and many organisations envisaging hybrid working arrangements in the future, the corporate environment has been turned upside down. This brings a number of challenges, such as securing connectivity for devices located outside of the corporate network; ensuring staff are productive and communicate well when working from home; keeping, downscaling or repurposing office space; managing the ever-growing list of cloud service providers; and protecting, detecting and recovering from ransomware attacks.

 

Reasons for attending and key challenges

Attendees were asked to state their reason for attending and a key challenge faced by their organisation. Many were representing legal firms or bodies and brought expertise in fields such as business operations, corporate transformation, technology and IT management, and business improvement. Key challenges in the new hybrid working environment included integrating multiple communication platforms, maintaining service quality, ensuring that employees opting to work from home are not at a professional disadvantage, supporting employees to adopt new technology and maintaining corporate culture.

 

The proliferation of consumer-based tools

Dan noted that according to research conducted by Maintel, many employees had been using unapproved consumer-based tools such as WhatsApp as they were easier to use than out-of-the box corporate technology solutions and had better functionality. However, this raised serious issues for organisations around control, auditing, data protection and security. Faced with this worrying trend, senior executives must listen to their employees to understand what is driving their behaviour and what they feel is missing from in-house tools. By listening to employee feedback, companies are more likely to choose tools with a better adoption rate, leading to enhanced productivity, security and collaboration.

Regarding this, the point was raised that employees need to be afforded the same level of respect as customers. In other words, organisations must ask employees what they want to get out of the technology rather than deciding for them and imposing an unsatisfactory solution. Additionally, one participant underscored the importance of pooling and trying out ideas from across the business. Even if those ideas fail, this kind of initiative demonstrates that the company is willing to take on board feedback from employees at all levels of seniority and innovate to find the best solution.

 

Encouraging the adoption of new technologies

Dan raised the topic of the continued overreliance on email and avoidance of video calls within some organisations, which is arguably down to habit and company culture. However, participants felt that the opposite had in fact become true as the pandemic had gone on, with back-to-back video calls leaving employees with very little time to catch up on work. Interestingly, in attempting to facilitate a hybrid return to the office, one organisation had created collaboration spaces to encourage innovation and idea sharing sessions, yet had found that employees were still sitting at their screens and communicating via technology such as Microsoft Teams.

This led on to a discussion about how best to facilitate hybrid conferences. Many recalled having to huddle around a single laptop in a meeting room, especially in the early days of the pandemic, as the technology has not always been best suited to group use. Dan offered some insight into Maintel’s approach, noting that the company had gone back and installed plug sockets by every seat in its newly created collaboration space and had installed touch screens at the end of tables, which teams could use for presentations during informal meetings. However, noise had been cited as a common complaint from employees, especially as many were now used to working from home in complete silence – although this could perhaps be mitigated by cleverly placed noise-absorbing partitioning.

 

Onboarding new staff remotely

Another key issue for many organisations was bringing on board new staff in the new hybrid environment, particularly when it came to ensuring that they had completed training courses and understood what they were doing. The answer to this was felt to be stepping up communications, although there was acknowledgement that initiatives such as Zoom socials had become quite tiresome as the pandemic had gone on. Nonetheless, some organisations had come up with creative solutions to employee engagement. For example, Maintel had sent out welcome packs in order to make new employees feel more included, while another organisation had run an in-person ‘freshers’ event for new starters.

 

Technology and the legal sector

Dan asked whether the preconception that the legal sector was quite conservative in its adoption of technology was outdated. Many agreed that it was, and felt that their organisation generally adopted technology quite quickly. The real difficulty lay in convincing employees who were resistant to change to adopt new solutions and in training people up remotely. Interestingly, one attendee noted that while productivity within their organisation had initially increased with the rise of home working, it had since fallen — perhaps due to mental fatigue and low morale. Unsurprisingly, many of its staff had been relieved to go back to the office, stating that they had been able to solve problems in person which would have taken weeks to solve over video call.

Another trend of note was that clients themselves were opting for less formal types of communication, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and shunning more traditional types of communication such as phone calls or email. While companies could easily adapt to this shift in preference, the difficulty was ensuring that all those platforms were well integrated and fed into a centralised system. In addition, many clients are now expecting immediate responses, which was felt to be symptomatic of the modern on-demand culture. This was thought to be exacerbated by the rise of apps such as Microsoft Teams, where a user’s online status is immediately visible.

For more information on all of our upcoming virtual events here at Noord, please click here to visit our event calendar.

For more information on all of our upcoming virtual events here at Noord, please click here to visit our event calendar.

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