Posted on April 05, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies and organisations across the globe to roll out mandatory work-from-home policies to reduce exposure to COVID-19. The next few weeks will surely show whether remote working can stand up to the test of maintaining business continuity.

I foresee it will be challenging to maintain productivity and collaboration during this pause to normal office life as we know it. I also believe there is much we can do to deliver results with our remote workforce, whether that means supporting our employees in making use of tools and technology or adapting the way we talk to our team. It’s noticeable that many businesses are embracing the availability of technologies that enable employees to work from nearly anywhere and from any device. In countries like the U.S., there has been a 159% increase in people working remotely from 2005 to 2017, even in sectors such as computer and IT, medical and health, sales and education. Upwork’s “Future Workforce Report” predicts that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028, showing that this trend is only set to continue.

The rapid adoption of high-speed mobile data services, fixed-line broadband and cloud services is playing an integral role in this workplace revolution. Along with these backbone technologies are platforms designed to enhance the remote work experience for companies and employees. Google and Microsoft’s suite of productivity platforms, including Slack and Microsoft Teams, enable employees to collaborate remotely on business tasks on the cloud and can help increase employee productivity and efficiency. Companies still need to optimize their workflow to match. Functions such as scheduling meetings and monitoring employees’ productivity can be done digitally with the help of project management tools and timecard software technology. Highly efficient, this approach can also reduce the complexity of standard business processes for a remote workforce, ultimately saving time and paperwork.

Yet, I am sure that in Qatar and other countries, many employees will be working remotely for the very first time, as part of the coronavirus precautionary measures. They are having to navigate technology that is new to them while staying on task in an environment that may or may not be suitable for productivity. It’s important to ensure that all employees have enough technical support to make a smooth transition to using our remote working platforms and tools. Even with all these tools readily available, there are right and wrong ways to implement remote work, and I see technology as an important enabler of an overall inclusive approach.

Employees want to feel informed and companies and organisations must use these tools appropriately to give their people the confidence, transparency and information they need to be empowered. They need regular feedback and open communication with their line managers, which helps everyone align with team objectives. In my view, and as an example, HR delivery platforms that offers remote employees the same level of support as when they are on-site, many of them cloud-based, are essential to maintain staff morale and a sense of inclusivity.

Communication is vital and now is the time to use the technology and solutions available to us to create new dialogue channels; “keeping the virtual door always open”. One way is choosing to make calls rather than sending emails and using video conferencing and other alternative, unconventional means. Instant messenger applications like WhatsApp, Telegram and WeChat can be a friendlier form of communication for teams to instantly collaborate and even brainstorm together. Sustaining our connections with people – whether they are our colleagues, clients, suppliers, or stakeholders – takes effort but is essential to align with the same business objectives and make constructive progress. Giving customers confidence and access to the right staff during this next period will be an important part of maintaining a level of business predictability in somewhat uncertain times.

We have almost reached a stage when newer technologies such as augmented and virtual reality will help us make remote work feel more and more like a day in the office, with holograms and real-time video conferencing getting us talking virtually face-to-face. Vodafone Qatar is bringing many of these innovations to the market, powered by our state-of-the-art GigaNet network including 5G and fibre, which provides incredible internet speeds.

For now, remote work - forced on businesses by the coronavirus pandemic - can present an opportunity for all of us to think about how it can improve our organisations. Vodafone Qatar has implemented remote working for almost 90% of our staff, and we are experiencing no interruption to our operations. As a leading technology company that provides essential communications, we are fortunate to have state of the art infrastructure and tools in place. I believe that as long as we maintain open communication with our team, the future of remote working looks very encouraging in terms of business continuity.