After months of uncertainty and pandemic precariousness, we find ourselves at the start of an economic recovery. What does that mean for the hybrid and virtual work-from-home models we have all adopted to limit the spread of the coronavirus and keep ourselves safely physically distanced? Should companies keep their flexible work policies in place?
For Danny Serraglio, Vice President of TELUS Business Solutions for eastern Canada, the answer is yes — and the data speaks for itself: nearly 60 per cent of Quebec workers would prefer to keep working remotely at least three days a week.
But how can companies use technology to boost productivity while maintaining high levels of employee engagement? Leveraging TELUS’ decade of experience in this area through the Work Styles program, Serraglio shares its insights on a few pitfalls that companies should be careful to avoid.
Trap 1: Resisting the accelerating rate of technological change
Over the past few years, the use of technology in the workplace has become impressively widespread. From an ordinary wireless phone, we can make a video call, share our screen with a colleague in just a few seconds, and work with them on the same document in real time. That’s the magic of unified communications, together with cloud, storage and collaboration tools. With the launch of 5G across Canada this year, the future looks exciting as well: Augmented reality will allow employees to hold discussions in the same room, artificial intelligence will offer new tools for evaluating performance, and knowledge automation will improve customer service using customized virtual assistants. It’s the ongoing digital transformation.
“It can all seem a bit exhausting,” Serraglio says. “But if there's one thing this crisis has taught us, it’s that companies need to invest in their capacity for resilience. That means adopting a solid technological change management plan at all levels of the organization. For example, TELUS adopted Google's G Suite a few years back, and all team members at every level had to learn to use that new technology at the same time. Today, more accessible video interviews allow managers to meet people in a more personal setting, and file sharing is accelerating innovation and collaboration. With the right technology in place, our corporate culture has really prospered.”
Trap 2: Minimizing the impact of a security breach
In recent months, scammers have begun exploiting the environment of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic with an increasing number of phishing attacks. According to a recent report from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, over a quarter of Canadian organizations have been the target of a COVID-related cybersecurity incident. Only half of them have put new security protections in place, however. Yet these protections allow companies not only to protect themselves from attacks, but also to avoid the negative effects that can result from them.
“At TELUS, team members are required to complete a training session to learn how to avoid fraud attempts and protect confidential information,” Serraglio says. “Cybersecurity solutions are also essential when deploying technologies related to working from home. We use virtual private networks, firewalls, advanced password managers and monitoring solutions for real-time analysis of network traffic.”
Trap 3: Reducing investments in work spaces
Over the past decade, TELUS equipped nearly 75 percent of its team members to work from home, and that figure has increased to 95 per cent during the pandemic. This has resulted in a number of tangible benefits, including an annual reduction of over 20,000 tonnes of CO2 and millions of dollars in savings on property expenses.
But part of TELUS’s success is explained by its reinvestment of those savings to modernize its work spaces across the country.
“We’ve completely revitalized our work environments to adapt to our team members’ needs with bright, open spaces that encourage interaction and innovation. We have also invested in digital tools for reserving mobile workstations, and we’ve created more collaborative spaces. Many team members tell us that they come to the office to collaborate with their colleagues, and use their time at home to focus on their work,” Serraglio notes.
TELUS also has dozens of telepresence rooms throughout the country. This immersive technology reproduces in-person meetings by faithfully transmitting the subtler aspects of discussions, like facial expressions and body language, to make conversations more authentic. This system has enabled the company to reduce its travel costs by 40 million dollars since 2007.
Trap 4: Continuing to require a 9-to-5 schedule
We have to stop associating productivity with a 9 to 5 schedule. Accordingly, TELUS has completely revised its approach to evaluating performance to focus on a continuous coaching culture. This approach promotes accountability based on quarterly goals, and team members can decide when and where they want to work in order to achieve those goals. Among other key elements, companies need to involve their managers from the beginning of the transition to working from home, and solicits regular feedback from team members.
“Making the changes in technology and corporate culture that are needed to implement a flexible work model isn’t something that happens overnight. But for us, that culture has undeniably become our biggest competitive advantage, and our people our greatest strength,” Serraglio says. “Thanks to these changes, in fall 2019 we had an engagement score in the top 10 percent of the world’s top-ranked employers, for companies of our size and composition, and that has had a direct positive impact on customer service (in French).
“So when people ask me whether hybrid work models are effective, I answer yes without a moment’s hesitation.”
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