As I work from my home office on yet another typically brisk Ottawa day, I’m periodically struggling to keep my mood from matching the gloomy weather this time of year. Passion and energy for helping our clients evolve through technology is never an issue. Still, I know that if I’m feeling the fatigue of working remotely for the past year, then my teammates may be struggling to roar with enthusiasm, too.
Thankfully, it’s a little easier to get outside and recharge the battery with spring upon us. Yet, the lack of face-to-face interactions and physical separation from our primary operations in Montreal concerns me as pandemic restrictions persist.
As a business leader, I know I’m not alone. Being able to walk around the office to have casual conversations with colleagues about their day or ask how their families are doing is intrinsically valuable to any organization’s health.
Working with partners like Microsoft, Google, VMware and Dell Technologies, we convened for a virtual event on the Cultures of Collaboration to discuss how technology lies at the heart of maintaining a sense of team, even as the next-generation workplace remains increasingly virtual. We kept it fun by inviting a few well-known Canadian athletes – women’s hockey pioneer Manon Rhéaume and former CFL stars Michael’ Pinball’ Clemons and Scott Macdonell – to discuss the parallels of teamwork in sports and the new digital workplace.
We also recognized that core essentials, such as communication, strategy and game planning, teamwork and collaboration and project goal review become more tenuous in a distributed work environment.
Today’s challenges give us a taste of what the future of work will look like as people mobilize and adopted digital technology.
At Insight, we refer to this as the advent of anywhere operations. Most of our clients seek to address how to make digital engagement work effectively for their employees and customers in the long term. In our view, that means optimizing the use of collaboration tools, e-commerce platforms, mobile applications, cloud and edge computing and automation. Gartner describes it as the everywhere enterprise, “an organization that uses technology, team structures, processes, skills and tools to empower a dispersed workforce, harness a distributed infrastructure and serve a ubiquitous customer base.”
Successful anywhere operations need to be personal, ensuring that the human touch isn’t lost in the process as we enable our remote workers to as effective, motivated and connected no matter where they are.
Here are a few things organizations should consider long-term to keep a culture of collaboration thriving as they adopt anywhere operations:
Make Organizational Change Management (OCM) part of the plan:
OCM is just as important as acquiring the right devices and IT infrastructure. IT decision-makers tend to focus on the right technology for their environments – the applications, networks and bandwidth – and not how those using the technology will accept these changes.
Involving leaders from across a business is essential when considering cultural aspects and policy changes to ensure full adoption. Anywhere operations should support a people-first, technology-second mindset, which should be understood across every aspect of the business.
Automation can simplify workday monotony
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking people away from physical locations and allowing technology to input and aggregate data creates a more agile organization. By automating workflows, sales transactions and other rote tasks through cloud-based applications, the physical environment matters less, human error goes down and overall processes accelerate.
Most importantly, people can focus on more meaningful work. Companies, in turn, become more attractive to new talent, appealing to those looking to make a difference rather than filling out and logging forms all day. Automation becomes even more critical as talent pools expand thanks to perimeter-less, anywhere operations.
A decentralized enterprise means IT should go virtual
The outdated block-and-tackle approach to service desk support has needed overhauling for a long time. The tech-savvy, digitally native worker prefers a personalized IT experience in the virtual work world. Think of it as an Apple’s Genius bar: A teammate with a digital device issues a reservation with your help desk, then interacts directly by phone, chat or video call.
This modern process has begun to emerge elsewhere. Earlier, I mentioned those long winter days, which haven’t helped people’s mental health after a year of remote work. I do a lot of roundtables with my teams, and on a recent one with one of our sales teams, not a single person was on camera.
With people already experiencing video conference fatigue, perhaps embracing the virtual workspace to gather “in person” is now more of a reality than science fiction. One of our clients, Mercedes-Benz, is proving that by using HoloLens 2 for remote car repairs.
Don’t forget to have fun
Keeping workplace culture strong with anywhere operations means getting creative in helping your workforce relate to your organization. Consider the personal touch applies when onboarding new employees virtually. There are many ways technology can help make that important first connection, including getting preconfigured technology into workers’ hands immediately, conducting virtual cohort groups, using breakout rooms and assigning digital buddies.
Maintaining a strong culture over time also means having fun and finding ways for teammates to get to know one another. Recently, we hosted a virtual “thank you” event for our team by bringing in mentalist Oz Pearlman to perform his award-winning show. It was an entertaining way to give our teammates a change of pace from the wall-to-wall meeting routine.
We also initiated weekly “Wellness Wednesday” emails, inviting our teammates to share videos of how they’re keeping their wellness intact while working from home. It’s been a great way for our people to welcome us into their personal lives, including one of our metalheads who’s making a name for himself on YouTube as a popular voice in the hard rock scene. Who knew!
Without these extra efforts to cultivate a culture of collaboration, you’ll miss out on what a truly healthy digital workplace looks like. You’ll soon find that your efforts to establish ‘anywhere operations’ may end up leading nowhere. Building resilient teams and integrating a human touch when going digital has never been more critical.
John Dathan, senior vice president and general manager of Insight Canada, helps organizations of all sizes implement intelligent technology solutions to manage today and transform the future.