There’s no denying it, the world and the workplace is changing.  Due to the current pandemic, there has been a lot of changes with social distancing, spending, working from home, and an increase in unemployment. Those of us who are in the privileged position to continue working are left wondering what the future of work will look like post COVID-19. 

What will our lives and jobs look like after COVID-19? While the timeline is not concrete, we can start preparing ourselves for the upcoming transitions. Each company will have their own approach to adapting the workplace environment. However, the principles of flexibility and safety will have to be top priorities. In the world of Business Technology (BT), this time calls for a change in strategy and technology.

Implementing Human-Centric Work Environment

Safety First

The number one priority for workplaces post COVID-19 is safety.  As employees, we want to make sure that the environment we are working in is safe and compliant to health regulations.  In order to achieve this safety there will have to be a strong foundation of trust within the company.  This calls for a level of transparency and autonomy.

Additionally, employees will have to use their better judgement to make decisions about social distancing and when to come to work. The overall culture of the workplace will be shifting to put more emphasis on individual well-being and will call for employees to make informed decisions not only for their health, but for the protection of their coworkers.

There are also logistic requirements that come with a people focused work environment.  Social distancing will still be important when employees are allowed to work in the office.  The layout of the office will reflect these changes, office headcount and floor plans will be structured around safety requirements. 

Keeping the Human Connection 

Currently, 62% of working Americans are working from home. Even post COVID-19, much of the workplace will continue working from home or adopt a flexible work schedule.  This means that many employees will still be unable to experience the in-person interaction they may have had at the office.  Personal connection is important to the well-being of individual employees, the cohesiveness of teams, and the overall company culture.  A few ways to emulate the in-person connection is to host virtual happy hours, have check-ins, have meetings that aren’t all work related, and to understand the barrier between work and personal time. 

Finding Efficiency with Flexibility

Embracing flexibility will be a huge component in the work dynamic following the pandemic.  On the internal side, teams may transition to become more agile.  With the culture shifting to a human-centric approach, the future of work may be more geared towards what employees need to be productive.  Traditional 9-5 hours may be forgotten, and employees may have the opportunity to follow a flexible schedule.  As a result, the workplace will have to adapt to what best serves the needs of the individual.  

How Will This Affect Your Business Technology Team?

While we know that returning to the workplace will be far from our “normal”, what do these changes mean to the BT team specifically?  Considering the importance of employee safety and flexibility, the roles and responsibilities of the Business Technology team may shift to include these priorities.

  • Evaluating new technology
  • Enabling work from home productivity
  • Introducing automation 

Evaluating New Technology

With the safety of employees as the top priority, companies may start investing in no-touch technology.  The BT team may be responsible for evaluating the touchless technology and helping to implement the changes company-wide.  Prior to COVID-19, some organizations relied heavily upon on-prem tools and technology.  In the era of work from home, even the largest enterprises are being forced to search for new accessible alternatives.  As a result, BT teams will not only have to assess which tools can be easily accessed by employees in different locations, but also work to ensure remote governance and risk management. 

Enabling WFH Productivity 

While 83% of US businesses in the past 10 years  have introduced or are in the process of introducing flexible work from home environments, many were not prepared to make the full transition.  BT teams are leading the transition by creating processes that make employees more productive and better connected.  The shift in IT towards treating employees like consumers has long been in the works, but it’s even more important in today’s work environment where literally all processes must be done through a computer using apps, systems, and digital tools.

Scalability will also be a challenge for the BT team to conquer. Wendy Pfeiffer, CIO at Nutanix, points out that IT has been planning and delivering tech for remote work for years. However, Pfeiffer says, it’s one thing to have part of the workforce work from home and an entirely different scenario when thousands of people are connecting remotely to a VPN at the same time. It becomes a test of whether the system will scale.

Introducing Automation for Cost-Saving

It’s obvious that automation can help augment employee productivity and efficiency. That’s true for a remote world or in-office world. Just one example is implementing auto-provisioning for applications, which can cut down on approval time and reduce manual work for the IT team.

However, automation can also be used to address initiatives that have become even more pressing in our current environment, such as cost-saving and efficiency monitoring.

To address this internally at Workato, we use product usage data to see who is frequently using the application and which employees have not touched the application in an allotted time period.  In turn, this data enables our BT team to determine seats and spending for applications. We then automated the process of addressing the lack of use with the employee through a bot on Slack.

Bots can provide insight into app and product usage which can help determine the number of necessary seats and provisions.

For example, the bot will notify the employee that they haven’t had a Zoom meeting with over 10 guests in the last 3 months and ask if they can downgrade them to a lower plan. The employee can accept the downgrade, or submit a response as to why they need to keep their current tier. This response goes to IT, who can grant an exception.

Bots are Here to Help

The BT team can kill two birds with one stone by implementing bots.  Wellness bots that check in with each employee give individuals the chance to voice their concerns and feel connected and valued by their company.  Standup and Product bots can streamline processes and help teams be more efficient with their time. 

SMRT, Singapore’s mass transit provider, has 11,000 employees that allow SMRT to support an average daily ridership of 3.384 million. They’ve used bots to keep their employees safe and allow them to go back to work. Jonathan Goh, Application Architect at SMRT Corporation says that in order to ensure business continuity, they implemented a bot for Workplace from Facebook.

“We started using Workato about 2 weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic to capture real-time travel declarations and the statuses of 11,000 employees,” said Goh. “This not only saves administrative time, but creates a great experience for our employees, who can complete a declaration within Workplace from Facebook in just 15 to 30 seconds.”

Leading the Way Through These Changing Times

The COVID-19 pandemic can make the future seem unpredictable and uncertain.  Preparing for a work-life post-pandemic can give teams the opportunity to put the focus back on what actually makes the company run — the people. Implementing practices that promote flexibility and safety will improve employee well-being and productivity.

In conclusion, the BT team will be at the forefront of these efforts by helping the transition to working from home, evaluating new tools, and streamlining processes. 

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Mary Hodges
About Mary Hodges

Mary previously worked in IT recruiting and is thrilled to bring her community building skills to the business systems community.