During the early stages of the pandemic, there were a few world leaders who were criticized for suggesting that “we would have to live with it.” The “it” being the COVID-19 virus. It sounded weird hearing that at the time, but as it turns out, that will likely end up being the case. After almost 2 years of various global mandates and shutdowns, COVID-19 and its variants are still around, and we’ve begun to adjust. We have seen the widespread adoption of the mobile work force and creation of remote schools. While most schools re-opened to being in-person this year, in many states, the workforce moving back to in-person is a mixed story.
The mobile workforce was a valid response to a global pandemic and what could be done to keep businesses open. Like anything, there were plusses and minuses about working from home. News articles and studies suggested employee productivity was low and employees were struggling with mental health while working from home. While the claims may be true, generalizing that as the experience of the entire workforce would be incorrect. The purpose of the article is also not to explore those claims. Instead, this article will explore the uptick in the trend to make employees return to work and those that will continue with the remote work.
Large corporations were the first to call back their employees to the office. There are many reasons for this. The first is that management is more comfortable with the traditional way of having employees work with them at a single location. When everyone is in the same place, collaboration is much easier. If an employee needs help or clarification about a work process, a colleague or a supervisor is just a few feet away to help. Another factor is that an organization’s physical space is either owned or leased for longer term. Early issues surrounding the pandemic including the need for frequent cleaning of facilities is now commonplace at most buildings.
But what about small and medium businesses? As always, SMBs have been nimble in adjusting to the remote work setting. Companies that did not previously support a remote workforce had a learning curve and adjusted to the new way of working. They had to acquire the tools and make collaboration happen. It was painful for some and easy for others, especially those companies that were technology- focused on their day-to-day operations. What SMBs learned in the early days of the pandemic was that technology is an imperative, not a good-to-have. With almost 2 years of working in this setting, the back to in-person trend is slower with this group of businesses.
The return to on premises is slower for SMBs not because they are slow to adapt to change. It is the opposite; these firms have adapted much better at managing their workforces and their work remotely. It is a testament to their adaptability that they learned to make this situation work and were able to grow their businesses despite the challenges of the pandemic.
There was a time when salespeople had to fly hundreds, even thousands of miles to meet the decision-making stakeholders to make a pitch. Now they can make those pitches via video conference. These video conferencing tools matured during the pandemic and work seamlessly.
The path to making a remote work force stable is not easy. Talent acquisition and retention, employee motivation, collaboration, and individual attention to employee needs are all approached differently when the office is in a person’s home. There is no cookie cutter solution on how to support a remote workforce that can applied to all companies. Every company has a unique work culture, and it is likely the pandemic provided the catalyst for a change in how to respond to make productivity gains.
Supporting a remote work force also gave companies a chance to get an overall view of the work that their employees were doing. Repetitive tasks or easy jobs were analyzed and automated where supervision and review of these tasks was minimal or fully removed. Technology played a huge part in this. SaaS-based solutions helped automate using no-code solutions, AI/data science and hyper automation. This will continue to gain momentum as more and more tasks will be identified for automation.
As repetitive tasks are automated, the distributed workforce can focus on higher-level challenges. This might involve unique or additional expertise that the existing workforce may not have. Additional hiring with a matched skill set, augmenting the staff with temporary resources, or training the existing employees are likely next steps. Having good partners either in-house or otherwise is critical to execute on bringing the skill set of the company as a whole to the level needed.
While doing all these, cyber threats are looming as a constant threat, always trying to find any holes at the endpoints as the surface area of the same is increasing; this and more will be covered in part two of this article in the next issue of MCS.
About the Authors:
Hari Vasudevan is the founder and CEO of Think Power Solutions. Vamsi Alla is the chief technology officer of Think Power Solutions. Jesse Guzman is the director of PMO at Think Power Solutions. Think Power Solutions is a leading tech-enabled infrastructure management solutions provider with highly skilled and dedicated consultants who clients entrust to manage their mission-critical infrastructure. Think Power Solutions was founded with the vision of providing exceptional client service influenced by modern technology to positively impact the utilities, telecom, and construction industries For more, visit thinkpowersolutions.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2022
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