The rapid shift of thousands of workers from offices to home-based working is creating big challenges for Australian organisations. Many are scrambling to ensure vital business processes can continue to function and support daily activity.
The challenges stem from the fact that such a seismic shift in the way organisations function has never happened before. The COVID-19 outbreak has rewritten the rules, and means new ways of functioning must be formulated and quickly put into action.
As well as physical and process changes, organisations and their staff must also go through a psychological shift. The concept of work must evolve from somewhere you ‘go’ into something you ‘do’. Location-independent functioning has suddenly become standard.
Managing the new environment
It’s hard to believe such change has come about in just a few short weeks. This rapid shift has meant organisations did not have the luxury of planning and putting in place all the elements that would be required.
Now, faced with months of potential disruption, businesses and public-sector departments are figuring out just what needs to be done. Following these steps will ensure your organisation is best-placed to ride out the COVID-19 crisis:
Ensure reliable access
Most organisations would already have in place the facilities needed to allow limited numbers of staff to work remotely. However, it’s unlikely these measures can cope when all staff are suddenly working away from the office.
Some may find they don’t have remote access to centralised applications or databases because such access has not previously been required. This means changes will need to be made so that all staff have access to the resources they require.
Having a system whereby staff can communicate with each other and in groups will be vital. Consider services such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams and select the one most appropriate for your organisation.
It’s also important to carry out comprehensive training. Many staff members are unlikely to have worked remotely before, so a learning curve will be encountered. Remember that efficient processes are underpinned by efficient communication.
Deploy electronic forms
While it might have been okay to rely on paper-based processes for things such as leave requests or expense claims, this will now need to change. Examine the administrative processes used by staff and work towards replacing them with electronic alternatives.
The world is in uncharted territory and conditions will continue to change. Encourage staff to adopt an agile frame of mind so they are ready to cope with ongoing shifts in workflows and operations.
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Senior managers should be clear about what changes are being made and why they are important. Staff need to realise that processes that may have been in use for years will need to evolve over the coming months.
Invest in process automation
Once the initial disruptive period has subsided, consider investing in process automation tools. These can remove much of the manual drudgery associated with many administrative tasks and free staff up to focus on more value-adding activities.
Listen to your staff
The next few months are going to be challenging for organisations and staff as they become used to a new world of remote working. Take time to listen to staff members and seek feedback on how things are operating for them.It may be necessary to tweak working methods and processes to ensure productivity remains high and staff are happy and engaged in their new home-based work environments.
The core processes that underpin day-to-day activities may have to evolve, but their importance will remain. Effective process management will ensure your organisation is equipped to successfully adapt to a new normal.
Chris Ellis is APAC Technical Evangelist at Nintex.