POINT OF VIEW
Do you have staff handling billions of dollars from their kitchen table?
The Covid pandemic brought about a massive change to work habits and structure. This in turn has driven a change in the workplace risk profile. Do you have staff handling sensitive data and financial transactions at the kitchen table?
Research by NFON (interviewing 500 SMEs) found that prior to the pandemic, just under 50% of organisations encouraged remote work. 50% felt remote work would hinder teamwork, 32% felt they lacked the IT capabilities necessary to support remote work, and 17% lacked trust in their employees.
99% of staff would be happy to work remotely at least part time for the rest of their careers
Throughout the pandemic, 33% were surprised by remote working, and 25% thought it made teams work harder. These companies could accredit their remote work success to digital transformation. 49% saying the pandemic increased their digital transformation investments. This goes to show that digital transformation and technology is how business continuity and improvement happens.
Further research found that investment priorities for 2021 were:
- 25% technology
- 18% IT and security
- 16% staff training
- 10% hiring new talent
Because 74% of companies interviewed in a Gartner report are planning to make remote working permanent, changes must be sustainable. When looking at some of the common challenges faced by employers regarding remote work, trends start to appear. Some of the main issues include managing drops in productivity, teamwork and collaboration, software access, and security.
In terms of solving these issues, each company may have different approaches.
Regardless of this, these are some of the general ways that employers and staff may go about improving remote working.
Workplace Risk – Drop in productivity
At this point in the pandemic, most companies will have established how they want to run and tackle the new ways of work to maintain business productivity.
In general, it can help productivity to have regular check-ins with staff throughout the week. Whether it be morning meetings or one-on-one chats to update each other on the work that is being done, maintaining contact is crucial to productivity.
As per the statistics above, 17% of employers lack trust in their employees to work remotely. If this is the case, performance and activity monitoring software is available. Whilst this may ease employer concerns about productivity, it is also important to preserve privacy and trust between staff.
Customer services accessibility
Having an online presence is essential in providing services to customers. This was true before the pandemic shut down high streets and limited in-person contact, and more so now that the world has adapted to this new normal.
Prior to the pandemic, many large banking and financial institutions already had an online presence and access channels, but smaller organisations such as building societies did not. Developing services and online portals whilst dealing with all the consequences of the pandemic was not an ideal situation to be in.
Online chat and call centres had to work overtime to deal with not just normal requests, but irregular service requests caused by the lockdowns (mortgage deferrals, loan requests). As a way to combat this, many companies – both building societies and banks – implemented automation to manage repetitive requests.
Digital transformation helps businesses to collaborate and efficiently deliver services to customers and partners with ease
Workplace Risk – Teamwork and collaboration
Another issue connected to remote working is teamwork and collaboration. Software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have kept companies connected, but there are still difficulties working as a team and collaborating through these platforms.
The ability to grab the attention of colleagues is limited due to availability and access. You can no longer look across the room and hope your distress beacon is picked up by someone who can help.
The inability to collaborate and efficiently work as a team can damage businesses. Being unable to learn off colleagues and bounce ideas hinders progress both on a personal and business level.
To improve this, employers can promote the use of communication for work and social conversations. This will encourage professional talk, experience, and knowledge sharing. It will also improve the growth and improvement of external social interaction.
Social isolation is one of the problems created by remote working, so by supporting both work and social conversations, employers can try to improve employee wellbeing. Creating relationships between employees will help them and the business personally and professionally in the short and long term.
Workplace Risk – System access
The ability to access company systems and the relevant applications is imperative to remote working. If employees do not have access to systems, then they cannot fulfil their roles.
As with digital transformation trends, cloud-based SaaS is one way to combat accessibility problems. This means that there is no need to have software physically downloaded to a desktop, rather it is a subscription that can be accessed through the cloud/online.
Should there be any technical issues with accessing software (VPN not connecting, forgotten passwords), then having an IT support team is beneficial. By having IT support, issues that may take a non-technically inclined person a few hours to work out should be resolved a lot quicker. Making people aware of this help is also important to getting the most out of software use at home/remotely.
Accessing systems, especially in the financial industry, also requires proper security to comply with regulation.
Contact us to find out about how Responsiv Assist can help support your systems to keep you working smoothly.
Workplace Risk – Security
To add to the natural issues that arise from remote working, security and regulatory compliance is also thrown into the mix.
As with any organisation, keeping data secure and reducing any exposure to risks is a priority. For the financial services, this is made more urgent due to the nature of the information they harbour, as well as the regulations facing them (ISO20022, GDPR, Open Banking).
To get around this, organisations can ensure they have secure VPN encryptions to allow remote access on secured networks. This is a standard practice for a lot of companies who allow working from home (pre-pandemic), so is not anything new.
Awareness training is another way that security can be prioritised for employees working remotely. By making people aware of common and uncommon scam types, the company can be protected from cyber threats.
There is also a lot of technology available to manage and monitor data security – read here to find out about compliance in the financial sector.
With 10% of companies prioritising hiring new talent, and 16% prioritising staff training, finding staff and training them is clearly something SMEs are concerned about.
Training is also important to the employees themselves, with a Linkedin survey finding that people are 94% more likely to stay with a company that values and provides investment in learning and development. This suggests a higher priority should be placed upon staff training to gain loyalty and, naturally, better workers.
Some of the challenges that arise when training remote workforces are:
- Lack of attention
- Technical difficulties
- Home distractions
- Social isolation
- Problems accessing training information and materials
To combat these concerns, employers can create processes to run through training material. As the various training courses are completed and ticked off, the employees move along the process – accurately tracking where they are in their training, and aware of what else needs to be done.
To promote staff collaboration through training, synchronous training can be adopted. This means that learning happens simultaneously, either through live streamed material (webinars, podcasts), or through chat rooms and collaborative work. The advantage to this way of learning is that employees can learn and bounce off each other, as well as being at the same stage of the process meaning no one is left behind. On top of this, if there is a set plan and schedule, then people are less likely to get distracted as they risk falling behind everyone else.
Conversely, asynchronous learning allows people to go at their own speed with online access to resources. Whilst this has some advantages to individuals, it doesn’t necessarily promote collaboration, and gives the chance for people to fall behind.
Whichever route you decide to take, the main point to consider for remote training is preparation. By preparing materials, schedules, FAQ sessions, and having a set plan and goals, training is more likely to go well. If contingency plans for issues accessing systems or materials is in place, then when they arise, you will have solutions in place to minimise the down time.
By now most organisations across industries will have established some form of working that benefits them in the new post-pandemic world.
Despite this, there may still be areas where solutions have not been found to be productive or sustainable. Maintaining staff morale and encouraging collaboration whilst ensuring that productivity and security are sustained is a lot to think about and cater to, so it is easy to get lost in it all.
Whether the solution is software based or rethinking business processes, Responsiv can help find what works best for you.
Contact us today to find out how Responsiv can help!