A well-trained remote worker can make all the difference ‘from anywhere’ in the world
While Covid-19 signaled a global inflection point in the future of work and jumpstarted an irrevocable shift in the ways (and places) in which entire sectors and their workforces operate and collaborate, the transition to working remotely or from home was well underway before the pandemic.
Rapid innovations in digital connectivity, artificial intelligence, analytics and a proliferation of cloud-based collaborative tools like Slack, Google Docs and Asana (the SaaS product list is a mile long and growing) kicked the door wide open for employees to contribute to their company’s bottom line from the comfort of their home.
And the evidence showed that the work from home (WFH) shift was…successful! At least for organizations that offered choice and had a strategy in place and to accommodate an increasingly remote workforce. A 2015 Stanford University study found a 13% increase in productivity among employees who opted in to WFH policies, which increased by another 22% when asked to choose between staying home and returning to the office.
But Covid-19 was the globally disruptive force majeure, sending whole industries into crisis-planning mode and leaving many organizations and their employees struggling to adapt and work effectively in the virtual “new normal.” Senior leaders needed to act at speed and with extraordinary flexibility as WFH policies were enacted throughout the workforce and across the entire organization.
In a recent piece for Harvard Business Review, Prithwiraj Choudhury effectively summarizes both the benefits and the challenges of embracing the WFH model:
“Organizations can reduce or eliminate real estate costs, hire and use talent globally while mitigating immigration issues, and research indicates, perhaps enjoy productivity gains. Workers get geographic flexibility (that is live where they prefer to), eliminate commutes, and report better work/life balance. However, concerns persist regarding how WFA affects communication, including brainstorming and problem-solving; knowledge sharing; socialization, camaraderie, and mentoring; performance evaluation and compensation; and data security and regulation.”
What’s more, the WFH model is not “platform agnostic”. Its organizational application isn’t one-size-fits-all across every sector. Choudhury singles out “knowledge-work organizations” (i.e. ICT, financial and design companies) as successful pre-Covid early adopters of the remote worker movement.
But what about industries whose workforces operate in site-specific environments or require a mix of digital adoption and on-site performance of essential services by employees, like resource extraction?
A recent report from Deloitte on the future of work in mining points out two difficult truths for the mining industry in the Covid-19 era: 1) resource extraction industries face “the biggest constraints in offering flexible working and remote solutions,” and 2) Covid-19 has “exposed the siloed nature of mining companies,” highlighting the need for integrated, or hybrid-remote” operations that will “accelerate the adoption of digital technologies, artificial intelligence and analytics.”
Every site has unique challenges, and mining companies will need to design their own ways of leveraging technology and remote work capabilities to find the right mix of technology and people. The Deloitte report provides a few examples:
Some operations have, however, rapidly executed secondary control rooms, equipped with the relevant hardware and network capabilities to allow seamless handover between shifts in two separate locations. Some others have executed working-from-home capabilities by creating “dispatch packs” containing laptops and communication tools, enabling workers to operate and maintain control of on-site activities from the safety of their homes. For those performing essential services and therefore unable to work remotely, operations have focused on providing epidemic protection—ensuring sanitation, personal protective equipment, and safety of the environment. Some others—for instance, those working on-site to support power utilities—have halved their operational efficiency to instill social distancing and other health-related measures.
The two words that matter most when considering how to effectively integrate technology with your remote workforce are: usability and usefulness.
Whenever you are instituting a new or different method of working, whether through strategic long-term planning or as a result of reactive adoption to external crises like a global pandemic, it’s imperative that your plan and its policies take into consideration what combination of technology, tools and people are aligned with your organization’s objectives and desired outcomes.
At PACE.global, we are helping our clients in mining, construction, health care and other industries adapt to the future of remote work through the development of a “digital first” workforce approach. We provide a complete technology roadmap for organizations to work virtually, ensuring that change impacts are understood and addressed by knowledgeable, skilled teams who are effectively using agile tools and platforms while staying focused on scope, schedule, delivery and execution.
At the end of the day, it’s up to an organization’s senior leadership to keep an open mind on the rapidly changing nature of work, where and how it is performed by its workforce, and what the workplace means in the new economy. The pay-off—a leaner, more agile and tech-enabled organization that thinks globally and acts remotely even while operating locally (on-site)—is sure to reap dividends in the long-term.
Download the Remote Worker Brochure below: