Adapting to new working environments
We’ve all experienced the way we work having changed in 2020; so have the ways we communicate, both internally and externally.
We’ve had to adapt to new working environments, create a makeshift office on the dinner table, and deal with the new daily interruptions from offspring, pets and delivery drivers.
Through these tough times, having connections with the outside world has been more important than ever. Having a video catch up with friends we would have ordinarily only seen a few times a year is definitely one of the positives to take away from this terrible pandemic. Who doesn’t love a family Zoom quiz? The novelty of finding new ways to communicate may have worn off, but it seems the technology we have come to rely on over recent months, will form a bigger part of our daily lives than we would ever have envisaged.
Hybrid way of working
Businesses have been forced to rush through mobile working strategies that were maybe only pie in the sky. Unsubstantiated ideas of lack of staff productivity have made way for home offices being seen as part of our longer-term hybrid way of working. Will we now need dual monitors at home as well as in the office? Will we hot desk more? Is our (largely empty) office space still required? As Lucy Kellaway, wrote in the Financial Times in May 2020, ‘The office helps keep us sane. First, it imposes routine, without which most of us fall to pieces. The uptight schedule of most offices forces even the least organised person to establish habits. Even better, it creates a barrier between work and home.’ So how do we balance the best of both worlds?
It’s great being in the office together, meeting with a new client, milling over an idea, working out the most tax efficient way to deal with an asset, or having a chat about last night’s game or plans for the weekend. Somehow you can’t quite replicate the feeling of sitting round a table together, no matter how good your tech is.
Taking advantage of technology
However, even if we can’t replace human interaction, technology can go a long way to mimicking our traditional way of working, and maybe even improving it. If we want to chat about a certain client or project, instead of collaborating in person round a table, we can take advantage of one of the many apps included with Microsoft 365 Business (formerly Office 365 Business). Microsoft Teams is much more than just video calls. It helps to keep the conversation going remotely and securely, with data encryption at rest and in transit. We can create a channel specifically for that client where the work actually gets done - where text, audio, and video conversations open to the whole team happen and where files are shared. There is even the option to add someone external to the organisation to a channel, meaning you can collaborate with clients on the same data in a live environment.
Only people working on that client need subscribe to that channel and everyone works on the same files – no more emailing files between colleagues and mistakenly working on an older version. This reduces the number of files being stored and makes it so much easier to collaborate on the same information. No more being cc’d into emails which are irrelevant to you (I can’t promise that one!). Wouldn’t we all be more productive if we received fewer emails?
Finding a new normal
As time moves on, it seems we’re less likely to want to go back to the way things were before. We’ve become more reliant on robust, secure technology than we would ever have imagined. If we want to nurture our business and client relationships, we need to be approachable, flexible and adaptable in these challenging times. Most importantly, we need a great team to be on their A game to make it happen.
So, let’s start by looking after each other. Be kind to your colleagues and talk to each other; pick up the phone and have a chat about the weather, start a company Couch to 5k challenge, send a link to a funny TikTok video, organise some virtual Friday beers. Just because we’re not all sitting in the same building, doesn’t mean we can’t keep up the communication. As Bob Hoskins said, ‘It’s good to talk’.
Liz Smith is the Business Development Director at Lugo who are an ICAS Partner, specialising in outsourced IT for Accountancy firms.