The challenges facing digital leaders have changed dramatically in 2020 through the pivot to home working - and the role that technology plays has pivoted along with it. Before now, businesses could homogenise technology, ensuring every office space was supplied with equally suitable equipment, applications and internet connectivity. But now technology has become heterogeneous.
There are aspects of home working that cannot be controlled - or at least think they cannot control. Small gains can be made through providing office supplies and peripherals but these barely scrape the surface of the many challenges and inequalities of home working. Employers need to be proactive to ensure every remote worker is supported. And the primary factor they can address is technology.
Due to the recent acceleration of digital adoption, businesses rely more than ever on their digital ecosystem. And when that ecosystem does not work properly, it creates a sense of friction that chips away at an organisation’s productivity. Employees may be struggling with an app, a website or a critical business tool that are intermittently unresponsive or slow. And the dip in productivity can have a further impact on morale, confidence and engagement.
It’s a pain point all of us experience. But in this time of economic uncertainty, many employees are keeping their heads down, afraid to voice their concerns. So how do you proactively identify and resolve the struggles of home workers before they become critical?
There is a global digital supply chain that keeps the digital ecosystem running. But many tech issues are invisible to the usual measurement tools.
The effects are noticed by home workers: dropping out of calls, unresponsive applications, slow cloud systems. But the causes can be many varied, and can appear at any stage of the supply chain - from cloud service providers (CSPs) to virtual private networks (VPNs) to third party data centres.
To truly identify the problem, you need to correlate cause and effect. To read between the ebbs and flows of internet connectivity. It’s not enough to look at an average, or to deal with problems on a case by case basis. You need automated analysis.
When we carried out an audit of remote working human experience in a UK national food standards organisation, we were able to apply our analysis across every home worker in parallel. It churned through the data that was previously indecipherable and highlighted a congestion issue with one of the organisation’s data centres. The issue in the digital supply chain could then be resolved.
Our audit of the food standards organisation didn’t just highlight macro problems but also the potential weaknesses in their employees' home set ups. We were able to calculate how many minutes were lost each day as a result - and the financial impact of that lost time.
This kind of mass diagnosis is impossible without automation and algorithms at your disposal. But when you apply them, you can identify if central company issues are affecting everyone, or whether the problem lies with home internet infrastructures. This is what we were able to clarify when we carried out an audit of an energy company’s home worker experience.
When you can assess these individual issues alongside company wide issues, HR leaders and others in the C-suite are in a better position to provide home workers with the technology and upgrades that they need.
WiFi performance is the last link in the chain of a digital ecosystem but it’s a good place to start. Performance is affected by the quality of the WiFi router, its position in a home and the home itself - one thick dividing wall is enough to impair connection.
If, after conducting an analysis of your organisation’s digital supply chains, WiFi is shown to be a significant issue then the solutions will likely need to be tailored to the individual. Some problems can be resolved by simply repositioning a router, others require additional purchases that businesses could provide for their employees.
Simple guidelines companies should make their employees aware of are:
Beyond basic awareness, businesses could supply employees with better routers. Some are prone to interference (generally those that only emit 2.4GHz signals), others can better support multiple devices and routers with signal boosters can enable employees to move from room to room without a disrupted connection.
The second link in the chain after WiFi is the ISP. Some internet service providers boast impressive speeds but they often do not operate at full capacity. Your employees should consider running a speed test. If they are charging for a 35mb service but providing less than 1mb, then they will have a problem.
Business grade broadband circuits are often within an ISP’s offering. And the greater costs can be worth it for better repair times, a less crowded network and often better routers along with it. When bought in bulk, there is usually a reduced cost too. So HR and C-suites should consider outfitting their organisation if they want to establish home working for the long term.
Alternatively MiFi devices, which provide a WiFi hotspot by tapping into a 3G, 4G or 5G network, can be an effective way to circumnavigate router and ISP issues.
3G and even 4G MiFi devices are not necessarily fast enough for business needs. But if your organisation is able to provide 5G to employees that need uninterrupted connections, they are far more likely to have a frictionless experience - and so be capable of giving more time and energy back into the business.
When we analysed the human experience data of a top US healthcare organisation, we were able to recommend investing in specific areas of their digital ecosystem. One of these recommendations was to invest in collaborative software to support patients remotely. And when they did so, the difference in productivity started to save them millions of dollars.
Now that employees have fewer in-person interactions with team members, collaboration in businesses now depends on its digital ecosystem. Many organisations are turning to readily available software and web applications like Slack, Trello, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and shared digital workspaces like Dropbox and Google Drive. While other businesses are seeking more bespoke solutions.
But no matter what technology businesses turn to, the technology is not enough if the human experience is lagging behind - if the software exists but employees struggle to use it, or the tech is unresponsive or ill-suited to the tasks at hand. That is why it is important to invest in applications and cloud services and CRM systems according to human experience data.
Although we face unexpected challenges, we have the tools to adapt - if we know what to look for. Collaboration can develop. Productivity can rise. Human experience can be frictionless. Learn more about how Actual Experience audits human experience for your remote workers so you can support their performance and champion their wellbeing.