Trust not technology was key to work from home success, industry experts say

Many companies already had strong infrastructure in place but had to adapt to a new way of working

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Trust rather than technology was the main driving force behind a successful transition to a hybrid working structure prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, experts said.

In terms of technology adaption and expansion, some companies have had to do little to enable working from home.

Email and online diaries already allowed employees to arrange meetings and transfer documents, while a good Wi-Fi connection allowed them to meet anywhere, anytime.

While many offices across the world have been able to welcome back workers in increasing numbers, employers can see the benefits of remote operations.

The office is still an important environment, so businesses must provide devices that work in an office but provide a meeting equity for those at home so people are on an equal footing
Jonathan Clark, Poly

For Ralph Van Lysebeth, chief executive of Back2Buzz, a Belgian company that refurbishes smartphones and laptops, work from home is here to stay.

“In many companies, robust IT systems were already in place so it has been as simple as getting employees set up with work laptops so they can work from a Wi-Fi network at home," he said.

“Prior to the pandemic, flexible working was already a prerequisite in most forward-thinking companies, so I think Covid-19 just sped up the inevitable.

“The biggest change has been building that trust between employee and employer, to ensure they are, in fact, working productively at home.

“At our company we use a content management system to track and monitor the tasks people are doing, but it’s more so to manage work flows than to spy on workers.”

Ralph van Lysebeth, chief executive of Back2Buzz, a Belgian firm that refurbishes smartphones and laptops, has seen the benefits of home working. Photo: The National

In the past 18 months, Mr Van Lysebeth said he has had only had to speak to one employee for underperforming while working from home.

The biggest change at his company has been the introduction of video meetings, which again, required only a laptop or smartphone and a stable Wi-Fi network to make happen.

Companies better prepared for work from home

Jonathan Clark from Poly, a US company that provides video and voice solutions for companies, said remote working and hybrid working will remain in place.

“As long as people are productive it now needs to be a business practice to provide adequate equipment,” he said.

“The work done over the past year or so has developed the right devices for the right cases. When it first happened people didn’t have the right devices, that has now evolved and we can now provide the right kind of equipment as working from home becomes a business practice.

“The office is still an important environment, so businesses must provide devices that work in an office but provide a meeting equity for those at home so people are on an equal footing.”

Over the past 18 months, Poly has expanded its range and launched a number of devices to improve the home working experience, but Mr Clark said employers need to improve the video experience.

While people expect children or cats occasionally walking into shot on a video call, we need to move away from that, which ultimately means equipping them with the right devices they can use at home.

“Our equipment has a narrow field of view so there are no background disturbances and gives a high quality video and a professional image,” he said.

“A lot of our equipment has ‘meeting AI’ with facial recognition software and tracking to focus on who is speaking during a conference.

Michal Krzysztof, business development manager for Codete, an IT consultancy in Poland.

“It is simple to use and the technology can now take care of the settings automatically - the experience now is almost like having a TV director built into your device.”

Entry level devices cost around £1,000, but they can go up to about £4,000.

The work from home revolution

A debate that took place at the World Economic Forum earlier this year said the work from home revolution had been slowly brewing for more than 30 years.

For decades, distinct technological advances have contributed to our ability to work effectively at home.

From Microsoft Word and Excel became widely available in the 1990s, to high-speed internet in the 2000s and videoconferencing technology becoming more accessible more recently, technology adaption has not be a huge focus for companies.

However, company culture and well-being has.

“Most companies already had cloud networks in place, where employees could access work documents and tasks,” said Michal Krzysztof, business development manager for Codete, an IT consultancy in Poland.

“When the lockdowns forced people to work from home, all it required was for them to connect to a VPN.

“Many people already had VPNs at home for personal use, so the company intervention has been minimal.”

While cyber security has come into the limelight even more since the work from home trend has taken off, Mr Krzysztof said to make networks safer, companies have had to install and update software more frequently.

Additionally, they have had to increase educational workshops for employees to safeguard themselves against hackers and malware attacks.

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Updated: October 25, 2021, 5:30 AM