The year is 2021. A global pandemic holds the world in its clutches and has confined us to our homes. Only essential workers can attend the workplace, leaving many offices lying vacant. As a result, even the most technology-averse companies have had to look towards digital tools to help keep their business going. As much as this sounds like the plot of a sci-fi thriller where robots rule the world, the reality is clear – we now depend on technology more than ever
From a HR perspective, the last twelve months have thrown up significant challenges in how we manage our roles. We have all had a crash course in crisis communications. Many of us have had to implement redundancy or other cost-saving measures remotely. Recruitment has taken on a whole new form. We have had to develop new policies, learn new ways of promoting employee wellbeing and address employee issues remotely, all while juggling the usual daily HR tasks. Technology has certainly aided us in our efforts. However, along with the many benefits that technology can bring to the modern workforce, from improved productivity to enhanced security, there is also a need to keep up with the pace at which it is rapidly evolving.
We therefore asked Irish employers to share their advice on how to use technology in the remote-first workplace.
Want Some HR Help?
If you’d like to talk to us about resolving any HR matters in your business, contact Insight HR here.
Technology in the Post-Pandemic Workplace
Let’s take a look at some of the problem areas for HR over the last twelve months, how technology has been helping to tackle them, and what platforms are available to help specific problems.
One of the biggest challenges for HR professionals over the last twelve months has been finding ways to promote
communication between teams. This has led to widespread use of video conferencing tools, such as Zoom and MS Teams, demand for which has rocketed over the last year. Such tools have been extremely important for organisations as they are the closest that most can get to recreating in-person meetings and conversations.
However, as Gavin Dixon, Founder and CEO at Business IT Solutions points out, such solutions should not be considered the be-all and end-all of an organisation’s communications strategy:
“My tech HR advice would be to talk about “collaboration” more with your team and to think beyond just video calls. One clear thing that has come out of Covid-19 (almost overnight) is the use of video calls to keep in contact with your team, but there are other tools that will help with collaboration. But people can become fatigued with screen-based meetings. With “work from home” and hybrid-working here to stay, it’s going to become more important for employers to look at other ways to keep their staff engaged using a broader range of communication tools. We recommend Microsoft Teams, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, employers need to look at what works for their organisation.”
Paul Martin, Group Commercial Director at Cantec Group, also makes the case for a more holistic view of employee communications: “I guess my pearl in the current environment would be to ensure you have robust processes around employee communication. With the majority of the workforce confined to home, [consider] a central dashboard to automate the flow of communication between management and staff. This should include the onboarding process, internal task management and a place for cross-departmental collaboration.”
Another big challenge which organisations have had to face has been that of managing projects without face-to-face collaboration. Luckily, there are many different platforms that exist that can help teams replicate that feeling of ‘togetherness’ that may be sorely missed.
Although we realise that HR has limited control over the selection of communications tools used by organisations, it is still the role of HR to use these tools and ensure that employee behaviour is appropriate and that the tools are used responsibly throughout the organisation. HR therefore has a role to play in supporting the Operations and/or IT team’s choice of platforms and technology, as well as making sure that tools are not used to bully, harass or sexually harass other employees.
Here is our pick of some of the most interesting platforms that can improve collaboration and communication.
Slack, probably the most well-known workplace communication tool, brings all communication together, and often replaces internal email. It enables users to interact with teams within their company, as well teams in other companies, and can be used on a desktop or mobile, offering both voice and video calls. Slack also allows the user to set custom statuses, as Cathal Grogan, Founder at NewJobRadio.com has found out: “A quick tip from us would be to create custom statuses on Slack and to diligently use them. Slack is great, and it’s really useful for communicating, but Slack messages can also be an interruption. You may be concentrating deeply on a task and having lots of Slack notifications can be distracting. But, if you can let your team know that you are busy, at lunch, etc then it will help them understand if you are available to answer. For example, we obviously have a Lunch status, but we also have Report-writing, Research, Interviewing etc statuses. Slack allows you to set a time limit for when those statuses revert to normal. So, when you set your Lunch status it will stay set for 60 mins, and then automatically revert. Statuses are a great way for signposting as to whether you are available or not.”
Yac offers a voice-based enterprise chat tool that can be integrated with Slack to facilitate communication between dispersed teams.
Beekast, another collaborative platform, allows individuals to upload presentation materials and integrates various features which facilitate discussions and increases engagement. Individuals can also run polls for decisions regarding projects and can transcribe meeting notes.
Tandem is a virtual office for remote teams which are used not only for meetings, but also for informal chats. Tandem’s platform provides a ‘water cooler’ option to simulate the chance interactions in the office that employees miss when stuck at home.
MURAL is a digital workspace for visual collaboration that helps teams get to the bottom of a problem and solve it using visual methods. MURAL provides a platform for everything from product strategy and planning to immersive workshops using agile and design thinking methodologies.
Asana is a project management app that enables a team to manage projects, budgets, tasks, schedules and clients. The information is all in one place, with team communication and collaboration being available, providing transparency when it comes to projects. At Insight HR, we love being able to keep track of our to-do lists on Asana. It also helps us assign tasks to one another and comment on existing tasks when we need a colleague’s input, without having to get sucked into lengthy email threads.
Basecamp, another project and team management app, where all information can be found in one place for the team to assess. As opposed to teams having to check who has completed what, the app will track all tasks and changes, and includes a to-do list, and group chat, and allows file sharing.
Miro is a virtual whiteboard that aims to bring teams together and encourage participation. Brigid Duggan, Commercial Control Lead at Asgard Cleanroom Solution can vouch for the platform and says “The best advice I have is for businesses to sign up to Miro.com. It is a collaborative platform – a virtual whiteboard- that makes remote brainstorming a dream. It’s a bit tricky to begin with but the best way to get people to learn how to use it is to have a few little games or team-building warm-ups”. We have used this platform ourselves at Insight HR when we were brainstorming our rebrand with Red Lemonade last year. We agree – it can be tricky to begin with. However, it really helped us to bring our physical brainstorming online while also ensuring every team member had their say.
Of course, as helpful as the aforementioned video conferencing tools have been, they have also presented challenges for HR teams, who have had to conduct all HR processes, from interviews to onboarding to restructuring, using these platforms. This has represented a whole new way of working for HR teams and employees, who have quickly discovered that video calls can be more tiring than in-person interactions, as they call for an increased level of energy in order to process non-verbal cues. There is even a term coined for this – Zoom fatigue.
HR can take an active role in helping to maintain a happy and motivated workforce by encouraging employees to switch off at the end of each workday and shut off all digital devices connected to work. This forms the basis of the much-talked-about legal code of practice on the right to disconnect, which has already been rolled out in some EU countries. HR should also consider organising skills training to help employees collaborate and lead in a virtual environment, as well as learn how to make the most of any communications tool rolled out by the organisation.
A recent report published by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence highlights that 78% of the global workforce believe their mental health has suffered throughout this period of remote working. Many employees working from home have been working increased hours, as boundaries between home and work life become blurrier than ever, not to mention the fact that employees with children have been having to cope with home-schooling and/or childcare concerns. All of this has no doubt contributed to the higher levels of stress and anxiety being felt by employees across the globe.
It’s clear that HR need to rethink their wellbeing strategies in light of the pandemic and that this goes way beyond simply encouraging employees to switch off their devices in the evening.
One way that HR can help to safeguard employee wellbeing is by ensuring people get adequate rest breaks. HR should consider how various tools and apps can help to create alerts and reminders for teams to stand up, walk around, have a coffee break, etc., which will both boost productivity and help to prevent against common problems such as eye strain.
Given the level of distractions at home, employees also need to learn how to manage their time effectively in a work-from-home environment. According to RescueTime, a time-management software company, most teams spend 80% of their day on emails, calls, meetings, and multitasking. It makes sense then to consider how technology can help teams better manage their time and focus on their critical work by tracking not only time spent on projects, but also time spent on specific apps and websites.
“For an employee working from home, there is a powerful new incentive; the currency is now time, not financial benefits. Employees WFH now have a powerful incentive to find more effective methods to get the job done and to save time, as working from home increases the call on their family time. In the post-Covid workplace, finding a way to discover and standardise these new productivity improvements and embed them in standard processes will be challenging, as the employee may not benefit from sharing. So, this will become another challenge for management post-Covid. WFH has changed the game – time and flexibility are the new currency. This will have to be understood by employers – measure and reward output, not effort and presence, be open to opportunities for process improvement discovered by employees during lockdown.”- Dan MacCarthy, Founder at Back2office.ie
As Dan MacCarthy has highlighted, time management goes hand in hand with flexible working hours. For a lot of families, the working day is now punctuated with childcare needs, home schooling etc. HR should therefore be rethinking organisational policies on flexible working, while not forgetting about the right to disconnect legislation coming down the line.
Maintaining engagement through social activities
Social activities have a huge part to play in helping employees feel part of an organisation. Many employees have been missing the social aspect of going to work every day, and HR teams have been struggling to find ways and means of promoting non-work-related socialising.
While holding in-person meetings for your entire team is generally off the table due to current restrictions, with the help of collaborative platforms you can recreate in-office camaraderie by organising quizzes, games, lunches, happy hours and any other get-togethers.
“For us the last 12 months were interesting but also not that different as we provide remote support to customer service and development teams in Ireland and UK already, so we have been living this “remote” way of working for several years now. One thing that I can say is to invest in remote work banter, meaning you should be allowing your staff to keep this social sharing going and encouraging it – even under work hours. Also organizing remote pints via a Zoom Meeting and playing trivia games like the Jack in the Box Series or teamwork games like Among Us can really fill a social gap that is currently missing with many remote scenarios.” – Antonie Geerts, CEO & Co-Founder at RoboMo.Inc
As we reported before Christmas last year, tech start-up company Tribalee have developed an innovative platform for coffee, breakfast and lunch roulette. The idea is that employees from different departments who don’t know each other are scheduled by HR to have a physical or virtual meet up with suggested icebreakers, questions or themes for their discussion. We love this idea as it emulates ‘water-cooler’ chit chat and can help make employees feel included.
Organising office parties can also be challenging. Zoom fatigue extends to social events, and many employees will balk at the idea of spending even more time connected to their computer screen after working hours. If possible, employers should consider organising such events during working hours. Ensure that employees are sent whatever they might need for the event ahead of time, whether that is a basket of ingredients for a cook-along or a hamper that includes some bubbly and party hats.
Learning and development
Research has shown that training and development opportunities are important contributors to people’s happiness at work, their productivity, and their propensity to stay within the company. In these volatile and uncertain times leaders and their teams can gain a lot from learning new skills – it is enriching and a good way to destress.
Last Summer, CIPD found that 54% of over 1,000 employers were using digital learning during lockdown, with 80% planning on increasing provision over the next 12 months. Of course, e-learning is something that has been around for a while before Covid and has soared in popularity since teams went remote. It represents an engaging, cost-effective, and viable solution to keep employees learning even when dispersed. There are many learning & development offerings available in the market, depending on your company’s budget, industry and needs.
Here are some of the most popular offerings on the market at the moment.
Day One provides training for a range of sectors and is experienced in offering training across distributed teams.
Walkgrove provides bespoke and off-the-shelf eLearning solutions, including mental health awareness, IT and performance management.
Looop – This Learning Management System company claims to have reinvented the LMS around resources, not courses.
Mursion provides training in sales, customer service, leadership skills through interactions between learners and avatars in virtual reality to simulate and analyse practice conversations.
Vantage Point uses virtual reality to train employees in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Emagine is another company that is delving into the area of virtual reality in learning and development training. They are based in Waterford and have an impressive portfolio of VR projects.
There are also many free learning and development tools that teams can access online for ongoing training. The pandemic has seen an explosion in webinars, podcasts and instructional videos on almost any topic you can think of. There has never been a better time to harness such tools for in-house training.
At Insight HR we have been providing a monthly webinar series, The HR Room, geared around HR topics and common issues in the workplace. We also have free written resources on the Insights section of our site. If listening to podcasts is more your thing, we are also in the middle of recording the first season of The HR Room Podcast. You can catch the first eight episodes on your favourite player or directly on our website. In fact, you might want to head straight to episode 7 – Employee Wellness with Rachael O’Shea, where Rachael, Head of Employee Experience at Taxback Group, tells us why she doesn’t think organisations will still be talking about health and wellbeing strategies in five years’ time.
People management and analytics
While some companies might have separate software for recruitment, compensation, and performance management, others might choose to combine them. Irrespective of the software, the traditional management of this data through paper filling is all in the past. All members of the HR team must be able to access online employee files regardless of their location.
Self-service portals are particularly useful in the ‘new way of working’, allowing employees to log their absence or annual leave, as well as getting access to any policy-related information they might need.
When it comes to people-management software, we love all-encompassing solutions that look after annual leave tracking, timesheets, performance management etc. For this, we use and recommend Irish HR platform, HR Locker.
Adam Coleman, CEO of HR Locker, had this to say, “If you do something more than once you try to automate it. If you can’t automate it, it becomes part of a person’s job as it requires EQ (Emotional Intelligence). This is the last place AI will get to, so us humans should keep control of that. If you then put adult development and open transparency at the centre of your business strategy (which is hard to do but so worthwhile) watch your business and the productivity of employees explode. Allow your people to do their well-defined jobs in a place at a time that suits the business and the employee’s life the best. Happy Working!”
Remember, too, the value which data analytics can bring to an organisation. HR can use data to understand how well certain initiatives are working and what can be done to improve them. Recruitment efforts can be measured and analysed. Problems that may need to be resolved can be identified, such as an increase in stress-related absences amongst the workforce. And of course, business leaders and those working within a HR capacity should seek to understand how the new way of work might be affecting their employees, and then act upon that knowledge.
Measuring engagement via annual staff surveys and pulse surveys is one way of finding out how employees are coping. If you’re looking for an employee engagement survey app that’s limited to a two-minute span, OfficeVibe is a great option. Employees can choose to provide information anonymously or non-anonymously. Traditional survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey, can also be helpful.
Meanwhile, Peakon is an app that promises to deliver both insights and suggested actions for improvement. It measures employee engagement across the company, irrespective of the location of employees, allowing you to collect ongoing feedback in order to measure the impact of new initiatives and drive increased performance. Furthermore, the platform is committed to accessibility and inclusion.
Another interesting platform is WeThrive, which uses the 4C model, a corporate psychology framework that converts key concepts from motivational theory into a management assistance tool. It categorises employee feedback into Cognitive, Capability, Connection, and Confidence parameters to assess their engagement levels. Data is presented via heatmaps and word clouds, accompanied by clear coaching recommendations.
Of course, such tools should only be seen as facilitation. What is most important is that employees feel that they have a voice and are being heard.
While many companies have already embraced platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams and Skype to interview prospective candidates, there is another vital part of recruitment that must not be overlooked. That is the communication of your organisations culture and values.
Consider the following three steps to get the most out of using technology for your recruitment processes.
Utilise automated communications as much as possible. One sure-fire way to frustrate your candidates is to ignore them. What happens when someone applies for a role at your organisation? Do they receive any confirmation to tell them that their application has arrived safely? If their application has been unsuccessful, are they being informed in good time? Do your candidates receive any kind of thank you email after they interview? Applicant tracking systems, such as HIRELocker which is integrated with HR Locker, can help you track applications and trigger customized emails to candidates based on their stage in your process.
Help your candidate be the best they can be. Consider what information you would like your ideal candidate to know before you interview them. Provide them with information on your company, its goals and ethos. Let them know how many interview stages there are, and the general information you will be looking for from them during each round. Send them general tips on what tools they will need for the interview, for instance a headset and strong internet connection. Provide them with the link to access the meeting well in advance and encourage them to access it a few minutes early to ensure audio and video settings are optimised. Send them a screen grab video of how the interview platform (ie Zoom or Teams) will look on the day, and how they can troubleshoot any issues they might have. If you will be recording the interview to share with other members of the hiring team, be sure to let your candidate know in advance, and seek any consent necessary. Remember, this may well be the first online interview they have ever attended. You want to be sure that the process is as smooth as possible and that your employer brand is well represented at every touch point.
Record video intros to send in advance. A great way of channelling that amazing company culture that exists in your business is to send the candidates short videos of who they will be meeting. Perhaps the first interview will be conducted by the hiring manager. Consider organising a brief 60 second intro that can be sent to the interviewee in advance. That way, they will feel like the interviewer is a friendly and familiar face. In turn, you could also invite your interviewee to send an intro video of themselves, though remember that not all candidates will be comfortable with this.
Advice from Irish Employers
Now that we have thoroughly dissected the ways that technology can help to improve HR and business processes, let’s look at some powerful insights and advice from other Irish employers to help you and your employees in the year ahead.
But first . . .
Want Some HR Help?
If you’d like to talk to us about resolving any HR matters in your business, contact Insight HR here.
Patricia O’Hagan, CEO & Owner at Core Systems
The move to remote working created some challenges. The key things for me were staying connected with the team and maintaining team cohesion. We were missing out on the informal chats and face to face interactions that build and maintain relationships. Creating a simple group chat on Skype gave us a shared place to interact informally. We use it to share news, ask for help, celebrate achievements and support each other. The conversation is light and fun, enhanced by the use of emojis and gifs.
Cian Prendergast, CEO at Ortus – Managed IT & Cloud
I would say if your technology is not remotely accessing systems remotely you will be breached. If you are breached you will be required to report it to the DPC. They will assess your business. You will most likely fail. You will be fined. All of this is needless and it will drag your leadership team into a battle with the DPC and cause multiple HR issues. Particularly if you get a disgruntled employee who takes advantage of the weakness in this regard or a rogue employee. It’s not expensive to do it right and aligned IT in general will lead to productivity. Aligned IT should always evolve and it is your IT companies’ responsibility to keep you aligned.
Barry Harper, CEO & Founder at Nvolve Group
My two pennies are that employers, and employees for that matter, are bored to the teeth with advice and digital content on “Remote Working” as nearly every IT provider is now pushing some sort of message around that. Technology solutions don’t drive positive business outcomes, it is a change of employee behaviour that does. So, my advice to companies and HR teams is to focus on “what good looks like” in 6, 12, 18 months and define that not in terms of an IT solution, but in terms of their working behaviours across their entire team. Once that “new behaviour” is clearly defined, then seek out an IT solution to drive that behaviour. Too many IT solutions get overhyped, fail to deliver tangible positive business outcomes and users / companies just get fed up with them and come to the conclusion that they never received the value they thought they would get when the signed the order. Behaviours first, IT second.
Christopher Karatzinis, Founder and CTO at Stratus5
My advice: good luck? Joking aside, if someone wants to move to a remote working setting, they have to replicate the useful elements of office working, remotely. I found this to be the most important part of our transition to the … ether.
Andrew Tobin, CEO at Stryve
The first realisation employers need to come to is that unlike in many other business continuity and disaster recovery situations, there will be no sudden “end” to COVID. It is likely to be a longer, drawn out process…perhaps even with a few setbacks here and there.
The second point to outline is that employers, employees and customers now realise that, even in areas where it was previously thought impossible, many interactions can be performed digitally and remotely. Once COVID recedes, we are unlikely to see a full shift back to “the way things were”.
So….what can companies do to ensure success? A key step is to have a digital strategy in place. At this stage of the pandemic, companies will have tried and tested both ways of working and ways of engaging with customers. What worked? What didn’t work? What are others doing that we should try? How can we join up all of our new digital ways of working to form something coherent?
Company policies may also need to be updated. What works well in an office environment may now be defunct in a “Working From Home” environment (or perhaps it’s more accurately “Working From the Home Office”?). In addition to the technology and ways of working, we also need to consider how Working From the Home Office affects the staff, and encourage and develop new ways of engaging each other.
Once you have a digital strategy in place, invest in proper solutions that will work for the long term. The new reality is not changing any time soon….invest in good technology that is future proof, scalable, easy to use and secure.
Managing Director – Irish Technology Consulting Firm
Engage with a good HR advisor and protect yourself in the changing world of HR and H&S in the remote working environment.
Vladimir Marusic, Founder/CEO at Maroon Horizon Ltd
Don’t wait, adapt, change (if needed everything), be hungry like there is no pandemic.
James Sugrue, Chief Technology Officer at Over-C
One simple one – when you have the opportunity for a one-on-one call with a co-worker, try to spend an extra few minutes talking about something non-work related to get to know them better. Now that we miss out on all the socialising, if you do this consciously for each meeting, it eventually becomes second nature. On the more technical side, while your business will have task management software like Trello, JIRA and others, make sure to keep your own personal to-do list and refine it at the end of every day. Stuff will need to be pushed to another day, but when you start and you’re looking at a manageable list, anything is possible! I use Todoist myself, which syncs between all my devices. That’s great because if I’m away from the desk and I think of something, I just add it on my phone. And on the very techy/promotional side of things; learn how to leverage IoT systems to manage your office. Around now is a good time to plan it, so that you can have all the devices required for a quick deployment. I mean things like occupancy sensors/people counting technology to tell you if a meeting room is booked, CO2 sensors to monitor air quality levels. When restrictions eased last year, we all needed to have systems to track who was in the office and when. It’s a safe bet that these systems will be needed throughout 2021, and probably further into the future.
Dan MacCarthy, Founder at back2office.ie
I can share a concept with you from motivational psychology. For an employee WFH, there is a powerful new incentive, the currency is now time, not financial benefits. Employees WFH now have a powerful incentive to find more effective methods to get the job done, to save time, as working from home increases the call on their family time. In the post-Covid workplace, finding a way to discover and standardise these new productivity improvements and embed them in standard processes will be challenging, as the employee may not benefit from sharing. So, this will become another challenge for management post-Covid. WFH has changed the game, time and flexibility are the new currency This will have to be understood by employers, measure and reward output, not effort and presence, be open to opportunities for process improvement discovered by employees during lockdown.
Software Engineering Leader
In reference to your question, my workplace has found numerous amazing ways to make sure we were well taken care of. They made sure we had screens, laptops, headsets, and even delivered office chairs to our homes if needed. Each team makes an effort to talk every morning over teams or zoom, and we’ve even set up a virtual canteen, where at different times of the day we can see or simply speak to each other. This is amazing because it allows us to communicate with people around the company, outside of our immediate IT teams. I’ve spoken to my HR lady or even the marketing time more so than ever. We have a social club at our company, which I am happily a part of and, we make it normal to call new employees and random co-workers, just for a chat, and a cuppa over a video call. They’ve also implemented weekly digital newsletters which everyone takes part in. Each week someone different writes a piece. Sharing what they’ve cooked, exercises they’ve tried while in isolation, new video game purchases, and more. It’s nice to see each other in this new perspective. I hope this helps you in the slightest way possible.
Samer Saad, CEO at The Web Guru
I can tell you one thing, to manage dev and design work over zoom calls and platforms is more time consuming. That is for sure, and stressful. Workspace for DEVs and Designers would better be at home anyways to leave space for companies’ social marketers and sales representatives to do meetings and face to face things required. Workspace at this stage is a waste of budget for SMEs
Business Architect at Consulting Firm
The main thing for me has been flexible hours – my colleagues with children can split their hours or take longer lunches to also be available for childcare at home.
Ken Condon, GM/Co-Founder at e-commerce Association of Ireland
I think outside of Tech, keeping all your work habits and schedules the same is important. Just because it’s a virtual world now it’s not an excuse to leave anything slip. I think you need more energy to work at home and to keep focused as you can’t feed off of people and your environment doesn’t change. So, swap the hour commute for exercise clear your head and get focused before work. Regarding Tech- invest time in background imagery for your Zoom meetings as it will allow you more freedom in your home. Invest in a selfie light for the back of your laptop so people can see you properly. Sit in front of a window if possible. Tech Invest in a good CRM system that can connect all your departments together and make sure it has Trello board functions to manage all stages. Built-in contract management and email is also necessary – Zoho for example. Content first is the new sales domain so you need to have great content that educates people and turns you into an influencer rather than just a sales entity. Loom is great, try to create how-to videos and use them in social media and email.
Brigid Duggan, Commercial Control Lead at Asgard Cleanroom Solution
The best advice I have is for businesses to sign up to Miro.com – It is a collaborative platform – a virtual whiteboard- it makes remote brainstorming a dream. It’s a bit tricky to begin with but the best way to get people to learn how to use it is to have a few little games or team building warm-ups.
Gavin Dixon, Founder/CEO at Business IT Solutions
My tech HR advice would be to talk about “collaboration” more with your team and to thinking beyond just video calls. One clear thing that has come out of Covid-19 (almost overnight) is the use of video calls to keep in contact with your team, but there are other tools that will help with collaboration. But people can become fatigued with screen-based meetings. With “work from home” and hybrid-working here to stay, it’s going to become more important for employers to look at other ways to keep their staff engaged using a broader range of communication tools. We recommend Microsoft Teams but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, employers need to look at what works for their organisation.
Brian Kelly, Founder at Mindaclient
It will be fascinating to see how Tech/IT is used in the Post-Covid workplace. The Covid crisis has brought us: a cashless society; universal acceptance of tele conferencing; effective remote working; strides in e-learning.
The challenge in Post-Covid will be to keep the best of the above while re-engaging in face-to-face communication. There will be the need to ensure the workplace has good internal and external communications systems in place, that crucially are made work effectively for the organisation.
I can be at a meeting in Dublin at 9, in Cork at 10 and finished by 11. That would have taken two days before. I would see the words hybrid or blended being used a lot more.
- Hybrid communications – Having the initial key meeting to establish the relationship with clients for example and then doing a lot more online.
- Hybrid working. It does suit a lot of employers and employees to work remotely. Co-working, shared office space, weekly or monthly get togethers.
- Hybrid Learning. This is working comparatively well at third level. The problem is the missing out on the student experience. Need to find a way to provide the student experience but a student could be virtually attending 5 best in class universities in their chosen field.
This was a post I did that mentions 5 pieces of tech we find great during lockdown
This was a post I did 6 weeks into lockdown with 6 points about keeping in touch.
Mark Healy, Founder at BroadTech | HIOT | Remotality
Here’s how managers can enable remote working:
- Asynchronous Communications – Just because you can doesn’t mean you should – whether it’s instant messaging or video conferencing you need to view every communication and meeting as a distraction for your team. Try and focus on email as much as possible. Use clear and concise language to remove ambiguity. Set the expectation of next working day response times, remove any pressure to constantly monitor and reply to email.
- Independent tasks – OK, so you have pretty much banned IM and meetings (above) so let’s make sure that everyone’s work is structured in such a way that it minimises dependencies on others. We need everyone to be able to work independently to the greatest extent possible
- Clear timelines and priorities – each independent task should have an agreed timeline for delivery and all ongoing tasks should be prioritised. Don’t set arbitrary deadlines, but instead explain why something is needed at a particular time – this allows everyone to understand the implications of late delivery and the big picture impacts.
- Output focused management – who cares how many hours each team member clocked up? As long as workloads are reasonable and manageable, it really doesn’t matter if something took 6 hours instead of 8 as long as it’s on time and of good quality. Extremes are bad, but try to shift everyone’s minds away from 8 hours a day. Reward efficiencies and innovation – long term, everyone wins.
- Establish feedback channels for everyone – you’re unlikely to have water cooler conversations, or informal chats before/after meetings so it’s really important that your communications are explicit and clear. Say exactly what you expect and let team members know when you feel they haven’t delivered to your expectations. More importantly, make it very clear when expectations have been met or exceeded.
- Limit the number and duration of meetings – I’ve had hundreds of video conferences over the years and hated nearly all of them. Meetings are great for onboarding new team members, but don’t replicate traditional (office-based) meeting schedules in your new remote working environment. Take it as given that every meeting you schedule will be inconvenient for at least one attendee. Meetings break up productive work blocks and reduce flexibility.
Managing Director – Irish Technology Company
What we use is Slack daily with our teams, it keeps us all connected, so I would advise rolling out a messaging tool like Slack (or Teams, but Slack is easier and it is free).
Levent Ozalp, Founder & CEO at Continuous Software & OPTiiM
We unified all types of communication into one platform that supports video calls, group chats, instant messages etc. We decommissioned WhatsApp, Slack, and Google Meet – they were good single-point solutions, but we benefited from having one single space where employees could interact in a kind of digital workplace. We picked Microsoft Teams for that, but we focused on the ease of deployment and ability to support all types of communication.
Dick Bourke, Director at Scorebuddy
Although it sounds simple, I think the most important thing is regularity of live contact. There should be daily team huddles (using Teams or Zoom), management reviews etc. and people should join by camera. It is important you can see how people are and how they reach things like new tasks, review of challenges etc. No hiding behind their avatar.
Managing Director – Irish Technology Company
Stay engaged and ensure frequent communication with your teams.
Mike Lillis, Chief Commercial Officer at Storm Technology Ltd
I think now more than ever it’s important to take care that regular weekly 1-1’s are in place and maintained to check in with staff as the opportunity to catch up while in the office is not available. I’ve found it invaluable in terms of not only watching workload but also ensuring mood etc. can be gauged.
Cathal Grogan, Founder at NewJobRadio.com
Create custom statuses on Slack and diligently use them. Slack is great and it’s really useful for communicating but Slack messages can also be an interruption, you may be concentrating deeply on a task and having lots of Slack notifications can be distracting. But, if you can let your team know that you are busy, at lunch, etc then it will help them understand if you are available to answer. For example, we obviously have a Lunch Status, but we also have Report-writing, Research, Interviewing etc statuses. Slack also allows you to set a time limit for when those status revert to normal. So, when you set your Lunch status it will stay set for 60 mins, and then automatically revert. Statuses are a great way for signposting whether you are available or not.
Paul Martin, Group Commercial Director at Cantec Group
As we work predominantly in the Automation/AI space, I guess my pearl in the current environment would be; ensure you have robust processes around employee communication. With the majority of the workforce confined to home, a central dashboard to automate the flow of communication between management and staff. This should include the onboarding process, internal task management and a place for cross-departmental collaboration.
Antonie Geerts, CEO & Co-Founder at RoboMo.Inc
For us the last 12 months were interesting, but also not that different as we provide remote support to customer service and development teams in Ireland and UK already, so we have been living this “remote” way of working for several years now. One thing that I can say is invest in remote work banter, meaning you should be allowing your staff to keep social sharing going and encouraging it – even under work hours. Also organizing remote pints via a Zoom Meeting and playing trivia games like the Jack in the Box Series or teamwork games like Among Us can really fill a social gap that is currently missing with many remote scenarios.