Productivity starts with people
It’s been really interesting to observe different patterns unfold as workers face the necessity of remote working, so I enjoyed reading McKinsey’s latest white paper – Reimagining the Postpandemic Workforce which explored this topic.
The white paper validated the key observations I made in my last blog and acknowledges the fact that there are major benefits to be achieved from a less office-based culture – namely:
- Better access to diverse talent
- Increased productivity – both for the individual and for the teams they’re part of
- Reduced cost of real estate
In each of these areas, McKinsey concludes that a hybrid working model with a bias towards remote working is considered more favourably than a more office-based model.
So that seems like a no-brainer then! Companies can hand-pick from a wider talent pool who will deliver more capably and productively. The company can then use savings made from diminishing real estate bills to reinvest in initiatives to improve productivity and revenue growth further.
Of course, in reality it’s never as simple as that.
For some people, working from home just isn’t working. They aren’t able to be as productive for a number of reasons like not having a quiet or suitable place to work or grappling with terrible broadband connections that don’t enable interactive video calling. Or maybe they need more training, support or direct supervision in their work activities. Being constantly available can lead to meeting overload and being ‘Zoomed out’ but most of all people are missing the opportunity to collaborate in person, or to have those serendipitous ‘water cooler conversations’ that rarely happen at your kitchen table. I know that I’ve certainly felt this way at times over the last 4 months. I certainly miss walking around the office and reacting to the buzz of the team around me.
As a leader in my organisation I’ve had to transform the way I interact with my teams, ensuring that I have regular but productive touch points, not just focusing on the team outputs but also on checking in on and supporting the well-being of colleagues.
With this in mind, I believe that some blend of at-home and campus-based working must be achieved to enable productivity and contentedness across the working population. And it’s clear that company culture and performance can suffer if you don’t plan for it properly.
Increasing human efficiency
The McKinsey white paper references the obvious need for the technical tools and capabilities for staff to work at home or in the office and the need to invest in and measure cultural aspects of working life, to ensure that a social cohesion across teams is supported in a productive work environment. I completely agree with this summary, but I suggest there is another factor that significantly drives productivity alongside Culture and Capability which is Automation.
Making the productivity gains required to survive and thrive on the ‘Coronacoaster’ means going all-in on automation. By eliminating the resource, effort and inaccuracy of people doing laborious repetitive tasks that can be competently tackled by software, we can maximise the efficiencies of key assets (our people), drive down associated internal resourcing costs and see a significant step change in productivity.
The associated benefits gained in IT operations alone are a marked improvement in infrastructure reliability and flexibility as manual processes become repeatable code. And let’s face it – being freed from the boring reality of repetitive tasks has to mean a happier, healthier workforce.
Reimaging your Network Infrastructure
Turning our attention to the productivity factor of ‘capability’ – what are the foundational components that companies must deliver to enable a productive workforce?
I believe that a permanent departure from yesterday’s turgid legacy infrastructure is absolutely critical because it cannot support the notion of securely connecting people to the applications and services they need from any location and from any device.
Enabling a hybrid workforce requires an underlying secure zero trust software defined fabric, bringing the agility, efficiencies and scalability of automation combined with the power of machine learning and analytics providing actionable intelligence and insights into the platform performance, capability and capacity.
It’s for this reason that SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is huge right now. We are seeing many large customers rolling out enormous SASE initiatives and the pandemic has seen them increase their scale rapidly, typically expanding 5-fold the number of employees that they want to enable in this way.
By putting these fundamentals in place, you can radically reduce the manual overheads which are a millstone around the necks of many established companies, from high street retailers to financial services providers. By doing this you can really measure the increased productivity of your business, not by counting the number of cars in the car park, but by metrics provided by your programable fabric and employee performance statistics.
In my view, the route to future productivity starts with a secure, software-defined infrastructure. This provides the platform to enable a hybrid working model to flourish which creates opportunities to support cultural cohesion, remotely or in person, and to maximise your output by leveraging automation as much as possible.
To help you assess your readiness for this we’ve created a simple Enterprise Agility Assessment tool. It takes about 5 minutes to complete and we’ll respond with a full report – no hard sell, no catch. Just an honest assessment to help you plan for a more productive future. You can access the tool below.