Written by Mark Skelton, CTO and Vice President, at Telefónica Tech UK&I
Collaboration is the cornerstone of a modern workplace, and traditionally the office was the central hub for this. At Telefónica Tech UK&I, the office has served as a melting pot of ideas, a space where colleagues could come together with ease, share ideas, and improve processes. Mark Skelton, CTO and VP of Telefónica Tech reflects on how, over the last 18 months, leaders have tried to understand the benefits of both office and home working, in order to find the best, combined, way of working.
Now, we’re seeing the change in motion; a recent Gartner survey found that 47% of organisations will offer employees the choice of working remotely full-time in the future, and 82% said employees can work from home at least one day a week. In addition, with the latest Government guidelines yet again pushing for more remote working, we need to adapt to hybrid successfully.
As hybrid working becomes the new norm, teams disperse to various locations, video calls replace boardrooms, and communication becomes more formulaic and tech-dependent, how do we maintain collaboration and idea sharing?
To ensure the success of hybrid working and maintain the kind of cloud-based collaboration that breeds success in a hybrid environment, there are three core pillars to address; connectivity, cyber security, and inclusion. These pillars need to inform decision making across the board – from IT investments to HR processes and training.
Tech-enabled connectivity is what has driven the rise of hybrid working. While COVID-19 may have expedited the increase of remote working, practices such as telecommuting were being adopted by certain sectors, such as ICT, and knowledge-intensive sectors before this. At a basic level, high speed internet means that a vast amount of the working population can now work from anywhere successfully. However, as we have all no doubt experienced, remote connection does not always allow for seamless working conditions. Without a reliable connection, and the right communications platforms, software and hardware, collaboration is significantly limited. Connections need to be seamless so that no member of staff falls foul to poor connectivity. Workers in the office and at home must be able to work closely together without fear of disruption.
Fortunately, with technology enhancements like the rollout of fibre optic to UK homes and the increasing coverage of both 4G and 5G, IT teams now have more techniques for ensuring remote workers can be supported with reliable connectivity.
For many, collaboration happens mostly in meetings, where ideas can bounce between participants and key decisions are made. Since video conferencing software is now the new norm for remote working, with some staff convening in physical meeting rooms while others connect from home, businesses need to pay close attention to how this software is integrated with their hardware, to ensure that meetings benefit from a free-flowing and engaging environment where all participants feel equally involved, regardless of their location.
For example, if you have rolled out video teleconferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams in the last 18 months, have your meeting spaces been updated to support this technology? In many cases the answer is no, resulting in employee frustration and unproductive hybrid meetings. Businesses should begin by ensuring that their audio and video quality is of a sufficiently high standard to cultivate a shared atmosphere. Specialist suppliers can support businesses in fitting meeting rooms with HD microphones, speakers, and monitors, and 360° video which can really help remote workers feel more connected to those in physical meeting rooms. In addition, meeting participants may need to adapt their style to ensure all colleagues feel included.
New cyber threats have emerged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as cyber criminals seek to exploit remote teams with ever more sophisticated scams. Unfortunately, due to the speed required to set up teams in remote locations, cyber security was not always a priority on business agendas. In fact, research revealed that 85% of CISOs admitted to sacrificing cybersecurity to quickly set up employees to work remotely. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that cyber criminals took advantage of unprecedented and unpredictable circumstances, and threats increased.
With extended pressures on IT teams over the last 18 months, employees may have been left to fend off cyber threats with little training, therefore posing a significant risk to their employers. Recent research found that 52% of executives said employees are the biggest threat to their operational security. With this in mind, for a successful, secure and collaborative, hybrid workforce it is essential that employers are raising awareness of, and training employees in cyber security at all levels.
Executives, CISOs and security leaders in organisations need to ensure effective awareness campaigns are being driven with a clear nod to the remote workers. It is also vital that training is not seen as a one-time project, but as an ongoing education programme.
In addition to encouraging on-the-ground defence throughout your organisation, having the right technology and skills is key. With the cyber threat landscape changing at a rapid pace, modern up-to-date protection tools for remote working scenarios are essential. The legacy products from big vendors that have been used in the past do not cut it today. Instead, businesses should be investing in technology that protects against zero-day attacks. To remove the ongoing skills and technology challenges, many businesses are finding that external support from expert managed security services suppliers is an effective way to remain firmly in control. For example, we work with a number of companies on a Security Operations Centre (SOC) model. This model allows ongoing security support with minimal involvement from internal IT departments.
Exclusion is the enemy of a collaborative workforce. Diversity of people and skills exist at the heart of modern business. But, if issues with security and connectivity persist, employees can feel excluded from the cut and thrust of working life. The rise of remote and hybrid working should be an opportunity for a variety of people and social groups, across different geographic locations, to lead fulfilling, balanced careers. For that reason, care needs to be taken so that employees are allowed to flourish wherever they choose to work, and issues such as presenteeism become a thing of the past.
Ensuring that inclusion comes from both technological and holistic solutions is important. If a member of staff who does much of their work from a remote location is regularly having connection issues, they can quickly feel isolated from their teams. So, it falls to both IT and HR departments to prevent this from happening, monitoring situations carefully from both a business and pastoral point of view.
When I am speaking to my Telefónica Tech management team, I encourage the use of tools such as Microsoft’s Viva platform which helps managers understand how inclusive they have been with teams, as well as offering insights on how to encourage better collaboration. These tools can serve as our eyes and ears, giving us the data needed to create a better collaborative team environment.
Behavioural analytics can also play a key role in ensuring employee wellbeing and job satisfaction. By analysing behavioural patterns to understand employee activity, organisations can help to ensure remote working is manageable and sustainable.
There are so many innovative technology solutions available which can enable employers to make hybrid working a real success. With the correct implementation and ongoing analysis, technology can help to foster collaboration and inclusion within the modern workplace, wherever employees may be based.
About Telefónica Tech UK&I
Telefónica Tech is the leading company in digital transformation. The company offers a wide range of services and integrated technological solutions in Cyber Security, Cloud, IoT, Big Data and Blockchain. With our worldwide presence and strategic hubs in Spain, Brazil, the UK, Germany, and Hispam, our capabilities reach more than 5.5 million B2B customers in 175 countries every day.
We unlock the power of integrated technology for all businesses, bringing together a unique combination of the best people, with the best tech and the best platforms, supported by a dynamic partner ecosystem and strategic agreements with all market leaders. We do this in a simplified manner, to facilitate and accelerate tech adoption and make a real difference every day, to every business.