But defining the concept, retaining productivity and keeping up with professional development is causing headaches for all concerned
Decades before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in white-collar roles have had the ability to work from home (WFH) – it’s something that has been happening informally for years. A nod and a wink from your boss on a Friday if they owed you a favor: ‘finish that at home Monday and we’ll see you Tuesday…’ That kind of thing. It’s nothing new. But until recently it was never commonplace enough to be considered as requiring consideration when planning workplace strategies.
Since the recent disruption caused by worldwide infection controls, WFH has become expected by many employees, at least by those who can perform their roles remotely. Truck drivers, care workers, tradespeople and retail staff don’t have the luxury of that choice. But the current expectation from employees that WFH should be part of a package of benefits has contributed to the phenomenon of ‘The Great Resignation’; significant numbers of office-based workers are leaving jobs because their current WFH requirements aren’t being met. This is becoming an increasing worry for business leaders.
Such problems may well be occurring because there are a couple of thorny issues that haven’t yet been formally addressed across industries generally. But when definitions and barriers have been identified and recognized, the WFH hybrid model may become more workable. So, exactly how do we define hybrid work, when is it going to become ‘official’ and how do teams stay informed of everything they need to know in this ‘new normal’?
Is hybrid work to become generally accepted in all industries as ‘Tuesday to Thursday in the office’? Will Marketeers just come in on Mondays? Finance Clerks on Fridays? Or, as many employees are beginning to expect, especially younger people, that they are allowed to choose the days they attend the office (if at all) on a rota basis or by arrangement. Much like hiring agency workers, a boss might soon be asking: ‘when is person X booked to come in next week?’.
Despite recent mooted UK legislation, there is unlikely to be a worldwide or national government decree that WFH for X hours per week is going to be an employment benefit protected in law from any given date. The market will most probably decide, as those industries that can remain profitable, with lower staff turnover due to beneficial arrangements, will adapt WFH more readily than industries where the practice causes more difficulties.
Productivity and organizational problems aside, the issue of staff education, regulatory compliance and professional development is already being seen by many as becoming increasingly difficult to monitor and deliver. Classroom sessions and face-to-face appraisals are becoming less and less practicable, so Educational Technology is required in order to bridge these gaps. Clearly, if regulations are being flouted and safety procedures are being missed due to employees not being aware of current legislation, that’s more than just inconvenient. It’s bad for business and potentially dangerous.
What’s needed to keep geographically scattered workforces up to date with mandatory and important vocational knowledge is knowledge-transfer software that fulfils at least these essential criteria:
- is accessible from any approved device wherever there is an internet connection.
- No significant training should be required to access the knowledge, it should be as easy as if one was phoning a colleague and asking a question.
- curation and collation of the knowledge that management wishes to make available should be instant and very simple. If admins have to copy/paste content, type endless labels and define subject categories to create training material, they might as well print a thousand letters and send them all in envelopes through the post! Nowadays, often by the time training material is collated into curricula, it’s already outdated. Software that automates this process accurately is essential in any fast-moving environment.
- knowledge should be updated autonomously across the enterprise whenever fresh information is added by managers (or when outdated information is removed). Push notifications of mandatory material should be the norm.
- should be shareable on a permissions basis both from management and amongst peers.
- should be verifiable and from approved sources only, a ‘closed-world’ approach of only accessing and sharing knowledge from approved sources is so much safer than allowing employees to use search engines like Google, or even accessing company intranets if they are not rigorously controlled.
Now more than ever, educational technology can transform our working lives as well as those of pupils, students and home-schoolers. If business leaders choose the right technology solutions now, when the WFH model is in its relative infancy, productivity, profitability, safety and employee job satisfaction can be better than ever. It is their duty to look after their shareholders, their staff and their customers. Likewise, as Educational Technology specialists, it’s our duty to ensure that the world is a happier, wealthier place by using the solutions that we can offer for the common good.