Work has constantly been changing over the past year and will only continue to do so throughout 2021. Transitioning from office work to remote work thanks to a global pandemic was something most IT departments never considered. Research shows that 72% of IT workers were caught unprepared to shift to remote work in 2020.
Now that offices are slowly reopening, IT faces new challenges — and many teams aren’t ready. How to move the workforce back into an office environment while ensuring those environments also accommodate permanent remote and hybrid workers? How to craft policies that address all concerns and communicate those changes to the workforce?
Addressing these issues and more will take thought and care. IT will need to work together with leaders and comms teams to ensure everyone has the right technology that addresses their needs. Return-to-work policies are crafted with safety and security in mind.
You Need New Privacy Policies
The first few months of 2020 were chaotic, as additional information about COVID-19 shifted priorities and upended traditional ways of working. Businesses tossed aside their continuity plans as they scrambled to manage customer service, provide employees with the tools and technology they need, and protect company data, all with a distributed workforce. Many businesses built out their digital workplace toolkits during the pandemic. As they devised ways to make remote work happen for employees who might not have been working remotely before (if ever), IT departments might have instituted new privacy policies and procedures on the fly. This behavior led to a sense teams were scrambling from one crisis to another.
It doesn’t have to be like that for the reverse. As workers slowly return to the office, policies and processes won’t be reversed but will need to adapt. IT will require new approaches and strategies that account for the reality of the new normal. Not all workers will return, so IT will need to codify privacy and security policies for their permanent remote workforce segments. New security policies will be necessary, too, primarily as cybersecurity attacks increased during the pandemic.
Of course, all this information will need to be accessible somewhere. The days of a set-it-and-forget-it IT policy that hides in the employee handbook are long over. IT employees need to publish these policies where employees will see them, and employees need accessible policies they can view as required.
Your Remote Workers Will Expect More
The pandemic shattered many misconceptions and stigmas about remote work. Businesses are now more willing than ever to hire remote workers. Research also suggests that once the pandemic is over, some workers will work a mix of days from home and in the office — three days a week at home and two in the office, for example. These hybrid workers (together with fully remote employees) will have certain expectations about accessing technology while working remotely. All employee segments will need rules and regulations that take their technology needs into account.
Communications platforms, chat apps, and intranets all allow remote and hybrid workers to keep in touch with the office even as they’re distributed. IT will need to manage remote worker expectations about how technology will apply to these worker segments.
Once You Have New Requirements, TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THEM
Once IT leadership has codified recent policy changes, they must communicate those changes throughout the workforce. These endeavours should include a mix of push and pull communications. Upper management can schedule emails, but HR teams will also need to update employee handbooks, while workers will need to know where policies live and how to access them. Having new policies accessible in a central location will ensure that employees have access to and are aware of any recent changes.
Implementing policy changes and then pushing those changes to workers will require IT teams to work together with internal comms teams. Such collaboration will ensure that employees receive timely notice of critical policy changes. Comms teams can also develop a strategy that pushes reminders out to employees both as needed and regularly, so employees always know what IT expects from them.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented digital surge in technology adoption, leading businesses to lean on IT more than ever. Leadership teams are asking IT to step up once again with cases declining and companies planning for a return to in-person work. Policies have been changing rapidly over the past year and will only continue to fluctuate as the world settles. IT needs to ensure workers have the most accurate, up-to-date information available to them at all times. By demonstrating organizational agility and mastering internal communications, IT departments will emerge, having strengthened their organizations.
See how Simpplr can improve your return-to-work communications at simpplr.com.
Dhiraj Sharma is a serial entrepreneur and technology enthusiast who is passionate about promoting purpose and meaning in the workplace. He is the founder and CEO of Simpplr, a provider of modern employee intranet software that helps companies engage their workforce by transforming employee communication, learning, and recognition.