“If we didn’t have our modern workplace strategy implemented before COVID-19, we would’ve had a huge challenge on our hands making all our common services remotely accessible,” says Alan Norrie, IT User Enablement Lead at TAQA.
As the COVID-19 pandemic developed, businesses around the world paused with bated breath to see what the impact may be. Simply put, the impact has been enormous. Companies now find themselves operating in a new environment; a ‘remote’ one where employees work, communicate with each other and engage with customers from the confines of their own homes.
For many, implementing these changes has proved immensely challenging, but for organisations which had already implemented a comprehensive remote working strategy, the transition has been much more manageable.
The real challenge now is a case of efficiently utilising the tools which employees have at their disposal.
What started as “just a Windows 10 project”, Norrie explains, developed into a comprehensive strategy to transform the way employees worked and engaged with each other on a day-to-day basis; with a particular focus placed on personal productivity and the benefits for end-users.
“In one aspect you’re looking at devices and what laptops you’re going to give to people, but we found the real value came from us understanding what was going to be in it for the end-user,” Norrie explains.
“This is all about how to make your IT project properly user-centric,” he says. “With ours, Modern Workplace became about targeting managers and supervisors first. If you’re looking to roll-out a new operating system, you’ll typically handle your managers and supervisors last. But we tackled them first because we focused heavily on what was in it for the end-user.”
A common struggle in IT is workload management, and so TAQA’s modern workplace strategy focused heavily on personal productivity – and Office365 was key to that, says Norrie.
That combination of interwoven platforms employees can draw upon has offered huge benefits to personal productivity and workload management – with Teams, OneNote, Outlook and more providing a streamlined system through which to coordinate and work. So far during the pandemic, these tools have proven invaluable to employees both in the UK and across Europe.
“It has completely set us up for this situation and accelerated group collaboration,” Norrie insists. “Teams usage has gone up, and because we implemented this before COVID-19 occurred, it meant our response to this was just a short analysis of ‘which teams don’t have an optimal remote working solution?'”
“Now it’s a case where, instead of making it about how we can connect remotely or IT being an additional stress on the business, it’s about how can we optimise their home working experience and get back to business as usual,” he adds.
TAQA’s Modern Workplace strategy has helped enable them to weather the onset of the COVID storm. Looking ahead, Norrie believes the very nature of work will be changed irrevocably and that the pandemic has prompted organisations to embrace these changes.
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With improvements to efficiency, however, certain challenges have arisen, Norrie concedes. One particular area TAQA has focused on is recognising that staff can fall foul to ‘meeting fatigue’, which arises from transitioning between meeting to meeting without respite or ‘water cooler contact’.
Making slight changes has helped address this issue, such as adjusting Outlook to scheduling 50-minute meetings instead of hour-long sessions. Similarly, arranging virtual coffee mornings or ‘after-work drinks’ can play a key role in maintaining and bolstering staff morale during what is a challenging period.
Already, the success of remote working thus far during the pandemic has led to changing mindsets over the future value, Norrie explains. In two projects this year, the modern workplace strategy is being accommodated for.
“Two of the biggest projects we have this year, the leadership have expressed ‘we should take Modern Workplace to the next level‘,” he says.
“I’ve heard senior members of the leadership team saying we need to have Teams enabled in meeting rooms so you get that consistent feel,” Norrie adds.
Alan Norrie will be speaking at DIGIT’s annual Digital Energy Virtual Summit next week, Norrie will explore TAQA’s modern workplace strategy, the impact it has had upon the business, and how it has enabled them to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.