By Alain Brisson, Senior Vice-President, Sales

Supporting a new way of working

If one thing is clear for organizations coming out of the summer of COVID-19, it’s that remote work is going to be part of our reality for the foreseeable future. And with IDC research finding that in 2021, 47% of organizations expect to add or expand work from home policy,1 optimizing the remote work experience is a priority. Getting it right isn’t just about technology: it’s also about understanding how to promote good mental health and wellbeing for a virtual team.

I know, from my conversations with business leaders, that organizations across the country are aware of this. They’ve seen that remote work can take a toll on people by blurring the lines between home life and work. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has reported that 80% of Canadians indicate that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health2 and that those who have switched to working from home are more likely to have moderate to severe anxiety levels3 – which in turn decreases employee engagement and overall productivity.

The challenges of remote work

Loneliness and isolation seem to be two common consequences of prolonged remote work. Colleagues don’t have the informal, unstructured opportunities to chat and touch base like they did in the workplace. Today, everything has to be prearranged and scheduled, even if that means just a quick invitation to “hop on for a virtual coffee chat”. The cafeteria and “water cooler” no longer exist. Even big milestones like retirement celebrations are having to be held online, which can affect the quality of the experience.

Another impact of ongoing remote work is that with “the office” at home, people naturally feel the responsibility to be “on” at all times. After all, the computer is right there. People don’t get the separation of home and work they did by physically leaving the office and “unplugging” at the end of the day.

Connectivity hiccups, disconnected calls and poor video quality can also have a real impact on productivity and even brand reputation for customer-facing employees. And this contributes to anxiety and frustration – especially when competing for bandwidth with other household members pits your work and home-life commitments against each other.

While workers at home are wrestling with these conditions, the individuals responsible for maintaining remote work infrastructure are facing many challenges and stresses of their own. The COVID-19 era exacerbated the challenges of “bring your own device” (BYOD). Most enterprise IT shops were set up to support a single contained office or campus, not employees across dozens or hundreds of sites, with a multitude of devices and unique support requirements.

And we’ve seen an increase in email-based threats and endpoint-security breaches due to this new environment. Residential networks require less stringent security protocols, which means hackers can more easily access network traffic and confidential business information – making securing the business very resource- intensive and more complex than ever.

So what’s the path forward for addressing both the human and technical challenges of remote work? Instead of looking at them as separate issues, organizations have an opportunity to bring their HR and IT teams together, collaborating closely to drive the best possible outcomes for teammates and employees.

Technology contributing to employee resilience

A cooperative HR/IT approach to remote work takes the employee experience and wellbeing into account while moving from the short-term, early COVID-era fixes to longer-term, sustainable remote work solutions. While technology won’t solve all the human challenges related to remote work, by making the experience as simple, reliable and stress-free as possible, it can contribute to a much more positive and empowering experience.

That’s the approach we have taken at Bell developing our Bell Virtual Office solutions. From our perspective, remote workers fundamentally need reliable, secure connectivity at home, with rapid access to technical support as they need it.

With Bell Virtual Office, organizations can mix and match three offerings based on the needs of different groups of employees. The solutions include IP VPN, a private connection that doesn’t traverse the public Internet; Business Internet Service with Managed VPN, which offers dedicated connectivity not shared with other members of the household for more reliable access to applications and data; and Premium Support for Work, a 24/7 customer care line with a Wi- Fi pod to strengthen residential connectivity.

These three options enable businesses to tailor solutions to meet different user needs within their organization. For example, in a financial services organization, high-end private connectivity may be needed for executives and brokers, complemented by something lighter and more scalable for contact centre staff, and enhanced technical support for employees at large.

Future opportunities

Organizations that are able to reimagine business models and optimize the remote work experience will give themselves a competitive advantage. In the early phases of the pandemic, one- to three-year plans were scaled in a matter of weeks, and 70% of executives indicated that the pandemic is likely to accelerate their digital transformation.4 The pace has changed and organizations need to take advantage of it to optimize their services and customer experience – with digital channels, data analytics, artificial intelligence and process automation.

With more people working from home, there’s also an opportunity to fine-tune workforce utilization and promote better work-life balance. Instead of requiring staff to come into a contact centre for half- or full-day shifts, they can be scheduled for “micro-shifts” as required. And because they’re no longer restricted to people who live within commuting distance of head office, they can expand recruiting and draw on a wider pool of talent.

Your partner in mental health

As an organization that has had a longstanding commitment to both technological advancement and the mental health and wellbeing of our communities, we understand how important it is to consider both parts of the equation.

In addition to optimizing the remote work environment with solutions like Bell Virtual Office, we’re proud of our ecosystem of mental health partners and keen to provide our customers access to these partners. We can serve as a conduit or intermediary, with tools, online resources and best practices that can help teams stay supported, engaged and resilient.

At the end of the day, our goal is to help Canadian organizations be successful. And from our own experience, we know that taking a holistic approach to supporting employees, in addition to investing in the right technology, is the best way to do that.

To learn more, visit bell.ca/virtualoffice or contact your Bell representative.

Sources:

  1. IDC, 2020 – Doc # US46643120. Future of Work: Moving from Business Continuity to Business Resiliency.
  2. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) 2020. The New Normal COVID19 Playbook Supplement.
  3. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) 2020. Women, parents and younger adults more likely to feel anxious and depressed during COVID-19.
  4. McKinsey Apr 2020. Digital Strategy in a Time of Crisis.

Find out what Bell Virtual Office can do for your employees.