woman video calling while working on laptop, staying digitally connected 1

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic through a digitally connected workplace

woman video chatting while working on laptop, staying digitally connected

Article provided by Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist, Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow

We’re living through unprecedented times and companies are trying to navigate their way through long periods of uncertainty.

As a result of COVID-19, business continuity is now at the forefront of every company’s agenda. Yet while business leaders cannot manage the pandemic itself, they can determine how their companies adapt to the challenges of the crisis. Given that remote working has become the norm for most, keeping the workplace digitally connected is vital for sustaining productivity and helping organisations minimise the impact of the pandemic.

Delivering a culture of creativity and openness

A strong culture is the lifeblood of an organisation and underpins everything it stands for. Where and how employees work has changed dramatically overnight, but that does not mean businesses should forget about what makes them different from their competitors.

Values act like a north star that keeps everyone going in the same direction. It’s essential to reinforce these to all team members through regular virtual town halls and meetings so that they are front of mind. This will ensure customers get the same service they did before the pandemic. Businesses that continue to deliver excellent support despite all the challenges they have faced will further strengthen their relationships with customers. And this has the added benefit of helping growth in the long-term, leading to more customer retention and making them appeal to potential new customers.

Getting new hires up to speed with company values from the beginning is also essential. Technology can play a role here. Companies like ServiceNow have created mobile apps to help leaders virtually onboard new hires and engage with them before they start so that they are ready to work and understand what is expected of them. This ongoing engagement is also important as it can help new hires settle in, reassuring those that may be anxious about starting a new job during a crisis.

The right culture will give employees a creative, open platform and will encourage innovation and experimentation. It will create a safe workplace environment to allow leaders at every level the chance to make bold decisions without the fear of making mistakes. This has always been important for businesses but has become even more essential during the pandemic.

Time to prioritise physical and mental health

With the world we know changing so dramatically and there being so much negativity every time we look at the news, it’s more important than ever to promote a healthy body and mindset. Leaders have a vital role to play here. They need to be role models, understand their team’s home setup and encourage them to switch off at times, take breaks and be flexible in the way they work. Businesses should focus on outcomes and not on activity; performance and not the number of hours sitting in front of a laptop screen.

Research from the Trade Union Congress found that the average Brit spent 219 hours commuting last year. This shouldn’t now be seen as extra time for work. It should be focused on managing wellbeing and mental health: more time to read, train for a 10k race or walk around the local park. This will help people clear their minds, step away from their laptops and increase focus when they are working.

Digitise the workplace to stay connected

Organisations always prepare for crises. Time is spent investing in drills around data centres and cyber breaches. But less time is spent testing the workforce and workplace for remote working at the scale we’re currently seeing.

Before this pandemic, many organisations did not have working from home policies and had to put these together quickly. Some invested in the right tools, training and policies during ‘business as usual times and tested these as part of business continuity plans. This gave them confidence that they could operate when people needed to work remotely, and also helped build working from home into their culture. It had the added benefit of highlighting what gaps needed to be fixed and optimised.

Now that this way of working has been forced on so many businesses, communication about what is working and what is not, is key. Leaders need to constantly communicate with employees and workers need to make sure they are speaking to each other. Creating a unified, consumer-style employee service experience across all departments will make this so much easier for workers.

People may no longer be in the physical office but with collaboration tools, virtual meeting rooms and virtual coffee breaks, employees can create a digital version of it. Workers should be encouraged to set and communicate expectations around their working day and when they will be available.

Creating a digital twin for a workplace will ease a lot of the issues that can be caused by not being in an office. If colleagues are used to seeing each other in real life, encourage the use of technology to maintain that same level communication. If workshops need to be run, video conferencing tools should be used. When there is a need to collaborate, virtual whiteboards, mind mapping tools and visual task boards can help. If customer briefings or events need to be delivered, then encourage interaction through the use of polls, voting and Q&A sessions.

Those companies that had previously embraced cloud-based tools have found the pivot to remote working a lot more straightforward. Cloud has proved its value during this crisis and the digital native companies have barely been disrupted. For businesses that are implanting these tools for the first time now, getting employees trained up so that they can use them to be productive and collaborate with colleagues in the right way, is critical.

This global pandemic has also demonstrated to businesses that they need to focus on continuity planning. There will be new challenges that arise when some employees go back to the office while others work from home. Now is the time to start planning for this to maintain a company’s values as well as employee productivity.

About the author

Nerys MutlowNerys Mutlow works in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow and covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. She has a breadth of technical, business and leadership experience gained over a 20 year+ career with variety of companies including Xerox, Thales and Fujitsu. She has held senior EMEA business, consulting and technical roles and is consistently recognised for her technical aptitude, business understanding and focus on driving value and innovation for her customers. Nerys also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Management. She is a recognised thought leader and has published and contributed to a number of digital publications and blogs. Supporting women into technology is particularly important to Nerys and she actively supports many STEM initiatives.


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Girls in tech, STEM

Showcasing technology’s creative side will empower the next generation of female leaders

Article by Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow

Girls in tech, STEMThe technology sector has made improvements in gender representation in recent decades.

There were 326,000 women working in IT roles across the UK in 2020, according to analysis from BCS, meaning that more women are making up the specialist IT workforce than ever seen previously. Yet despite years of progress towards workplace equality, women continue to be woefully underrepresented. A mere 19% of employees in the tech sector are women.

In fact, getting women into technology or STEM careers in the first place continues to be a challenge. According to the latest Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data, fewer than 1 in 5 computing and engineering technology students are female. These figures indicate that the industry still has a long way to go. Getting more women on STEM courses has been a hot topic in the technology industry for the best part of a decade, with public and private sector initiatives aiming to increase numbers. But, the industry, and the people in it, need to do more.

An open-minded approach to recruitment

All companies have core values that lie at the heart their business, but it’s important to continuously introduce fresh perspectives. If the tech sector is going to improve workplace representation, employers must ensure they give both male and female candidates equal opportunities. Also, if they are going to develop a diverse and modern workplace, they must embrace an open-minded approach when it comes to hiring. Rather than simply going through the motions and hiring the same types of candidates, employers should look to bring people from different backgrounds with a variety of different perspectives into the office.

Not only will this create a more inclusive workplace, but it will also drive innovation and creativity, leading to a greater chance of success. According to a McKinsey report, companies with more than 30% of female executives are more likely to outperform businesses with fewer women. Adopting an open-minded recruitment approach will also widen the talent pool for employers as it will encourage them to hire based on potential, rather than relying on proven experience. This approach subscribes to the belief that talent can come from anywhere, regardless of background.

It’s not just about STEM skills

Once an open-minded recruitment process has been implemented, tech companies will begin to feel the benefits of a workforce with a more varied set of skills. Traditionally, companies implementing STEM initiatives have often placed too much emphasis on maths-based skills, such as coding and programming. Whilst coding is still important, today’s technology has made it easier than it’s ever been. Polished teaching methods and universal access to development tools have made it much more accessible. On top of coding, the modern tech industry is crying out for empathetic and creative skills, such as user experience design and critical problem solving.

Creativity and problem solving have never been more crucial to technology than they are right now, with concepts like design thinking requiring us to empathise and understand the challenges faced by end users. Once you truly understand the end user’s perspective then you can design solutions to meet any challenges at hand which will undoubtedly require technology in some shape or form. However, if you start with the technology, then you can become constrained by it when solving complex challenges. By contrast, starting with the problem, leveraging strong domain business skills, communication skills and empathy can lead you to design truly innovative and market leading solutions.

Showcasing creative and design thinking, as opposed to traditional coding, will challenge the outdated stereotype of technology as the domain of the male coder. By dispelling the archaic narrative of a mathematical, male-orientated environment, young women will feel empowered to choose STEM subjects at school and embark upon careers within the technology sector. And by showcasing the creativity and collaboration within today’s technology industry, we can bury the stereotypes and inspire more women to enter the sector. Perhaps we should all be widely adopting the term ‘STEAM’ now to put an equal emphasis on the artistic skills needed for a career in technology.

It’s time for tech employers to take heed and address the gender divide that continues to persist within the industry. Adopting an open-minded approach to recruitment will create the platform for an inclusive workplace that incorporates a diverse set of perspectives. This will introduce a new, modern way of working that places empathetic skills at the forefront of technology. Only then can we begin to smash down the male-dominated stereotypes of what it means to succeed in the industry and pave the way for the next generation of female leaders.

About the author

Nerys Mutlow Nerys Mutlow works in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow and covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. She has a breadth of technical, business and leadership experience gained over a 20 year+ career with variety of companies including Xerox, Thales and Fujitsu. She has held senior EMEA business, consulting and technical roles and is consistently recognised for her technical aptitude, business understanding and focus on driving value and innovation for her customers. Nerys also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Management. She is a recognised thought leader and has published and contributed to a number of digital publications and blogs. Supporting women into technology is particularly important to Nerys and she actively supports many STEM initiatives.


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