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Why it’s time to reinvent the workplace, through smarter use of technology

desk-with-laptopOut of times of crisis and darkness can be born new ideas and ways of working. The past few months have been difficult for all of us.

But with the right attitude we can re-engineer the workplace to something altogether more flexible, fulfilling and diverse. Doing so will first force us to rethink how we use digital technologies.

No digital twin

The COVID-19 lockdown has presented many challenges, both to employers and their staff. From a pure IT perspective, organisations have done tremendously well to rapidly support mass home working as governments around the world locked down society. Reports suggest that this kind of distributed workforce may be here to stay long after the pandemic recedes.

But there are concerns. Corporate VPNs have been overwhelmed, and home workers are arguably more exposed to social engineering and attacks targeting video conferencing platforms and remote access infrastructure. Cyber-attackers have duly refocused their efforts to target these weaknesses.

There are also wider challenges in how we work. Too many employers and managers are falling into the trap of trying to replicate the face-to-face experience of being in the office at home. That means excessive back-to-back video meetings which generate limited value and leave little time for creative thinking and problem solving. Let’s be clear, the home should never be the digital twin of the office.

Getting there

The change we all need must come from the top down, and it must involve a more intelligent use of technology. To mitigate cyber-risk and boost productivity, security and IT teams should be empowering users with a whitelist of tools they can use at home, rather than resorting to type as the “department of no”, for example.

To get the most out of remote working employees, managers must trust them more — to use workshop tools independently, or even go offline if necessary from time-to-time — rather than expecting digital facetime most of the day. When lockdown finally recedes, individuals should be empowered to choose for themselves which blend of remote and face-to-face working they think will drive the best outcomes.

Yet technology can only get us so far. If events in the US of late have shown us anything it’s that there is still a long way to go for society to overcome deep-seated prejudices. We mustn’t let these often unconscious biases find their way into the AI algorithms which are already starting to run our lives. That means doubling down on greater diversity and equality in the workplace. Hopefully by peering into the homes of our colleagues day after day we’ve all become kinder, more empathetic human beings. But there’s always more to be done. After all, technology doesn’t change societies, people do.

About the author

Mivy JamesMivy James has been an IT professional for 25 years. Having started her career as an analyst / programmer in defence and safety critical systems she is now Digital Transformation Director and Head of Consulting at BAE Systems. Her areas of interest include supporting government departments on their digital transformation journeys and adoption of agile ways of working. She is also a passionate advocate for STEM careers and is the founder of her organisation’s gender balance network.

 

 

 

 


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