Thought leadership
    17 March 2021

    Sabelo Mabena

    The modern office: How tech is reimagining your working environment

    Business in 2021 is about allowing your employees to work remotely, connecting their ecosystem and ensuring good-quality collaboration tools can keep your businesses functioning.

    Work is no longer about going to the office. Now, it's about allowing the workforce to work remotely, connecting the ecosystem and ensuring good-quality collaboration tools that can keep businesses functioning.

    In early 2020 the world experienced a disruption unlike any in recent memory, with the onset of COVID-19. By March last year, many companies had to abandon their physical offices and adopt a work-from-home policy to support social distancing and keep their employees safe. 

    Overnight, workers no longer had the comforts of their cubicles, offices, desk phones, in-office computers and servers. Additionally, many lost the ability to send information securely. Not only did a vast number of workers find themselves without their office support structures, but communication was also disrupted. Something as simple as holding a meeting with 10 or more people was a struggle that needed to be overcome – quickly.

    A technological pivot

    Although many businesses were caught off-guard by the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders quickly identified the vital steps needed to resume operations. Mainly, companies would need to choose technologies for a remote working world. Businesses would also need to use technology to develop asynchronous working environments that effectively allowed employees to continue with their tasks. Many companies began planning a new combination of remote and on-site working, a hybrid virtual model in which some employees are on-premises, while others work from home. This enabled employees to be supported by leading technology which enabled them to work smarter and be more productive, collaborate with remote teams and reap the other many benefits that office suites like Microsoft 365 offer.

    Enabling productivity

    A question that managers are having to ask themselves, and their teams as a whole, is “when I’m at home, so I have all the tools to manage myself and my environment?” This has become fundamental to doing business in these uncertain times. 

    In its simplest form the term, Modern Workplace is an operational setup that has been professionally designed to meet both the physical and technological needs of both businesses and their employees. It is an All-inclusive set of tools that simplifies Teamwork, Collaboration, productivity by offering enterprise first-class email systems that integrate chat, voice, real-time document share. 

    With this foundation in place, we’re driving our employees to work in the cloud. This is particularly important for our large population of information workers working remotely. Microsoft 365 enables users to access resources and share files with Office apps across the web, mobile, and desktop, storing their content in the cloud by default. Outlook Mobile, Microsoft Teams, and OneDrive are deployed on all of our corporate devices, so people can access their emails, calendars, and files within File Explorer on Windows, Finder on Mac, and Office apps on mobile devices. Our staff are also now able to do real-time co-authoring and commenting on documents in the cloud, which has proved extremely useful for a distributed workforce.

    Vodacom enables all these solutions through its secured state of the art and class Network with Voice services. These are all complimentary services co-created with the strategic relationship with Microsoft. Microsoft 365, includes Office 365, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Enterprise Mobility + Security and a variety of productivity and collaboration tools designed to support modern ways of working, help facilitate digital transformation, and most importantly keep your business secure.

    • Better Collaboration fostering can raise morale and enable people within different teams to come together. The more flexible it is for employees to collaborate, the more collaboration will occur to achieve higher productivity levels.
    • Independent and Stand-alone platforms – business management platforms are implemented that have very limited integration and automation with each other. This makes the risk of error high and increases workload.

    Meetings and collaboration

    All of us at Vodacom use Teams daily for chat, meetings, calls, and collaboration. Now that we work remotely, we’ve been able to stay productive because we’re accustomed to a digital workspace. Every meeting is now a Teams meeting, often with video. We‘re using features like background blur to block out our noisy kids, our barking dogs, and our mismatched furniture. As we rally to help our customers prepare for remote work, we’ve found that being able to record meetings has become essential. All attendees can access recordings of meetings they’ve missed and then listen in to the most relevant parts. We also rely on the Microsoft 365 environment to empower employees to collaborate through self-service creation of Office 365 Groups or teams within Teams – while ensuring appropriate security, compliance, and manageability are in place. 

    Maintaining visibility and control of cybersecurity is a constant challenge though. And as attackers innovate, keeping up with them can be an overwhelming task. The Microsoft Azure suite that Vodacom has adopted helps us build a solid foundation of physical, network, and operational security. The Azure Security Center uses advanced analytics, including machine learning, and Microsoft’s vast global threat intelligence, to detect more than 140 000 threats per month – providing actionable alerts and reducing detection and response times dramatically.

    A workplace for the future

    At the same time, we also looked at the workplace environment as a crucial setting to promote employee wellness. Reimagining your work environment in this way means creating conditions that support employee mental health and flexibility, along with physical health. Employers typically focus on providing a safe, hazard-free workplace for their employees, but there’s more to be done to promote a healthy work environment and culture.

    A key part of a successful and healthy work environment (whether in-office or remote) is work/life balance. Finding this balance between work and personal life is sometimes challenging. Gone are the days where employers push employees to work at an ever-faster pace, to the point of burnout. Many modern employees are demanding more flexibility and control when it comes to balancing their lives with their work structure – and smart businesses are working with them to find solutions. The result, inevitably, is happier, healthier and more productive employees.

    It’s important to be proactive and stay ahead of what today’s employees expect from their job and employer. When a company’s culture is supportive and healthy, employees’ mental and physical health can benefit. Whether promoting a culture of wellness through a wellness plan, an on-site health centre, an emphasis on work/life balance or a combination of techniques, the positive results are there for all to see. 

    To retain top talent and create a motivated, healthy workforce, take a look at your organisation and reassess if it’s evolving to meet the needs of your employees.

    Sabelo Mabena

    EHOD: Product Development (Cloud and Hosting)

    Vodacom Business

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