The COVID-19 pandemic forced many enterprises to shift employees into work-from-home mode. The remote working trend has been building for years, but COVID-19 pushed it to new levels practically overnight. Cloud-based technologies, including unified communications as a service, played a key role to make this new normal possible, and the results were better than expected for both employers and employees.
As we edge closer to 2022, businesses are exploring how to safely bring employees back to the office. For many employees, working from home has become comfortable enough to now serve as their preferred way to work. In order to keep that segment of the workforce happy and engaged, IT decision-makers must recognize remote work productivity needs differ from office-based work. IT decision-makers must address three challenges of hybrid work from home and explore how UCaaS can help.
1. Work-from-home challenge: Overcoming the isolation
Remote work was new for many employees in 2020, and it's fair to say not everyone is cut out for it. Of course, the same is true for being in the office, and that's one reason why remote work has been a growing trend for some time. In both cases, UCaaS is a key enabler in providing a consistent set of tools, regardless of location. Equally true, though, is the simple fact cloud and digital technologies have changed the nature of work, where the physical trappings of a traditional office are no longer required to be productive.
That aside, isolation is perhaps the biggest drawback to remote work. As wellness becomes an important consideration for hybrid work, enterprises must be sensitive to this reality. This is another strong use case for UCaaS, as these platforms provide multiple options for communicating with co-workers in the office and at home.
Since so much of human contact happens in the moment, it's worth noting that most UCaaS applications are real time or near-real time. For example, asynchronous channels, like email, lack the immediacy of messaging, video and voice, all of which are good proxies for being with others in person. Add to that the immersive nature of video conferencing, and UCaaS provides many tools that go a long way to countering the isolation that comes with remote work.
2. Work-from-home challenge: Having an office-grade UX
Remote work was slow to catch on, mainly because the home-based environment fell short of the office environment. Reliable broadband can be inconsistent, and the pre-cloud world could only support a limited set of tools for remote workers. In many cases, these workers had better collaboration capabilities on their mobile devices than wireline endpoints. But the mobile experience still wasn't good enough, and it was impractical over extended periods of time.
All of that changed with UC and especially UCaaS, which only required broadband connectivity to deliver a better UX. Advancements in cloud have proven to be transformational here in supporting remote work, which has given rise to the current day mantra of work from anywhere echoed by so many UCaaS vendors.
When workers have access to the same set of tools at home as they do in the office, the virtues of hybrid work from home become stronger and the shortcomings more tolerable. The key here is UCaaS enables engaging forms of collaboration that don't require being tied to a desk or in a meeting room. This, in turn, supports seamless communication with co-workers wherever they are.
3. Work-from-home challenge: Managing work-life balance
While UCaaS is a key enabler of remote work, it can also make things too easy. Digital technology brings a lot of efficiencies, but one of the byproducts is always-on culture. It's been a 24/7 economy for years, but the utility and affordability of today's technology enable this to bleed into our personal lives.
Virtually all knowledge workers struggle with the constant blurring between home and work, and this has only been amplified during the pandemic. A key reason why many workers are ultimately more productive in an office is simply because people may find it difficult to separate home from work.
Just as UCaaS makes it easy to work at home, the technology can also be used to help create boundaries where workers take more breaks, stay off social media during work hours or have reminders to keep them focused on deadlines or meeting schedules. This is especially true when AI capabilities are baked into UC applications, as AI learns worker patterns and schedules over time to make it easier to set and manage user-defined boundaries designed with work-life balance in mind.