Working from home is here to stay – ICT and Internet Connectivity is the new NORM

Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 12:05

While the COVID-19 lockdown is slightly eased, the number of employees who work from home is expected to increase substantially in South Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered the final push that was needed for businesses to implement work-from-home strategies. Research reveals that the implementation of remote working in many businesses post-lockdown will happen because of the high levels of productivity experienced during the current lockdown. From a productivity perspective, experts say that work which requires uninterrupted blocks of time is easier to do as a remote worker, as you are less likely to be interrupted compared to working in an office. Also, it was highlighted that staff happiness levels tend to increase when they are allowed to work from home. This is because they can manage their own time and achieve a better work-life balance.

However, we are cautioned, there are also elements of remote working that can prove challenging. Managing a remote team will require an increased focus on management, reporting, and KPIs in order to ensure productivity is maintained. Due to the fact that for a lot of workers who are not used to this, it can be perceived as micro management, which could create a negative ‘clock watching’ work environment. Organizations will need to learn to manage based on output, rather than raw hours behind a desk.

  • Working from home can lead to people overworking themselves or not doing their work at all. Two extremes;
  • Self-discipline and keeping an excellent working balance is of the utmost importance when working from home;

The best way for organizations to prepare for an increase in work-from-home staff is ensuring you have the right connectivity and systems in place:
Quality connectivity is critical. In a high-volume calling environment, organizations should even go as far as to have separate connectivity just for voice traffic;

  • High-quality, cloud-based systems that should be considered;
  • Include those relating to telephony, video conferencing, CRM, reporting, analytics, and billing;
  • Having the right technologies is of the utmost importance if a business will be implementing remote working;
  • If an employee sits at a desk at work or home, the digital experience should be the same;
  • It should be easy to ask for and receive IT support, and employees should be able to have their own devices enrolled by IT to gain full, secure access to all business-critical applications.

The following should be introduced to working-from-home culture alongside reliable infrastructure:

  1. A dedicated “open door” scheduled time where people can freely reach out and engage without feeling the need to formally schedule an appointment.
  2. Team engagements and interactions, rather than relying purely on one-on-one communications.
  3. Make use of your webcam on a regular basis, as it is healthy to see people’s faces during a meeting.
  4. Support employees by creating a schedule which includes waking up at a set time, getting dressed for work, encouraging regular activities such as exercise, and dedicated time for family.

This is the new NORM. We’ll never go back to the way things were. Life will be different, certainly. The economic impact will be significant, and not easily ameliorated. Digital and virtual options will remain, certainly. We’re quickly finding out how productive and profitable these offerings can be, much as we are learning how many of those meetings were unproductive. A future with fewer of them would be a small silver lining.

Popia to fuel better customer experiences for South Africans

We have just started day one of level 4 lockdown, and that brought a lot of confusion among citizens since the government has been chopping and changing the regulations it placed. Some announcements have been altered in a matter of days, e.g. sale of cigarettes. We have heard citizens questioning the regulation regarding movement; one caller to the 702 Talk radio raised a concern that his lease ended on the 30th of April, and he is supposed to move to another place of residence. When the said caller went to police station for a permit to move house, he was refused the permit. We are wondering if we are ready as a country to face these challenges. Our editorial will, therefore, look at issues that need our consideration while we still thread carefully around the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
One such issue is how information about citizens is utilized or abused by businesses during this period. We are still consumers, and the way businesses manage their customer databases, make use of consumer contact details, and make initial contact with potential customers is cause for concern. As demands and interest around data privacy rises, businesses who do not make use of intelligent direct marketing strategies are not respecting the rights or wishes of consumers and are contributing to the often negative conceptions around contact centres. These businesses have often purchased a poorly sourced contact list, which they make use of in an inefficient manner.
 
 The introduction of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is aimed at putting a stop to this kind of business. Globally, data privacy remains one of the key themes in terms of regulation, consumer demand and for marketers. In January, for example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was implemented. Like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the act depicts how businesses and their customer experience partners can collect, store, make use of and share customer data, as well as gives consumers more control over their personal information. So, what does this mean for consumers in terms of their rights?

  • Consumers are obliged to ensure they protect their personal information, and only share this with businesses they trust.
  • Consumers can opt-out of communication from businesses by unsubscribing from unwanted communications, such as email or SMS marketing. Consumers also have the right to ask organisations and businesses what personal information they might have on file, and ask for this to be removed or deleted.
  • Consumers need to ensure they read privacy policies, to ensure they are aware of how their data is being stored, used and managed by businesses. This gives the consumer the chance to make a decision around whether or not to accept, based on what is detailed in the policy.
  • Should consumers feel their privacy and personal data is not being respected, they have the right to complain to the business itself and to the Information Regulator should they feel this is necessary.

Essentially, the onus is on the consumer to protect their data and this requires a dedication to education in this regard. However, the act does offer recourse for those consumers who believe they have been unfairly targeted, or that their data has been abused. For businesses, investment into data privacy will no longer be a choice. The Information Regulator will have the power to enforce fines of more than R10m or even pursue criminal charges for businesses who do not comply with the act.

SOURCES:

Sandra Galer;
Bradley Prior;
Eric Stine;

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