Your IT department and IT service desk likely performed miracles during the early part of the COVID-19 crisis. Both setting up and then supporting a predominantly office-based workforce as homeworkers such that your business could continue to operate. Hopefully, you all received the business recognition you deserved too. However, your role in the pandemic is still far from over – as your business starts to bring employees back into the workplace there are many parts for IT to play.
In many ways, the return to the workplace is going to be more difficult than the shift to homeworking. The latter was difficult because it needed to be done at speed, with minimal preparation and potentially limited resources. The former is difficult for different reasons, here the safety of employees as they return to the office is paramount. And your business has a legal responsibility to protect them through the implementation of government-defined protocols.
To help, this blog looks at some of the ways that your IT department can, or will be called upon to, assist in the return to the workplace.
Role #1: Managing your teams return to the workplace
It might seem an odd one to start with, but we didn’t want to relegate it to last place either.
As with every other part of the business, there’s a responsibility for the IT department to undertake a variety of activities, including:
- Establishing the preparedness of employees to return to work
- Ensuring that the workplace is suitably redesigned for safe working
- Making decisions on which roles, and employees, should return to office-based working and when
- Making decisions, in line with corporate policy, on which roles and employees could remain as homeworking
- New practice creation. For example, the safe receipt and handling of new IT equipment from suppliers.
Role #2: Facilitating general health and safety measures
The return to the workplace will necessitate many changes to the status quo, with each designed to protect employees. Your IT department will be called upon to help with many of these. For example, providing:
- Technology/services to ensure that employees arrive, move around, and exit the workplace safely. This could include shift management and check-in apps, access security, employee health tests such as on-entry temperature reading, and hybrid physical/virtual meeting facilitation.
- Capabilities that allow employees to work together safely, wherever they are, through the exploitation of technology.
- Asset management capabilities related to health and safety supplies such as PPE stock management and sanitizer availability.
- Scheduling cleaning and maintenance.
- Controls and audit trails that help your business to fulfill and demonstrate compliance with its legal responsibilities.
The emphasis is very much on employee safety, and this will require your IT department to collaborate with many other business functions including human resources (HR), facilities, security, and legal.
Role #3: Enabling different working models
This covers both service delivery and support across employees that are:
- Hybrid, mobile workers.
It’s also relevant to your IT department – with IT staff also likely being a mix of different worker-location types.
Plus, the distancing protocols might mean longer operating hours as shift-working is employed. Services and support will need to be aligned to this too.
Role #4: Repeating the above for site visitors
Not everyone attending the newly opened workplaces will be employees. Whether it’s customers, suppliers, partners, contractors, or simply delivery personnel, your IT department will likely need to provide technology enablement to the protocols your business employs to protect the safety of visitors and the employees they “encounter” while on site.
Role #5: Revisiting the need for communal office IT equipment
Over the years, organizations have sensibly provided communal IT assets whenever possible. A good example is the use of communal networked printers or multi-function devices that provide a lower-cost and better printing solution to office workers. Now, with distancing and safety needs in mind, the use of such devices in the “new normal” is something that will need consideration.
There are also other communal situations that similarly require alignment with new working protocols. For example, hot desks or meeting rooms – where the latter not only needs the review of shared technology, it also likely needs additional technology to support the ability for virtual colleagues to be brought into the physical meeting via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Role #6: Supporting employee management capabilities
Much of what’s needed to successfully ensure a safe workplace and employees can be supported by the IT department through relevant software, services, or apps. For example:
- Business-wide communications, no matter the employee location
- Employee surveys related to return-to-work preparation, feedback or concern provision related to workplace safety, or other information exchanges
- Health monitoring and tracking, including contact tracing
- Individual employee quarantine-process support
- Emergency location shutdown enablement
- Ensuring work-based travel is safely managed.
Role #7: Fulfilling new business function needs
Not only are there the requirements highlighted in the previous roles, but other business functions will also likely need greater technological enablement. Whether it’s to deal with dispersed working, to fast-forward digital transformation, or to help with corporately mandated budget cuts.
This will take many forms. For example:
- Workflows and work management (in terms of back-office digital transformation)
- Communications and collaboration
- Reporting and analytics capabilities.
Role #8: Delivering technology-based innovation
This might be your IT department responding to business needs, finding solutions that apply technology old and new. But it could also be innovation that comes from the opportunities of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). Either way, it’s an important role for your IT department to fulfill as we work our way through the “new normal.”
We hope that our list of your IT department’s various roles in the return to the workplace will be helpful. If you have other suggestions or associated tips, then we’d love to hear them. Please let us know in the comments.