The new normal: nomadic workforces taking centre stage

At the peak of the pandemic, it was estimated that almost half of Brits in employment were working completely remotely, a trend that has fundamentally changed the way businesses look at their operations. As 72 per cent of UK employees report a desire to continue working from home, at least part-time – citing a feeling of increased productivity and a better work-life balance as reasons – it seems working from home is here to stay, in some capacity at least.

For many, spending five days a week in the office is no longer required. Instead, the pandemic has accelerated the trend of what my CEO, Alex Shootman, calls “nomadic work” – a hybrid way of working where an employee can work from literally anywhere, whether the office, from home or while travelling. Covid-19 has proved that it’s not where we work, but how we work, and the outcome of that work, that’s critical.

From outputs to outcomes

The pandemic has thrown companies into a moment of shock-change, as they have had to determine nearly overnight how to support a now-remote workforce. How, when and where we work changed, making maintaining productivity in this new environment incredibly difficult. 

Realigning on what it means to be productive – and how to measure that productivity – is now essential for companies. The notion of a nine-to-five workday where activity could be observed and continually calibrated is a thing of the past. And yet, in order to navigate the current and future state to positive business outcomes, this new distributed workforce must function as an interdependent web that consistently generates not just output, but focused and strategic outcomes.

Communication is just the first step

For some businesses the move to remote working was a new concept, and they experienced a sudden, greater dependency on technologies they had not typically used before. Zoom, Teams and Slack have become defining tools amid the pandemic, with many individuals using them both to continue business operations and socialise with colleagues they otherwise could not see physically. It was a fast and simple way to connect colleagues who were suddenly working in isolation.

When the pandemic struck, the question most leaders focused on was simply: “how do we keep everyone talking?” And while that was an important first step, the fact that the workforce could communicate didn’t necessarily mean they had the support they needed to engage fully in the right work.

Strategic work needs more than just communication, it requires constant connection between the day-to-day work (wherever it happens), and the prioritised objectives of the business.

Collaboration is insufficient

Present and future work requires that companies meet employees where they are, with the right processes and technologies to support them in becoming, and staying, engaged with both each other, and on work aligned to strategic objectives.

Collaboration technologies have seen a huge surge in uptake as leaders look for ways to keep their newly nomadic workforce productive. And while most collaboration tools can help teams coordinate and complete tasks and projects, without broader connectivity to systems, teams and departments across the rest of the business their impact is limited. Tasks and projects themselves do not exist on islands. They require budget and personnel data from financial and human capital management systems to properly allocate and manage resources. Many projects require compliance oversight from legal and regulatory departments. And depending on where work happens, specialised collaboration applications such as Jira, ServiceNow and Adobe will always be the primary workspaces.

Unless collaboration tools can integrate with the data and processes happening in those and other applications, work stays siloed, and employees and leaders have limited context and visibility into why and how work is – or is not – progressing toward the right outcomes.

Work management: empowering the nomadic workforce

Work management practices and platforms are fundamentally different to collaboration applications. Instead of focusing solely on connecting people and teams, they are designed to connect strategy to delivery. This shift in approach absolutely requires that nomadic workers are outfitted with the right communication and collaboration support, and then goes several steps further. Enterprise work management platforms also integrate work and data across people, systems and departments, providing context and connection for frontline workers, and visibility and navigation for leaders. Wherever they’re working, each person is assured that they aren’t simply busy ticking boxes, but have what they need to do their best work, and the assurance that their work is making an essential contribution to a larger whole.   

Make nomadic work a competitive advantage

The pandemic has insisted that companies change their infrastructures to support a nomadic workforce. The real opportunity, however, is for organisations to take the opportunity to go beyond standing up more digital systems, and reimagine how work and work data can be transformed into strategic telemetry for an entire enterprise.

Just as CRM changed how enterprises use and value customer data, and ERP systems changed how they understand and manage corporate resources, work management platforms are changing how companies both empower and harness nomadic workers, to become fully engaged, creative forces for competitive advantage.


by Paige Erickson, EMEA MD, Workfront

© Business Reporter 2021

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