As we’re all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of work, perhaps permanently. During lockdown, working from home became a necessity for most, if only temporarily, and it has prompted businesses to re-evaluate their working methods, policies and estate requirements.
During a recent roundtable, participants discussed the monumental shifts we’ve seen this year and whether the workplace, as we know it, is dead. Attendees then learnt how Sungard Availability Services is adding greater flexibility to its Workplace services with the aim of helping businesses react to both planned and unplanned events.
It will not surprise you that during the first national lockdown the number of people working from home more than doubled with almost all (94.7%) organisations having staff working from home. According to a McKinsey Digital report, the UK has vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.
Since the start of the pandemic, videoconferencing platform Zoom has seen daily usage soar by more than 300% and Microsoft Teams reports its number of daily active users increase by 12m in just one week.
However, the rapid shift to remote working proved a baptism of fire for service providers and 55% of businesses changed provider or reduced their service levels because of technology problems. Consumers also became less tolerant of failure with almost a third (32%) stating they would switch provider if a website was down for more than 24-hours.
We are seeing a renewed focus on split-site working for A/B teams and increased willingness to explore other enduring solutions.
The shift to working from home was born of necessity and executed at speed. While many at first enjoyed the novelty of working from home—saving time and money on commuting, spending more time with family and being able to wear comfortable clothes—as time has gone on, serious shortcomings have started to emerge:
Remote working can also cause difficulties assimilating and training new starters, and with managing staff remotely.
These and many other drawbacks mean that reports of the death of the office may be premature.
Sungard Availability Services has consulted external experts about what the pandemic means for our 16 UK workplace recovery centres (WRCs) and has adapted them accordingly. We are fortunate in that our facilities are typically designed as self-contained suites, rather than large, open plan areas, which helps limit the spread of infection, along with the following precautions:
While COVID-19 has preoccupied our thoughts this year, the usual risks to business continuity have not gone away. People tend to forget that at the start of 2020, excessive rainfall led to the wettest February in England and Wales since records began in 1766. Companies still need contingency plans for all the other risks they face including fire, flood, denial of access to premises, cyberattacks and hardware failure.
In response to demand from customers looking to exit their production office leases and move into a more flexible ‘office as a Service’ arrangement, in July 2020 we launched Serviced Workplace. These are dedicated suites designed for full-time occupation (not just ATOT/ATOD).
The contract is tailored around the needs of individual customers with pre-defined support hours and free recovery to shared seats in another Sungard AS facility. Customer employees are given a photo ID badge to allow easy access, which gives them the right to ‘drop in’ to an alternative Sungard AS site to take advantage of the Wi-Fi and refreshment facilities.
Alongside the introduction of Serviced Workplace, we have upgraded our Dedicated Workplace offering to give customers easier access and increased usability. The main changes are that:
Perhaps the most radical change, our popular Shared Workplace service is now available for scheduled, as well as unplanned, events. Having said this, in the event of a diary clash, we will do our utmost to accommodate all customers, but disaster declarations will be prioritised over routine bookings to allow us to support customers in their time of greatest need.
This means if clients expect disruption to occur due to a pandemic, extreme weather, civil disruption or maintenance works, to list some examples, they can access the Shared Workplace facility.
For unplanned events, there is no invocation fee and only one hour’s notice is needed during normal business hours (three hours outside
Does installing Perspex screens increase the number of people who can work in the suite?
I know at the start of the year we could only use our suite for a disaster situation, is there scope to give us more flexibility in the future?
We house NHS key workers and, following a high incidence of infection, the Health & Safety Executive has advised us to change our vent system to 100% fresh air only to get greater airflow through the building. Has Sungard AS got the ability to do this?
If there are planned restrictions put into place that mean we cannot get into Mansell Street, can we use another site?