Eduardo Dowd, Group Chief Information Officer, WPP AUNZ
After the first few weeks of the pandemic when the numbers were growing and restrictions were becoming very tangible, we had several drills to ensure our more than 4000 employees were able to continue working from home.
Our core systems, including our infrastructure, remote desktop tools, and VPN access, proved we were up for the task. The main concern was around people being able to collaborate effectively in an industry were creativity is at its core.
Our main collaboration tool has been Microsoft Teams …plus a stubborn usage of skype in many places! We were technically ready but unsure of how our people would adopt and embrace these tools in an emergency.
Although coming from a relatively low initial adoption rate, employees across the ANZ region now collaborate as fully by Teams as they would if they were physically still in an office environment.
One of the big lessons we can take from 2020 is on how people’s resourcefulness will find a way to make things work. Over one weekend, we announced that employees would not be returning to the office on the Monday morning and they should be prepared to work from home without a clear date to return to the office. Our IT team prepared for a wave of calls and to be troubleshooting with our users 24x7. And although we did have an initial spike in calls for assistance, everyone somehow figured it out, helped each other, and adopted the reality of working from home.
You could see everyone dropping Skype in favorof Teams as they saw the benefits of the tool, and others were using it.
One of the big lessons we can take from 2020 is on how people’s resourcefulness will find a way to make things work
On each call, someone was passing tips and tricks to colleagues on how to blur the background and share content. It all worked seamlessly.
The opportunity to reinvent our way of working
As time progressed and we needed to consider a return to the office, an entire new range of different rules across various offices in Australia and New Zealand had to be considered and implemented. We had to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors to our sites; full compliance with COVID Safe rules; and ensure the user experience was as simple as possible.
We decided to create an app to control this process and so everyone could book office space in advance, ensuring we could allocate a workstation or meeting room.
We thought about this and anticipated we should aim for a tool that would not just allow us to bring people to the office safely but also equip us as a company to be able to handle what the future of workplace would be after the pandemic.
It is now very obvious that the future of our workspaces will be different as we now know why and when people need to be working face to face and how many things they can do working from anywhere (and anytime).
We decided to leverage our low-code platform to be able to deliver the solution quickly (we had 3 weeks for the initial go live) and extend the functionality into the future way of working in the second half of 2020 and beyond.
Food for thought
You can never underestimate the power of testing and doing real life drills. We had 1000 people trialing working from home just before the lockdown and the lessons learned were invaluable.
Think about the long term when defining solutions. We could have built a COVID-focused app, but the real value was to use the opportunity to have a platform for a new way of working post-COVID.
The most important lesson learnt is you must have the right tools in your toolbox. A low-code capability is very handy to be able to react quickly to unpredictable scenarios like this one.
As we now say…welcome to the new normal…. a mix of working from home and working from the office, it’s an employee’s choice in collaboration with their team.