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If new modes of working are not to become frustrating and unproductive, businesses need to ensure their workers have a seamless connected experience, wherever they’re working from.

McKinsey called it a “quantum leap” and said business has been transformed forever. An article for Time declared that it “has become a moment to literally redefine what is work”. And Scientific American noted that since work takes up a lot of people’s time, talent and potential, “workers are increasingly demanding that it offer a sustainable and rewarding quality of life in return”.

There’s no doubt that the way we work has changed post-pandemic. The challenge: how to keep workers connected wherever they choose to do their job, which can be trickier than many businesses imagine.

Expectations have shifted

Workers’ expectations of post-pandemic routines are very different to what went before. When faced with a return to commuting, the noise of open plan offices and the inflexibility of employers, many decided to quit – a phenomenon dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’ by Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University. Apple CEO Tim Cook experienced this shift in expectations first-hand when he laid out his proposals for a new hybrid work regime, with some Apple employees openly expressing their frustration. Desperate to hold on to their talent, other tech companies approached things differently. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, for example, tweeted that while Twitter was open for business, and travel was back on the agenda, “decisions about where you work, whether you feel safe travelling for business and what events you attend, should be yours”.

Of course, not all workers have this luxury. Bricks don’t get laid virtually, and robots are still not sophisticated enough to care for elderly patients or drive taxis in busy city centres. But hybrid working is high on the business agenda precisely because it’s the most valuable workers in the biggest skill shortage areas that are the ones most likely to want to redefine the way they work. With more than 70 per cent of knowledge workers expecting a hybrid workplace, according to research by Harvard Business School, there’s no turning the clock back. And, as Mark Lobosco, VP of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn, noted, having invested in the tools required to facilitate home working, “there’s no real reason to turn back”.

Dealing with the complications

The global telecoms industry responded admirably to the massive surge in data traffic and the huge shift in demand that resulted from the pandemic. Overnight telcos had to cope with workers connecting to the cloud and corporate systems via suburban broadband rather than from offices sitting on dense fibre networks in city centres. When face-to-face meetings became virtual, the scramble to adopt digital collaboration tools and video conferencing applications fuelled demand for data, higher quality of service and assured availability. The situation was exacerbated and complicated by competition for network resources. Working parents struggled to balance their needs with those of their children who were studying via video lessons or streaming media and gaming for entertainment.

Although workers were initially relieved just to be connected, their expectations and their frustrations quickly rose. With hybrid working now here to stay, businesses are challenged with ensuring a quality network experience in order to retain key staff and maximise their productivity wherever they’re working, whatever network they’re using and whenever they need to connect.

Delivering premium, any-network support

Successfully addressing the new hybrid working paradigm requires telcos to shift their business model and rapidly evolve the support they provide. Today, they sell data volumes, one-size-fits-all connectivity based on tiered speeds, best-efforts service quality and standard (often frustrating) customer support. In future, they’ll need to provide guaranteed outcomes and premium omnichannel support. Making this transition requires them to have far greater visibility and control over the real-time experience of individual workers so that they can adapt network capabilities to their changing needs. But it’s what they do when things don’t work as expected that will largely determine whether they’re able to attract and retain business customers.

In the hybrid working era, both workers and businesses are going to expect a step-change in the way they’re being supported. It will no longer be good enough to deal with customer complaints and enquiries efficiently. With business productivity increasingly dependent on network quality and availability, telcos must become more proactive with regards to support and more communicative with their customers.

Not only will they need to pinpoint and fix faults faster, but they will also need to prioritise what gets fixed according to how it’s affecting customers. At the same time, they need to keep customers informed. But they need to do better than generic updates that are irrelevant to many customers. In future, communications will need to be both accurate and up-to-date, as well as targeted at customers affected. Helping customers identify what’s causing their problems – even if this isn’t the network itself but an application, device or service conflict – will be part of the premium support that telcos will need to deliver.

Delivering this type of premium support to hybrid workers requires telcos to have easy access to a level of real-time network performance data they haven’t had in the past for both broadband and mobile networks. Real-time data about all the networks workers are using – whether those are 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, broadband or full-fibre – is the key to telcos delivering the quality network experience and premium support services business customers will come to expect. This will ensure hybrid working doesn’t turn into The Great Frustration and has the best possible chance of success.

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Originally published on Business Reporter

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