In March 2020, many sectors of work came to a screeching halt. High street shops shut their doors, hairdressers and salons closed, and thousands of people relocated from the office to the safety of their homes. In fact, the Office for National Statistics reported that in April 2020, 46.6 percent of people in employment were working from home and of this number, 86 percent were doing so due to the pandemic.
However, while almost half of the UK’s workforce switched to remote working, for a large number of people the nature of their work made this impossible and thus they faced a new challenge. For the tens of thousands of mobile employees in the public sector, for example, the idea of working remotely was never a viable option. Instead, the organisations within this sector had to drastically alter their procedures and protocols to keep workers safe, while at the same time delivering the same quality of service.
Now, as the UK navigates its way out of lockdown, the big question remains: what will post-COVID worklife look like? For office workers it seems increasingly likely that remote working – at least some of the time – is here to stay. Many media outlets have been reporting with similar sentiment to The Times which claimed that flexible working will likely become, “a permanent feature of British life after coronavirus, with [government] plans to strengthen employees’ rights to work from home or ask for different hours”.
However, for mobile workers their road through lockdown took a very different route, but how exactly have their roles changed during this time and what may their roles evolve into as the UK continues along its roadmap out of lockdown?
At the height of the pandemic, unable to work from home, many businesses had to adapt the way in which they carried out their work, finding solutions that kept both the employees and the customer safe. However, at the same time as putting safety first, employers also had to find a way to carry out their new work procedures in a cost-effective and productive manner, still ensuring they remained compliant with regulation and SLAs in spite of the drastic changes.
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Consequently, businesses supporting the public sector and their mobile workers increasingly turned to technology to solve the challenges brought about by new restrictions, while also safeguarding the workforce. Although these changes were expedited by the need to keep the public safe during a pandemic, there is little doubt that they have proved to be useful. Looking forward, it seems likely many of these changes will stay and continue to evolve as the industry adapts to a post-COVID world.
Cutting costs and boosting efficiency
With budgets tightening in the current economic climate, many businesses are feeling the strain to keep a tight control of expenditure, while also streamlining practices such as scheduling, reporting and analytics. Therefore, technology that simultaneously cuts costly manual tasks – saving time and eliminating human error – while also being more cost effective, is proving to be an invaluable asset to organisations with a large mobile workforce. For example, operations managers responsible for vehicles spread across local authority regions or further afield need to be able to send workers to appointments at a variety of different locations. As a manual task this can prove to be time-consuming and prone to errors, and so a technology-based solution is ideal in this situation.
Live dynamic scheduling technology is one resolution. This technology allows operations managers to use automated updates to improve efficiencies, track the movement of company vehicles with more accuracy, and allow for faster communication between employees, leading to improved decision making. Arguably the most invaluable part of this technology is the ability to reallocate jobs in real time. For example, an employee currently en route to one site can be reallocated to a new site immediately, if it’s found to be more pressing or time efficient. Thus, allowing for faster, more productive completion of tasks.
Prioritising a safe work environment
Even outside of the world of COVID, ensuring the safety of their employees is one of the most important areas businesses need to address and one where technology can help immeasurably. Specifically in the realm of mobile and public sector work, monitoring the location and wellbeing of workers is essential, as many employees spend large portions of the day travelling and are likely working alone. In this situation technological advancements have proved vital, specifically the development of lone worker solutions, video diagnostic technologies and staff wellbeing trackers which allow for real-time visibility of the current status of staff. Additionally the ability to store and access detailed information from past jobs means employers are able to evidence this data at a later date, if the need presents itself.
The road ahead
The changes brought about by the events of 2020 have altered the way many people perceive and access public services. Therefore, on both a local and national scale, organisations within the public sector must continue to adapt and evolve in the long term. The way these businesses have adjusted their work has proved that prioritising staff wellbeing and ensuring that services are carried out with efficiency – and to the same high standard that customers are used to – are not mutually exclusive. Today’s technology allows for businesses to carry out both objectives without sacrificing one for the other and will continue to do so as organisations look to the future.