Steven Rafferty of US cloud-based communications provider RingCentral discusses how businesses can adapt to Covid-19 and the 'new normal' of remote working


Many businesses look likely to allow employees to work from home indefinitely even after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have been lifted (Credit: Vlada Karpovich)

Businesses are rapidly having to get to grips with new technologies and approaches designed to make the transition to post-Covid-19 remote working run as smoothly as possible. Steven Rafferty, country manager for the UK and Ireland at US cloud-based communications provider RingCentral, discusses how this can be done effectively moving forward. 


“We’re all in this together.”

Over the past few months, this phrase has dominated the news, political speeches, communications from companies to employees and even our own family conversations.

This pandemic is the first time — in every capacity – we are facing the same crisis in every country across the world.

While it has progressed at differing rates, and affected people according to circumstance, there has been some comfort in the knowledge that we are all feeling our way through together.

The situation has been painfully unpredictable.

And, while many businesses may have planned for a few weeks of working from home, a permanent overhaul of the way we operate is looking far more likely moving forward.

A recent Gartner report found that 41% of employees want to continue working remotely even after the crisis has passed, and big businesses like Barclays and Twitter have already announced indefinite work from home policies.

As businesses enter recovery mode and CFOs look to cut expenses as a result, physical office space seems like an obvious place to start.

Some businesses are even discussing new ways of collaborating – where employees occasionally come together within a shared space for a few hours for ideation sessions.

covid-19 remote working ringcentral
Steven Rafferty, country manager for the UK and Ireland at RingCentral (Credit: RingCentral)


Adjusting to remote working after Covid-19

This sudden change in attitude towards remote working, which was historically regarded as a luxury and been shrouded in cynicism, has been staggering.

It’s evidence that the work environment has transformed for the long haul.

However, with this attitude change comes the need for a physical change – particularly in the technology tools currently deployed.

Before 2020, there had been limited adoption of “remote working”, despite much talk.

So, when it was time to pivot, many businesses opted for tools openly available to them.

This has worked well up until now. Yet, as we look into this new horizon of possibilities, we must also use the last few months as guidance, learning from the many challenges that our remote workforce has faced thus far.

Pre-pandemic, IT teams looked for durable, robust and high-secure office systems – and they may have found them.

Yet, the enormous — albeit unintentional —- remote working experiment that has taken place exposed gaps in our current systems: either they aren’t human enough to provide fluid connection, or more commonly, they don’t offer adequate security backing to protect sensitive information.

Equally, there have been challenges around collaboration and connectivity, with teams working hard — through trial and error — to keep everyone up to speed.

Ironically, to tackle these challenges we must revert to square one: the human experience.


Technology and humanity

At its core, we know that to succeed long-term, all businesses need to be human-led.

And as people, we need to feel connected, understood and motivated.

Any technology introduced into our world, therefore, must help us attain these needs in a better way than before— it must enhance our experiences.

It’s important to remember that it’s our intelligence, compassion and collaboration that forms the beating heart of any successful company; technology is simply a vehicle for this (granted, one that’s becoming ever more important).

Moving forward, we’ll need to adopt platforms that listen and respond to our thought streams, that are able to support open conversation and collaboration.

Of course, there’s also an element of trust and security that needs to be considered.

The platforms that a lot of us habitually use to connect with friends and family are fit for purpose, but in the longer term, might not be robust enough for business needs.

For remote communication to run effectively on a permanent basis, we need to prioritise flexibility and security in equal measure.


A new era for businesses?

This why businesses, like ours, have ploughed so much into research and development.

This has helped us to understand how best to pair human interaction with purpose-built intelligence.

Now, much sooner than we’d ever expected, is the time for that technology to take the podium.

This period has prompted a huge learning curve that transcends markets and industries.

While there are inevitably challenges ahead, I am wholly comforted by how the people around me have adapted so seamlessly.

As a collective, we’ve done a fantastic job of staying ultra-connected and supporting one another during this uncertain time.

Now, we’ll use the learnings from our global experiment to educate business decisions moving forward.

This is a completely new era of business communication; the road ahead is undeniably rocky, but I’m excited to see where it’ll take us.