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As the full and far reaching implications of Covid-19, or Coronavirus, start to be felt across the UK, the need for greater resilience and agility in business has become paramount and it’s brought an important question to the fore: is your business agile enough to cope?

The UK workforce could be reduced by up to a fifth during the virus’ peak and this will present serious challenges for the economy and businesses in all sectors. Now, with the focus on delaying the spread and impact of the virus, home-working is being widely encouraged and businesses are scrambling to get their people and processes ready.

However, new figures released recently[1] suggest that the UK is not prepared for mass home-working. 55% of the UK workers surveyed have little or no experience of working from home, compared with a global average of 52%[2]. This presents a significant business continuity issue; not only are employers faced with a reduced workforce, these workers are not proficient in home working and probably don’t have the systems, hardware and tools they need to work efficiently and safely.

Truly agile organisations empower and equip their people to work where, how and when they choose. For employees to work from home in an optimal way, organisations need to have a robust digital infrastructure in place and the right tools, software, hardware and document workflows. In particular, having access to digital files from any device, anytime, anywhere is critical if employees are to remain efficient, collaborative, connected and productive.

Greater agility can also help organisations to gain competitive advantage, reduce operating costs and overheads, offer greater freedom and autonomy for workers and improve wellbeing, happiness and job satisfaction.

It’s perhaps not surprising that for this new way of working to thrive, businesses have to revisit their relationship with old habits – perhaps the most prolific of which is our reliance on paper and paper-led ways of working. When employees try to work remotely, paper-based practices can make it difficult without adequate machines. Lack of access to paper files, difficulty sharing them with colleagues and people taking central paper files off-site, all compromise efficiency and productivity, not to mention information security.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is paperless working. For businesses that have embraced agility and made the decision to be paperless or paperlite, digitised documents deliver real commercial gains. Simple to store, distribute and use, digital documents allow editing and collaboration from people in different locations in real-time. They can be shared quickly, which improves decision making and importantly, can be located easily too. It costs businesses £18 to file a document, £90 to find a misfiled document and £180[3] to reproduce a lost document – so it’s easy to see how digitisation frees up manpower and delivers real time and cost savings.

For organisations that have already embraced aspects of agile working and introduced new digital behaviours, the transition to mass home working will be easier. These businesses will be able to keep the wheels of commerce turning and maintain a duty of care to their employees simultaneously, although it will still be with its challenges. For those that haven’t, the next few months could be tricky as people and non-digital processes are put to the test.

What we know for sure is that the rapid proliferation of Covid-19 is forcing business leaders to re-examine their digital infrastructure and commitment to agile working with renewed impetus. Already, digital change, organisational agility and business continuity are climbing the boardroom agenda and commanding greater attention than ever before. Modern leaders are about to gain a very first-hand perspective on just how imperative agility is to both business survival and business success.

[1] March 2020

[2] Research by Leesman as published here.

[3] Agilico figures

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