The pandemic sheds light on what is favoured and necessary to support a current remote workforce.
There is no doubt that technology has spearheaded a working generation adept in its latest advancements, namely, to support a home environment that replaces a traditional office one. The technology sphere sought tremendous demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, paving the way for novel trends and exacerbated the adoption of previous ones. As the working society grows more used to working from home, we are more certain of the forerunning technologies.
Every year, the media populates with articles highlighting the latest technology trends, often loaded with rundowns of what the technologies are and their everyday applications. Of course, these articles quickly become redundant, due to technologies rapid acceleration for improvement and innovation. Rather, we are fed news to upkeep with its current placement in research. For 2021, research largely surrounded artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things, and platform digitalisation (including the surge of mobile applications).
What we didn’t know was how these would be implemented across industries and jobs in Malta. Typically, organisations such as healthcare and financial services are resistant to apply novel technologies, largely due to the importance that these services are offered in-person. Healthcare and banking protect highly sensitive personal data at a large volume, leaving hesitancy and growing cybersecurity concerns.
Surprisingly, these industries were quick to implement technologies to support a largely remote society. They already knew that before the pandemic, the populace were growing more frustrated at a lack of online presence to conveniently support their needs.
Come the pandemic, organisations already adapted to the latest technology thrived in handling consumer needs, whereas those industries that did not fell quickly behind. Nevertheless, industries maintaining banking and finance jobs in Malta and abroad rose to the challenge—especially banking, education, and healthcare institutions implemented technologies to support their services in a matter of months—amendments no one saw coming.
A Hybrid Model of Work
Perhaps one of the greatest changes the pandemic wrought on the working population is a shift to a majority working from home, a stark contrast from flexible arrangements whereby remote work was just a job perk. A report conducted by Upwork (2021) presented that 1 in 4 Americans are expected to remain fully remote this year, and many employers believe remote jobs to grow exponentially in the next few years. Common benefits that support remote work is its flexibility and increased productivity, positives that are shared by both employers and employees.
As time passed and the pandemic remains a feature focus of our everyday lives, recent research follows whether digital workplaces are still popular among diverse industries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many workers are happy to continue working from home, and expect business models to adapt to support a flexible approach to the work environment. A recent report conducted by PwC (2021) found 72% of participants ideally want a mixture of remote and in-office work. Further, workplace priorities have shifted to support e-learning and training initiatives to upskill employees.
Investments into Digital Workstations
As it becomes clearer that a remote working society will be the norm even after the pandemic remits, technology is moving toward better hardware and software to support digital workstations. The idea is a fully functioning office space curated in your own home, encompassing all the benefits remote work brings whilst combatting concerns such as social isolation.
Presently, funding goes toward office supplies and less to support employees working from home (an issue well documented in research). But soon enough this will change—as employers and employees discover their preferences lean toward a home office, investments will eventually follow suit.
One of the most popular software thus far has been video conferencing mediums to maintain connectivity between family, friends, and colleagues, especially during tight lockdown regulations that occurred internationally. In the past, Skype was the holy grail of these mediums, whereas today, several compete to achieve the same level of standard. We are all, to different degrees, accustomed to Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meets, and so forth, all of which are constantly updating for optimisation.
And these updates are only at the beginning of their hefty lifespan. In a report conducted by Ericsson (2020) around 6 in 10 participants foresee video conferencing software to dominate online meetings. Their research also highlighted the downfalls of home offices—namely, for individuals living with their families, the home can be a disruptive and noisy atmosphere. Microsoft Teams has already accommodated their software to include noise suppression as an option to filter out background information. Although there’s still room for improvement to match an office environment, it is only a matter of time until these software better support remote jobs.
The Rise of E-Learning Platforms
Albeit the workforce is pushing for learning and training initiatives to support professional development, the rise of e-learning platforms originates from global school closures and other educative facilities. UNESCO, a leading agency for the United Nations (UN), kept track of worldwide school closures in order to measure its impact on the global community. They found that, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.6 billion children in 195 countries were sent home across the globe, shocking figures that necessitated the need for better online educative resources.
The need to upskill employees to retain talent and accessible education material are urging technologies to strengthen platforms to support e-learning, applicable to a wide array of industries and training initiatives. This demand will only increase alongside investments into digital workstations, pressuring software to evolve.
Although e-learning platforms require organisational support, such as dedicated learning teams, platforms such as Udemy and Coursera are experiencing increased usage due to the pandemic. And as institutions work to make such platforms more accessible across countries, these will only become more popular with time.
Further Digital Support
Widespread technologies such as contactless payments have been around since the 1990s, but it is only recently that these have been implemented across thousands of banks, retailers, and merchants. Because of Covid-19, such payments are nowadays standard to prevent hands from touching multiple surfaces, such as inputting a pin.
In Malta, contactless payments were introduced in 2016 and became the normal payment method for the sake of safety against the pandemic. More recently, in 2021, public transport such as busses implemented contactless payment as well. These naturally followed online banking initiatives implemented for finance jobs in Malta, but are not unheard of in other countries. These safer and intelligent creations are thanks to innovative AI, advanced processors and memory chips, improved image sensors, and quicker communication networks, which will only grow smarter in the coming years.
To conclude, the Covid-19 pandemic has urged technologies to advance at a much faster pace to accommodate the needs of employees worldwide—and we can only expect for these to improve in the following months. As we learn disparities exist within communities in terms of technology accessibility, research will continue to discover policy recommendations to support the new working society. The above examples portray a small window into the going’s on with technology to showcase its widespread applicability in diverse industries.
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