The realization that we’re living through something that will have a fairly extensive place in future history textbooks is starting to sink in. While we can find parallels between this pandemic and those of our past, for the most part this is unprecedented. In a sense we’re watching the notion that our advanced societies are impervious fall apart. We were terribly unprepared in many ways, both physically and technologically.
Recently I was reading an article from the MIT Technology review [https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/04/25/1000563/covid-19-has-killed-the-myth-of-silicon-valley-innovation/] that proclaimed the Myth of Silicon Valley innovation has been blown apart. It makes an interesting point. Many years have been spent focusing on creating the next gadget or app that makes life slightly less inconvenient. We, as an industry, have not spent much time looking at the bigger use case for technology, at least not in a mainstream way.
We’re all partially to blame. As a population there’s a degree of technophobia, the fear of letting technology into our lives and business. The idea that, for some, computers may as well have descended down from the heavens, a sudden and mysterious gift from the future, still shocks me. I think that shock may be part of the problem. The technocracy, the technological elite that is “the younger generation”, may take it for granted that we’re incredibly comfortable and well versed with the basics. There are many in the workforce that still struggle with some of the more basic concepts, much more at home with pen and paper than keyboard and mouse. With this considered, we should be mindful that the difference between being elitist and being a leader is the willingness and patience to share this comfort and knowledge with others.
So what is the relevance of the technologically adverse? Well, simply put, we’re seeing real possibilities of leaving these people behind – and it’s dangerous. We will be seeing the need for remote work and touchless digital services that require a degree of comfort with technology by customers and staff. This isn’t a short term problem either, this will be the case for some time to come, it may even be permanent. Now is the time to invest in our people and the technologies they use, there has been no better time for a new way of doing things.
But things are starting to reopen, isn’t it already going back to normal? While some areas are looking at returning to normal, it’s well communicated by the medical community that the politics of re-opening may harm people. In some jurisdictions where restaurants have been allowed to open, they have opted to stay shut. Why? They know the reality. When polled the majority of people are scared to go back to carefree journeys into crowded public spaces and workers are equally as scared to serve anyone that thinks differently.
But it’s not all doom in terms of reopening, it can be accomplished safely and sensibly. To accomplish this we propose a hybrid work model. We can have the best of both worlds. By using collaborative tools and centralized data repositories we can have a distributed workforce serving clients in the safest and most efficient ways. We can reduce risk to both staff and clients.
Let’s take a non-emergency clinic as an example. Normally you would have employees answering phones in the office, booking appointments, answering calls, etc. The outcomes of these would then be stored in a local office repository and accessible only to those in that office. In a hybrid model we know that these staff are only tied to the desk by the data repository. Let’s take that data into a secure and private cloud via tools and systems that are fully PIPEDA / HIPAA compliant. Now your booking staff can take calls using a VOIP phone system from their own homes, log into their cloud patient management system, coordinate with doctors and other medical staff, and never have unnecessary contact.
Next, let’s look at the medical staff. Do they need to be in the office? In many cases not for the first interaction. The doctor, nurse, or medical advisor now has the patient’s history digitally, can quickly text, voice, or video chat with their call takers and organizers, and then themselves video conference with their patients. They can log outcomes and other data, send the patient back to schedulers to make follow up appointments, maybe even booking an in-person appointment if feasible.
These are things you could be doing today. Idle employees can start learning new systems from home and they could be fully trained on tools that we all should have been using years ago! As it stands history can either look at this time period as a great failure to adapt or a story about human ingenuity overcoming yet another major hurdle.
The technologies that we are introducing to businesses are more reliable, secure, and accessible than ever before. A hybrid approach that minimizes direct interaction of non-essential office staff, clients, essential staff, etc is the only sensible road to recovery that we can see. It also future proofs your business from whatever comes next.