A strong dose of remote-working may just be the cure for the growing talent crunch worldwide, if implemented inclusively.

While COVID-19 pushes employers to undertake what has been described as “the world’s largest remote working experiment”, flexible work models and secure digital collaboration technologies will be critical to staying competitive in these uncertain times.

Intelligent and inclusive virtual working (also known as remote-working or telecommuting) not only help companies maintain employee engagement and business continuity, but also create opportunities to dip into untapped pools of talent, such as part-time, contract, home and gig workers who have the capacity to fill required roles and the flexibility to be productive from their preferred locations.

Having sound flexible work policies and digital workspace readiness programs can hence prove to be a source of growth for companies still looking to fill roles amidst a longstanding talent crunch.

In fact, a recent study conducted by the Center for Economics and Business Research found that 69% of people who currently choose to stay unemployed or economically inactive, would be willing to start working if given the opportunity to work flexibly.

Injecting productivity amidst unpredictability

Employers should therefore recognize the value that digitally-enabled remote productivity can offer. These economic benefits are dependent on businesses adopting a flexible working culture and implementing technology that enables employees to work from anywhere effectively. Leveraging the automation, scale, and ubiquity of cloud technology, digital workspaces can give people access to applications and information needed to come together virtually and get work done from their homes—or wherever they happen to be—in a productive, safe and secure manner.

Savvy organizations that have such digital workspaces as a foundation of their business continuity plans, will demonstrate the agility, speed and efficiency required to manage resources in dynamic ways that unpredictable business environments demand.

Take the University of Sydney for example. Uncertainty and travel bans related to the pandemic meant that the its more-than-14,000 Chinese students were unable to travel to Australia from China. The University quickly moved to address the issue, by leveraging digital workspaces to connect its China-based staff and students to the applications and data they need to continue teaching and learning from the comfort and safety of their residences.

Optimizing individual work experiences

Virtual workspaces not only provide benefits to the organization by enabling employees to be productive from anywhere. More importantly, the approach enables employees to balance their own personal needs with their work needs. For example, working remotely will allow those who have put careers on hold to care for children, or the retired who are still capable, to be productive from anywhere while still balancing their personal needs with their workloads. Work-life balance has proven to be critical to driving positive engagement and having a good balance ultimately delivers a better employee experience.

This is why when employees cannot physically get to their office, they must be empowered to work digitally. After all, work should not be a place or physical location, but an endeavor that a person takes on. Companies must understand that with the proliferation of collaborative and conferencing solutions, workers today will expect employers to enable such digital capabilities to be built into the way they work, every day.

It has become common sight to see people working and even hosting online meetings from cafes and at the airport, and still generate business results. Workspace technologies are the key drivers of the movement: they allow remote, secure and efficient access to required apps, data and workflows, by ensuring that the employee experience and productivity out of any location remains consistent.

Fringe benefit: sustainability

Digital workspaces bring about environmental benefits, too. Sustainability and climate justice are no longer lip service, but corporate goals for companies now. With increasing frequency, enterprises are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, and remote working is a cost-effective and simple method to achieve these goals—evidenced by statistics from co-working space provider Regus which potentially indicates that increasing adoption of virtual working from sub-urban residences can help a city reduce up to 118 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

With greater adoption of flexible working practices and workplace solutions, companies can operate from smaller-scale offices and reduce the number of commuting hours and vehicles on the roads.

Few things in business are certain, and it is critical to always expect change. The pace of change will also become faster than ever before. Companies that adopt digital workspaces, to create flexible collaborative environments, can provide employees with everything they need to be and perform at their best, and not only keep the business moving, but quickly move ahead in an uncertain world.