It is hard to believe many of us have been working from home for almost a year.
The vaccine programme brings hope that a return to the office is not far off, but such seismic disruption to the world of work poses big questions about how we will do things in the future. Chief among these is how to adequately support and engage employees from home, both during the current lockdown and longer term as flexible working looks set to stay.
Good management is key to employee welfare, but it is much harder to check how colleagues are doing when teams are fragmented. Tech has helped fill the void and keep people connected during the pandemic and it can continue playing a role when homeworking becomes more of a choice than a necessity.
A range of digital tools have come to the fore in recent years that can promote employee wellbeing. Device monitoring systems, for example, can nudge people to take a break from screens.
It is true these systems have not been without controversy, including recent backlash against a Microsoft programme that gave employers data about team productivity. Employees have understandably expressed fears about their privacy and misuse of their data.
These are justifiable concerns that need to be addressed, but that does not mean we should write off this technology entirely. Device monitoring systems can help colleagues feel supported and connected to their workplaces if businesses are transparent about how and why they are being used.
Services should be anonymous and used on an opt-in basis only. Businesses must be clear in communicating the benefits of the tech, showing they are actively seeking ways to help staff rather than working against them.
If employers can establish trust in these monitoring tools, then they can have significant benefits for when we return to the office, enabling businesses, for example, to track and optimise the use of physical workplaces, which can support planning for Covid-19 safety measures.
Device monitoring technology has understandably been a source of concern. Deployed in the right way, however, it can be a supportive tool for businesses and employees alike.
Mike Cullen is co-founder of Backbone Connect