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How employers can utilise digital tools to equip the remote workplace, meet employment responsibilities and keep the business running.

One positive outcome from the pandemic lockdowns is that many of us have found remote working to be a viable alternative to the office. The Spinoff recently pointed out that, back in 2018, only one in ten of us worked regularly from home, adding that an OECD report suggests as many as two-fifths of New Zealand’s workforce could work from home for at least part of each week.

A Stats NZ labour force survey in September 2020 found the most likely home-working industries to be financial and insurance services (71%); information media and telecommunications (66%); professional, scientific, technical, admin and support services (59%), and rental, hiring and real estate services (58%). Strong chances are that this list covers your business.

In a previous post, we looked at proven strategies for a thriving remote team. In this article, we’ll look at what the ‘new normal’ of increased remote working means for employers.


Nutting out the details

Digital technology has leapt forward to facilitate this rapid and profound shift in our current and future working options, but not so employment law. It takes time to pass legislation, and, in the short term at least, employer–staff relations are going to fall back on the underlying principle of ‘good faith’.

So if you’re a manager, you’ll be discussing working conditions with your staff, such as:

• how many days (and what hours) they will be remote working
• any technology and equipment they’ll need at home
• issues of health, safety, well-being and security, and
• to what extent the company can reimburse staff for expenses.

Having clarity around these points will smooth the transition between the office and home environments. Health and safety is a key area, given that the 2015 Act outlines greater responsibilities for both employer and employee. There are also new Determinations issued by Inland Revenue to cover remote working allowances and reimbursements. Clearly, it’s important that companies keep up with employment law, especially with regard to remote working.

What all of this means is that we’re in a limbo where both companies and their people are scrambling to adapt. Meanwhile, everyone needs to be able to do their job – whether it’s accounts and payroll, sales and marketing, document processing, or forecasting and strategy – and keep communications open.


Digital and cloud solutions

If your company has not yet migrated its business systems to the cloud, now is the right time. MS Dynamics 365 Business Central, brings together all of your data in a unified, scalable end-to-end ERP system, and users can access it from anywhere.

There are Olympic solutions  to every part of the operational pipeline, ensuring work can continue while your people work remotely. You will, for instance be able to: 
  • Digitise and automate documents and processes, leading to greater efficiency, speed and transparency of operations – Olympic DX2.
  • Keep your ecommerce platform up to date – which is vital at a time when online sales are frequently the sole option – Olympic Trader.
  • Log working hours, staff activity and expenses, leading to closer integration with remote-working staff – Olympic Go.
  • Deploy a suite of low-code tools for visualisation, app customisation and automation, and even enable staff to capture health and safety data on a mobile device for later reporting – MS Power Platform.


Case story: Dairy Holdings

The Ashburton head office of Dairy Holdings Ltd (DHL), which manages 59 dairy farms in the South Island, was struggling to process monthly accounts in a timely manner, due to the difficulty in getting physical sign-offs on paperwork. (Some invoices require multiple approvers, including farm manager, supervisor and sharemilker.) They sought a new process that would not only streamline the process but also flag queries or errors early on.

Olympic brought key stakeholders together to map out a solution, which involved the Olympic DX2 digital document exchange platform. Paper/PDF documents are digitised, enabling approved parties to apply financial coding or analysis at document level, with in-document messaging enabling instant communication with internal and external parties.

Using DX2 allows DHL to code invoices on a daily basis, leading to immediate approvals, eliminating the month-end bottleneck, reducing double-handling and enabling queries to be resolved quickly. ‘Olympic has offered a great support network,’ says DHL’s CFO, Morgan Galbraith. Company accountant Alannah Lovett adds, ‘The feedback so far from our accounts team and our farm managers has been really positive. DX2 is user-friendly, and the security of knowing that every invoice has been signed off as per the delegated authority is invaluable.’


A win–win roadmap

Collectively, Olympic’s tools can move all of your business operations into the cloud and within reach of all staff – wherever they’re working – while also realising cost and productivity efficiencies.

Taking advantage of digital and cloud solutions therefore can present companies – and their staff – with a win–win scenario. It becomes possible not only to sustain the business pipeline through remote working, but also to help employers meet their responsibilities to personnel.

A recent ThinkPlace report on the future of work in New Zealand neatly summarised the path ahead: ‘Policy makers, business leaders and innovators need to act fast – government has a role to play in defining a unifying roadmap to the future, but this shouldn’t hold up trying new things right now.’