When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, businesses around the world reacted by adopting work-from-home (WFH) policies en masse. At first, many in the business community believed the move would lead to a precipitous drop in productivity. But that’s not what happened.

Instead, productivity boomed as workers adjusted to the new normal. And as a result, countless businesses are now considering making WFH a permanent part of their operations and accelerating their efforts toward digitization. And as they do, they’ll begin to unlock some additional opportunities to improve their business operations and performance.

But to take advantage of those opportunities, businesses must understand the new capabilities the shift to WFH and increased digitization creates. To help businesses to make the most of this transformative change, here are three ways businesses can leverage the shift to WFH and the digitization it entails to further improve efficiency and create more positive business outcomes.

Deploy a Workforce Analytics Solution

One of the things that used to worry business leaders about WFH is the relative lack of visibility they had into the doings of their off-site workers. But today, that’s no longer the case. Now, businesses can monitor the productivity of their employees using remote work software that includes time tracking and task management functionality.

With such a solution in place, businesses can collect data that reveals a great deal about how their workers spend their time. And that information is an invaluable source of knowledge to inform efforts at increasing productivity. It can, for example, reveal that an overabundance of mandatory meetings is disrupting workers’ ability to get things done. Or, it could help the business reveal which hours are most productive for each employee — so the business can adjust work schedules accordingly.

Reimagine Workflows With WFH in Mind

Although it shouldn’t be shocking, there are plenty of business workflows that don’t translate well from an in-office setting to a WFH environment. Some, for example, could depend on informal face-to-face communications or other procedures that aren’t possible or ideal in a WFH setting. In those cases, the most obvious solution would be to codify those communications and carry them out through videoconferencing or a digital chat solution.

But the most obvious solution isn’t always the most efficient one. Instead, businesses should take the opportunity to rethink their workflows to see if there are more efficient means of carrying them out in a WFH context. For example, they might choose to reimagine their sales process with digital tools in mind. Where they once relied on phone calls to schedule client meetings, they might instead turn to an automated online appointment system. That would digitize a key component of the sales workflow while eliminating disruptive mandatory communication standards.

Embrace Data-Driven Decision-making

As mentioned earlier, one of the key advantages of the shift to WFH is that it creates an incentive for businesses to further digitize their operations. The use of analytics tools and the adoption of additional digital tools to support a decentralized workforce comes with the benefit of creating reams of useful business performance data. And at a minimum, that data can inform some common-sense tweaks to operations.

But it can also become the foundation of a new way to approach business decision-making. Rather than operating on instinct and supposition, businesses can instead embrace a data-driven approach to decision-making. Studies have shown that data-driven companies are 58% more likely to exceed their revenue goals — owing mostly to their increased efficiency — so there are good reasons for them to do it.

To make it happen, businesses must first find a business intelligence platform that suits their particular needs and integrate it with their existing technology. And then, they should provide appropriate training to managers at every level in the use of data reports to inform their decisions. That not only puts information into the hands of those best suited to operationalize it but also gives those people the tools they need to make the most of the insight.

The Takeaway

Right now, businesses have an almost unprecedented opportunity to reinvent themselves in light of the ongoing shift toward WFH and digitization. And for those that make efforts to realize the benefits that can create, it should supercharge their ability to compete and succeed in their respective markets. And those that don’t will increasingly find themselves left behind — relics of a business era that ended abruptly and almost without warning.