COVID-19 has profoundly altered the workplace, forcing us to reconsider how and where we will work in the years to come. As such, organizations must make a range of cultural, operational and technological changes to support the long-term transition.
The most obvious change is the shift to work-from-home arrangements, which will likely become permanent options in most companies. According to a recent study from 451 Research, about 80 percent of businesses have implemented or expanded universal work-from-home as a result of COVID-19, and 67 percent say they plan to give employees the option to continue working remotely permanently.
Back in March, most organizations had to make some hasty decisions about how to support remote workers. With only a few days to put a plan in place, many took advantage of easy-to-acquire collaboration and conferencing solutions available in the cloud. Six months later, the cracks in that strategy are beginning to show.
Employees, managers and IT staff alike report that ad hoc adoption of tools and applications is creating disjointed technology environments. More than 40 percent of remote workers in one recent survey said they use up to 15 different apps during a typical working day, which they say contributes to higher levels of stress, anxiety and exhaustion.
Compounding the problem is the “always on” nature of remote work. Remote workers say the fact that they are highly dependent on their personal smartphones, laptops, desktops and wireless networks contributes to a blurring of the lines between their personal and professional lives. New research from the National Bureau of Economic Research supports that viewpoint, finding that the average workday for more than 3 million workers has increased by 48.5 minutes since the pandemic’s onset.
Organizations must resolve these and other issues in order to sustain remote work for the long term. Here are a few strategies to consider:
Streamline the Work-from-Home Toolbox
Standardize on business-grade communication, collaboration and remote access technologies. Eliminating duplicative consumer-grade tools will help ensure consistent interactions, reduce employee anxiety and improve security by bringing apps under the control of the IT department.
Get the Right Gear to Work From Home.
Consider supplying remote workers with the phones, computers and networking gear they need, or at least subsidize their purchase of business-grade equipment. Consumer-grade home office devices lack the processing power, durability and security for serious business usage. Bandwidth limitations are also common issues in home offices.
Secure Your Network Access.
Remote employees need to be able to access data, files and applications from the corporate network. Make sure your VPN software and firewalls are up to date, use endpoint security solutions, and require multifactor authentication for anyone accessing the network.
Stay Engaged While Working from Home.
Use employee engagement software to create a portal for soliciting feedback, conducting surveys, recognizing staff achievements and sharing information among remote workers. This can increase employee retention, productivity and job satisfaction by making employees feel respected, valued and invested in the company’s success.
Remote work will remain a long-term operational option once the current health crisis has passed because it offers significant benefits for employers and employees alike. However, companies can’t expect to sustain work-from-home operations with an assortment of free and consumer-grade tools. Our networking, communication and security specialists would be happy to show you how to future-proof your remote work operations with more robust technologies, processes and policies.