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Our New Normal – Working Remote; Tech to Make it Permanent

by | Apr 15, 2020

Shift happens. And thanks to COVID-19, it happened relatively overnight. Companies, and their employees, all over the planet are realizing that the work from home (WFH) disaster recovery plan is not only convenient and efficient, but incredibly cost effective too – and predictably will NOT remain a temporary staffing model. Millions of workers around the globe will not return to work full-time in the traditional office. We will be a more distributed workforce. Colleges and universities will also see a seismic shift in the percent of online classes.

This shift began long before COVID-19. Millennials (aka Gen Y), now the largest generation, have always demanded work-life balance – sort of an attitude of, ‘Don’t fret. Trust me to get the job done on my terms.’

A 2018 global combined survey from Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group, inclusive of 6,500 business leaders, reported that only 30% said their business was prepared to meet the changing expectations of employees most critically impacting operations – Better work-life balance; Autonomous work assignments; Flexible schedules; And working remote.

Also among the major findings of the report – Companies overestimate their organizations’ readiness to tackle the future of work.  (Yikes! That 30% is an overestimate?)  C-suite executives were substantially more comfortable with their readiness than the opinions of their senior managers.  As a betting man, I’ll double down on the senior managers’ understanding of the day-to-day. Executives and board members must get with the program, more action – less contemplation.  People support what they help create. Engage your workforce from start to finish.

Two Key Conclusions From the Report:

Two messages emerged. One, business will have to do much more to prepare their companies and workforces for the turbulence that is underway. As companies refine their strategies for managing—and shaping—the future of work, the findings suggested that employers will need to be more discerning and active in their choices, especially when it comes to preparing the workforce of the future. Two, the findings uncovered a very significant but often overlooked new force for change: a keen sense of willingness and optimism in middle-skills workers about their ability to prepare for a better future. As companies navigate these unprecedented changes, they have an unexpected ally in that task—their employees.”

Employees will enjoy substantial opportunities to save, including less spend on gasoline, vehicle wear and tear and possibly cheaper insurance as a result of low miles, wardrobe, dry cleaning, $7 foo-foo coffees and daily lunch tabs, dog walkers and likely a few more ways to pinch pennies.  I suspect many of those temporarily working remotely already have their draft presentation in place to convince the boss to make the WFH model permanent. Many estimates found within the deluge of related content on the internet suggest an employee can realistically save $4,000 or more annually.

Employers can be the big winners relative to cost-reduction. According to Global Workplace Analytics, employers can save over $11,000 annually per half-time telecommuter per year.  Where do the bulk of those savings come from?

  • Facilities, real estate
  • Cubicles, desks, chairs, cabinets and other furniture
  • Utilities – HVAC 
  • Talent acquisition & training – less turnover
  • Coffee and snack stations, water coolers and related

Beyond the cost saves, companies can now recruit nationally, or even globally, versus the small pond of a single metro area.  During my 25-year corporate career, it was always crushing to lose sensational talent as someone was a ‘trailing spouse’ following his/her spouse to another city, state or country.  With technology today, it does not have to be that way.

Ah, tech firms – the REAL winners in this WFH boom that will not be so temporary.  It will become a permanent staffing model for even it’s biggest detractors… not fond of it before this crisis.  Regardless of the past reasons for never warming up to the WFH model, executives and owners won’t be able to deny the results of how it worked out in a crisis mode.  Net message – Imagine what can be achieved when you actually spend months designing, planning, building out and implementing the architected model, instead of the cram job just rolled out with ‘bailing wire and bubble gum’ holding it together. (Small town country boy reference there.  I have many more, most not fit to print thanks to my crazy uncle Eddie.)
Tech Firms Cashing In – Below are the types of technology to consider when deploying a WFH model.

TechnologyRandom Examples*
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)Amazon Workspaces, Citrix, IBM Cloud, Cisco VXI
Cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutionsVerizon, CenturyLink, RingCentral, five9, Tata Communications, Mitel, NEC
VideoconferencingZoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, Click Meeting
File sharing, collaboration softwareDropbox, Google Drive, Cerberus, FileInvite
Collaboration software (messaging, teams, projects, etc.)Asana, Monday, Trello, Airtable, Wrike, Mavenlink, FunctionFox, Kintone
Attendance and time trackersBambooHR, BigTime, TSheets, Replicon, Timesheets, ClockShark, AccountSight, TimeClick
Productivity trackers (various degrees of)LITE: ActivTrak, Desktime Pro, Work Examiner; HEAVY: InterGuard, Staffcop Enterprise, Teramind, Veriato 360
Cybersecurity!!None give. Thousands available. More critical than ever with a distributed workforce.  Auditors and regulators will start (and end) looking here.
* Denotes examples only, not reviewed, assessed or vetted

One More Consideration – Employee access to bullet-proof policies, procedures and processes becomes paramount.  Now more than ever, in a WFH model, everyone needs to sing from the same sheet of music. And, it’s no longer an option to physically walk over to the SME’s cubical for some quick advice.  

Knowledge Sharing – A critical success factor will be a central knowledge resource that is intuitive and user-friendly, with instant access to the right materials and answers.  

Capacity (www.capacity.com) helps to pinpoint all institutional and SME knowledge, expertly packages it via artificial intelligence and machine learning, and shares it effortlessly to the masses.  Browse, search, and chat from ONE simple interface. Further, Capacity has a state-of-the-art natural language processing solution so your teams can talk to your new AI-driven ‘digital SME’ knowledge base just as they would another person. No special sentence structure or code needed.  See there – the nearby SME never left the building after all! More seriously, I have been onsite at Capacity multiple times. Brilliant solutions. Brilliant (and SWAG) people.

Thanks for reading.  Send comments to me at scott@VendorSurf.com