Welcome to this Week in Remote Work! You may be wondering – once the pandemic is over and we all start getting back to “normal”, won’t the name of this blog series (with the emphasis on “Remote Work”) be obsolete? As you’ll see in some of this week’s articles – and hundreds more articles, reports, and studies – it’s not likely that “remote work” will go out of style anytime soon, even after we’re able to go back into the office.
Granted, the term du jour at that point will likely be “hybrid work” – the model where people split their days between the office and home – and we’re already seeing that become a prominent topic of conversation as organizations of all sizes look to plan well in advance for whatever the future of work will look like.
So with that in mind, let’s dig into this week’s stories:
1) Will hybrid work actually work? What companies and workers should consider in a post-pandemic world (USA Today)
Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research is one of the most quoted and published analysts when it comes to B2B tech trends – and for good reason. His latest article for USA Today does a great job of breaking down the many questions organizations should be asking themselves NOW in order to properly prepare and put a long-term hybrid work strategy in place. It’s a great reminder that – just as the shift from working in the office to everyone working from home wasn’t a particularly smooth shift for most organizations – the shift from our current situation to a hybrid model will be similarly complex.
The problem is that there’s no clear answer on how to best approach this challenge. One common theme that has emerged is the concept of hybrid work, which essentially entails people continuing to work part of the time at home and part of the time back in their offices. (Of course, the word “hybrid” can be interpreted in many ways, so there seems to be an enormous number of variations on this overall theme.)
When talking about both remote and hybrid work, “an enormous number of variations to this overall theme” seems like an understatement. But I think that’s Bob’s point – and he goes into good detail on the various questions orgs should be asking themselves to determine which variation of hybrid work will be right for them and their employees.
There is no question that the pandemic has forced companies and individual employees to rethink their work practices, schedules, policies and more. And I am convinced that we will see important, positive changes to how we work coming out of our collective experience – not the least of which is a better sense of work-life balance.
I also believe that the ability to work from virtually anywhere – as long as you have internet connectivity – will provide us with new ways of working. Fully embracing a completely hybrid work environment without thinking through the critical details that might come with it, however, could end up being an expensive exercise in frustration.
One thing is certain – many people will never be going back to an office, period. They’ve moved to more affordable areas because they were told they could, so going back into the office regularly simply isn’t possible or expected. And even those who do go back into the office on a hybrid basis – they’ll have a similar need as their fully-remote colleagues – the ability to maintain simple, seamless access to all of the apps they need to be productive no matter where they happen to be working from on any given day. That’s going to be the one constant – everyone needs to be able to work within a single environment that stays consistent regardless of where they’re located. And that’s where Digital Workspaces can help. Check out our previous post on why Hybrid Work will actually increase the need for seamless Digital Workspaces moving forward.
2) “We’re Not Going Back” – The Post-Pandemic Workplace is Hybrid (AllWork)
Sticking with the Hybrid Work theme, this post from AllWork discusses a recent presentation from an IDC analyst and why, even after people are vaccinated, hybrid work will become the norm.
Will we all switch back to office work and forget about our newly equipped home offices? Will hybrid work be scrapped? Will spoke offices suddenly fall empty as workers return to city centres in their droves?
Mick Heys, vice president of IDC Future of Workplace and Imaging in Europe, believes not.
Presenting research from IDC for a recent virtual conference by the GWA, supported by essensys, Heys suggested that “change will persist” even beyond a full vaccination programme.
Why won’t we simply go back to the office like before?
Broadly speaking, it’s because there is a general realisation that flexible work has proven beneficial. In a number of ways, at least.
So, what are some of those benefits? IDC’s research found that:
…the benefits to both employer and employee are significant:
- It reduces the cost, time and stress of commuting
- This leads to a better employee experience, which improves talent retention
- Employers realise that remote work can and does work (although working from home is not necessarily the right solution)
- Employers save on costs associated with commercial real estate and facilities management
There’s a lot more to unpack in the article, but suffice to say that this one is a really good read that is chock full of great survey stats that help illustrate, once again, why remote and hybrid are the future of work.
3) Remote working: Employees say these four things will make them more productive (Citrix Blog)
To really double down on this thread – here’s an article about hybrid work written by Brad Casemore, a Research VP at IDC, for the Citrix blog.
IDC foresees a next normal that will look different from the pre-pandemic normal. A hybrid workspace is materializing, with some employees reporting to the office, others working from home, and a significant complement working both at home and at the office. Again, this development carries implications for the network infrastructure that supports secure application delivery.
He goes on to explain:
CIOs and CTOs are realizing that those and other changes will be required to reap the full benefits of an engaged and productive distributed workforce. The WFH environment is different in many respects — socially and technologically — from the traditional office environment, which is architected and engineered to the purpose of work. As both applications and employees become increasingly distributed in the cloud era, each organization will have to give careful thought to how productive digital engagement can be established and maintained through optimized, secure network access to SaaS, IaaS, and on-premises applications for employees whose hybrid workspaces will represent significant departures from the fixed orientations of the pre-COVID period.
You’re speaking our language, Brad. For most employees, one of the biggest things they need to remain productive regardless of their location or situation, is seamless access to their applications anywhere, on any device, from the cloud. This is not the ONLY issue that needs to be solved for organizations to thrive in an era of hybrid work, but it is a big one. Luckily enabling this no longer requires the massive investments (of time, money, and people) of yesteryear when it comes to deploying heavy, complex virtual desktop environments – all of that is solved by simpler, more cost-effective Virtual App Delivery technologies.
4) Remote working: Employees say these four things will make them more productive (TechRepublic)
This article approaches the hybrid and remote work topic from a different angle, with a greater focus on the current employee experience. A study of 1,000 enterprise employees revealed that:
While more than two-thirds (67%) of employees said they were getting more work done while working from home, 50% said a more flexible work schedule – such as being able to set their own schedules or having more freedom to change their routines – would help them improve productivity.
Now, this could simply be a reference to people wanting a bit more flexibility in their schedule so they can build in and work around their family duties, etc. But I think this touches on a much bigger topic that you’ve likely been reading more about – especially if you follow GitLab’s Darren Murph – which is asynchronous communication (“async” for short). Async is the process of communicating and moving projects forward even when people (especially largely distributed remote workforces) are not in the same time zone or available at the same time. It the removal of the expectation that – just because you send a message 5 minutes ago, doesn’t mean the other person will (or should have to) respond right away.
I think that a lot of the issues and stats that this article covers could all be solved in large part by a better understanding and adoption of asynchronous communication. If you want to learn more about async, here’s the definitive tome on async from the GitLab team.
5) From Trend to Tactic: What‘s Here to Stay in 2021 (Insight Partners)
And now for something very different than the articles above, and quite fun. The smart folks at Insight Partners have put together a really well-produced, interactive report on the key trends from 2020 that will have the greatest impact on 2021. It covers six main topic areas, and it will come as no surprise that the feedback they gathered from experts on every one of these topics all points back to one big overarching trend – remote work. Here’s an example from each of the 6 sections showing how remote work continues to dominate every aspect of business:
Sales & Customer Success
Remote Selling is here to stay (even after the pandemic). Companies that train their reps in effective video and email communication and who embrace new technologies will have a significant advantage over their peers. Re-evaluate your tools to ensure that they’re meeting the needs of remote selling.
The only thing that marketers can depend on in 2021 is that change is the constant. COVID should be viewed as the “great accelerator,” as many nascent disruptions simply got accelerated.
This year upended the workforce in many ways – and HR was central to managing through this disruption. Suddenly, HR leaders went from a supporting role to the center of the storm during a massive human capital crisis. From shutting down offices (nearly overnight) to dealing with employee health and safety concerns, a lot of responsibility fell on HR leaders’ shoulders.
The acceleration of innovation in digital change looks to continue in 2021, and we may even see a permanent shift to this high pace. We already know that the virtual or hybrid workplace will be a permanent part of the office landscape.
For CXOs in the IGNITE community it’s more important than ever to be plugged in to the ScaleUp software ecosystem, able to access the technology that will drive change. This also means leaning on personal networks to learn from others and investing time in cultivating and growing new connections – even if they’re virtual for now.
As many companies reevaluated their product priorities through COVID and WFH, they made the decision that ‘buy’ was a faster, more cost effective way than ‘build’ for key roadmap items that were slightly outside of their core focus areas.
Product & Technology
What areas were accelerated?
Prior to 2020 product leaders were on the fence about remote work, with some organizations supporting it, some fully embracing it, and others ardently focused on colocation as essential to problem solving and innovation. As the pandemic hit, companies faced the stark reality that their teams needed to be able to work from anywhere.
Thanks for joining us for another edition of This Week in Remote Work, and we hope to see you back here next Friday. In the meantime, please share with the community in the comments below what great articles you’ve been reading lately!