Remote work is alive and well and thriving in the U.S. and abroad. An estimated 36.2 million American employees will be working remotely by 2025. Right now, about a quarter of U.S. employees are working remotely and 16% of U.S. companies are all-remote, according to Zippia. It’s indicative of what is becoming the standard workforce environment of the future: a hybrid work environment that includes a fluid mix of remote, mobile, and on-site workspaces with a steadily increasing number of applications being delivered from the cloud. IT teams must contend with this assortment of workspaces and remote worker needs at the endpoint, and it is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. They need to achieve a fine balance between fulfilling all remote worker requests and maintaining a level of security and access control that supports the overall safety of the network.
From their perspective, remote workers want to be remote. In fact, 68% of Americans would prefer to be fully remote, Zippia notes. Their reasons are firm: 94% of employees believe their productivity is the same or higher than in the pre-remote era. Work-life balance is another key benefit: 75% believe balance is better by working remotely, according to Zippia.
IT faces a future in which productivity and remote worker support will further define their roles and expectations of what constitutes best practices in IT management. To accomplish this, IT needs to avoid these 7 deadly sins and bring their A-game to the cloud workspace:
1. Everyone Can’t Use the Same Baseball Mitt
The legacy days of making huge hardware purchases and giving everyone the same device are over. Purchasing must be calibrated and curated to match remote worker needs by job role, whether it is a mobile device, traditional laptop, or USB device for someone who works remotely but at more than one location.
Just as there are different baseball mitts to best serve each position on the field, workers need different devices to get the job done. Since remote workers access their data and apps from the cloud, they may also switch between devices when desired. Think software-enabled work first, hardware (that best fits) second.
2. Remote Workers Want Independence
Remote work has made the ‘workday’ a flexible timeframe. Workers don’t want to be calling IT in the middle of the night with an access or operations issue. IT can make many friends by enabling a first-rate, automated self-service platform.
Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and service portals can enable remote workers to quickly onboard and have more autonomy in getting issues resolved, asking questions about status, obtaining access approval, or submitting a help desk request, regardless of the hour.
3. A Security Blanket is Much Appreciated
‘System down’ is the curse of the remote worker. Besides the security measures at the network level, IT must provide airtight security at the endpoint – the domain of the remote worker.
Separating the data and apps from the endpoint device, and offering them from the cloud, helps to ensure that a worker can power up a device and securely access the apps they need to be productive, at any time and from almost anywhere. Using a lightweight, Linux-based OS to power the endpoint provides another critical layer of security.
4. No One Loves a Vacuum
Updating and patching endpoint devices have long been a mundane, time-consuming endeavor for IT teams and an unwelcome disruption for end-users that unexpectedly interferes with their workday.
Moving apps and data to the cloud and running a lean, efficient OS on the endpoint device facilitates efficient patching and updates across the enterprise. Ideally, endpoint updates and patches should be transparent and seamless but giving a heads-up on major changes ahead is an IT best practice that should not be ignored. Use Slack, Teams, or other internal communication tools to prepare workers for any form of planned disruption.
5. Walk the Digital Talk
Workers in the new, widely distributed workforce want their smartphone/mobile experience to be the blueprint for an easily flowing workspace experience. They will be inclined to stay with an organization if this occurs. That means retooling the IT stack from an on-premises collection of applications to a cloud-delivered robust stack that supports easy communication and sharing of ideas and data.
The stack must include instant messaging, conferencing, remote collaboration, and work management tools. From Asana to Zoom these tools exist. It is up to IT to supply workers with these assets but also offers any necessary training support.
6. Eliminate Bad Reviews
In the post-pandemic world, end-users have more influence and clout than ever before. And in the Yelp era, workers want IT to listen, whether it is ideas about ways to improve workflows remotely or irritations over software tools missing delivery deadlines.
Establish a 24×7 feedback channel for internal customers. Give a thoughtful timely response to inquiries. It’s another way to support a true community within the hybrid organization, with positive outcomes.
7. Advocate for the Employee
Forrester’s 2023 predictions say “In 2023, we predict acute confrontations within companies that don’t listen to and collaborate with employees in shaping hybrid work policies.” Forrester says those companies who try to undo remote work and force people back into the office will meet with ‘disastrous results.’ People like hybrid work. Working remotely, they need an advocate and IT needs to fill this role.
IT is the only department that can look up and down the IT stack and make strategic recommendations to the C-suite for tech improvements that help the company be more productive and competitive.
From Deadly Sins to Lively Collaboration
Forrester notes that “Trust will be at the forefront of business priorities in 2023.” Within organizations, employees need to trust IT and the C-suite to give them the IT stack, management support, and training they need to be successful, whether remotely or on-premises. By listening to workers, securing the cloud workspaces, and advocating for tech improvements as appropriate, IT can help retain and attract the best people and weather the storm.
This article was written by Dan O’Farrell, Sr. Director of Product Marketing for IGEL, and first published in IT Briefcase.