The Global Pandemic joins the ranks of the Great Depression, World Wars, Jet Air Travel, Mobile Phones, the Internet, and 911 for changing the way business thinks about the workforce. Businesses are now looking at the possibility of a portion of their workforce permanently working remotely. Some companies have embraced this major shift, and others are eager to go back to normal. Each company must begin with one big question: What workplace model is suitable for the business?
The longer-term decision of how any business will manage this shift comes down to a strategic approach to understanding the workforce impact. This decision is not a binary, one-size-fits-all solution, but a range of options.
Three operations models for consideration are:
- Full-time work from anywhere (i.e., remote work) – Many people have been doing this for the last two years. Many businesses have discovered some strategic benefits -- including attracting talent to the company with the work from anywhere (WFA) model.
- Full-Time Office – This option is back to the old “normal” where everyone is in the office, and it requires the fewest changes.
- Distributed Hybrid Workforce – This is the best fit for many businesses, but it requires the most change. Employees can work from anywhere, including the office, depending on the situation. This option allows employees and supervisors to choose the best option based on the situation.
The burning question is, how do we determine the best operations model for a business? Six key areas to review to help make this choice are:
- Culture – The pandemic forced a remote-work model on businesses. How has remote work impacted the company’s culture for better and for worse?
- Business Function – Not all business functions align well with remote work. Which ones fit which model?
- Role – Some roles require more interaction and collaboration. How will you work with teams to determine the level of in-person collaboration specific roles require, and how often does that collaboration occur?
- Employee – Each employee’s personality and preferences will impact their optimal work location. How can you get the best results from each employee?
- Management/Supervisor – Managing people is key to business success. How will the management team work best?
- Business Advantage – Does remote work provide a competitive advantage or disadvantage? Talent acquisition, global expansion, customer service, or operational costs will need to be considered.
There are other factors but considering these six will provide good insight for making the decision.
Strategic Digital Transformation
Suppose your business determines that a distributed hybrid workforce model will be the best fit for the long-term strategic business model. The next step would be to embark on a path of strategic business transformation. The adaptations made to allow for remote work for the pandemic may not be a viable long-term solution.
The distributed hybrid workforce model works most effectively when the technology supporting business processes and workflows is independent of employee location, i.e., access to and performance of technology solutions is the same when the employee is working from the office or remotely. The distributed hybrid workforce model requires a strategic digital transformation of technology.
The transformation requires four key areas to be addressed:
- Application Selection and Management
- Deployment and Management of Endpoints
- Security Management
- Remote Office Setup
Application Selection and Management
The cloud has changed many things in our business lives, but application delivery models are one of the most impactful. The availability of SaaS applications using a per-person subscription model has simplified work from anywhere. However, organizations must be aware of the security aspects of the application selection process, including secure authentication, provisioning, and the security practices of the SaaS provider. A business’ focus now can be on understanding the requirements for the company and associated workflow, and strategically selecting applications that are corporate-wide or only serve a small team.
The process of identifying needs, selecting appropriate solutions, and effectively provisioning these solutions is critical for the distributed hybrid workforce model to be successful. Special attention needs to be given to messaging, video conferencing, file sharing, and workflow; to create a richer and more successful collaborative environment, independent of employee location. Review business data access, workflows, collaboration, and communications to ensure that these interactions are optimized to be location independent. You can read more about it here
Deployment and Management of Endpoints
A good technology deployment model enables the organization to manage, monitor, and control endpoint technology in a location-independent standard model. From the employee's perspective, endpoint deployment and management must be simple and non-obtrusive. The model and tools must provide the IT team with the centralized capabilities to secure corporate assets, including anti-malware, anti-virus, application management, data management, patch management, single sign-on, and multi-factor authentication. The hyper-scale cloud providers such as Azure, Google, and AWS have developed infrastructure tools and platforms that support and simplify many of these requirements. You can read more about it here
Security management goes far beyond the endpoint. For the distributed hybrid workforce model to be successful, the business needs to secure the network traffic of the remote employee with the same level of diligence as in the office. This can be accomplished using a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution to provide next-generation firewall features, using a global cloud platform, providing the same security and quality of service functionality in the office and remote work locations. This is a critical aspect of ensuring the distributed hybrid workforce model works for employees and business. You can read more about it here
Remote Office Setup
The last element that enables a successful distributed hybrid workforce model is the remote or portable office setup. When employees are in an office environment, a significant effort is made to make the office an enjoyable place to work. This cannot be neglected when you enable employees to work remotely. Employees still need:
- An ergonomic desk and chair that provides a physically sustainable place to work.
- A laptop and dock (or desktop computer) that makes connecting peripherals easy.
- Monitor(s) situated at the right height and provide sufficient screen real estate to support collaboration.
- A video camera, headset (microphone and speakers), and lighting that enables professional and private video collaboration.
There are many considerations, but the first step is determining the model that is the best fit for the business and then strategically transforming operations to maximize the benefits of the choice. We are seeing many organizations embracing the distributed hybrid workforce model. They enjoy improved talent attraction, employee health, morale, retention, performance, growth capabilities, and reduced operating costs.
Scott is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.