How Working From Home is Changing IT
The global pandemic pushed us to reimagine the working ecosystem for many of us with in-person office jobs. As we packed up our tech essentials, including our laptops and peripherals and maybe some office plants, many of us adapted to a home office setup. While the initial transition may have been a bit rocky, collaborative and productivity applications like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and others soon became second nature.
Now in the summer of 2022 when most offices are open again for in-person work, many employees across the country prefer to stick with their work-from-home lifestyle. Two years into the pandemic, about 59% of employees whose jobs can be done mainly from home say they prefer to work remotely all or most of the time. Compared to only 23% who held this opinion before the emergence of the virus.
Most companies now permanently offer hybrid work settings because it actually boosts productivity. By the numbers, research shows that remote employees are about 35% more productive than their in-office counterparts owing to reduced distractions. It also helps companies recruit the best candidates and be more inclusive of individuals who have a long commute, are caring for sick family members, or recovering from minor medical procedures.
For new organizations or existing ones wanting to adapt to these trends, your IT strategy will need to evolve to support the workforce and business operations.
How IT Supports the Remote Workforce
For a traditional in-office workforce, IT support of the workforce is generally restricted to keeping their devices and network up and running. That involves providing updated office equipment, monitoring computer performance, managing any network downtime and updates, and troubleshooting employee tech issues.
Remote monitoring and big data collection
What do you do when your employees are no longer on-site, directly interacting with peers, managers, or HR? It's easy to forget your employee is a living breathing person instead of an input to a task. With this new distributed workforce, many employers are rolling out data collection and monitoring systems to maintain and enhance support.
Gartner research shows that 16%of companies are utilizing virtual monitoring to track clocking in and out, computer usage and intensity, and monitoring chat and email communication. This can help give managers an understanding of employees at risk for ergonomic injury and engagement leading to a healthier environment.
Enhanced collaboration through VR and AR
IT is even shifting beyond its initial scope by enhancing employee collaboration stunted by the pandemic. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to mitigate the negative aspects of not interacting in–person. Scenarios such as training employees to perform hands-on tasks or virtual whiteboards are inspiring use cases. While still far down the road from becoming reality, Facebook's rebranding to Meta is ushering in the Metaverse as the "next generation" of the internet.
Imagine enjoying coffee with colleagues in a virtual break room simply by putting on a VR headset. Enabling these modalities will require IT teams to adapt to the high bandwidth requirements of AR/VR, by ensuring high data transfer speeds and ultra-low latency.
How IT Supports Business Operations From Afar
Not only does IT have to support remote workers, but needs to ensure the IT infrastructures that support business operations run smoothly. A strong IT environment can allow business development, finance, operations, and medical teams to operate seamlessly.
In this new era of distributed work, IT leaders are more willing to shift operations to the cloud rather than the typical on-prem IT environment. Cloud provides scalability, flexibility, and connectivity. It also reduces costs by allowing employers to partner with third-party servers accessible via a secure internet connection. This has really helped small- and medium-sized businesses get off the ground.
With a cloud-based environment, expanding data packages is simple and does not risk downtime or crashes. Finally, cloud infrastructure is more cost-effective than an on-premise solution.
The Future of IT
It's safe to say that we are never going back to the way things were before. Thanks to the work-from-home experiment brought on by the pandemic and cloud-based IT solutions, most of us made the shift with ease and a boost in productivity. The key takeaway for businesses is their IT infrastructure needs to evolve to both support employees and business operations in this reimagining world. Offering remote monitoring and data collection to improve employee well-being, collaboration, and productivity is key to maintaining a vibrant workforce.
On the forefront, VR and AR could further enhance productivity but will rely on a high bandwidth, low-latency network. For IT leaders, migrating to a cloud environment is becoming more accepted. This is because cloud solutions offer scalability, flexibility, and connectivity at a lower cost.