It’s been roughly 12 weeks since the great work-from-home (WFH) experiment began in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Over half of U.S. workers carved out space in their living rooms, dining rooms, spare bedrooms and kitchens to make room for themselves, their housemates and their family members to get to work (or school). For IT departments, months- or years-long plans to enable remote work were suddenly implemented overnight.
By most accounts, workers quickly adopted new videoconferencing and collaboration platforms, and not only tolerated the connectivity glitches but also celebrated the very human moments that ensued, whether it was interruptions from pets and children or the unkempt appearance of their coworkers.
But even as states and countries phase in their reopening plans, it’s becoming clear that many of us will be sharing that dining room table or couch as our workspace for possibly the rest of 2020, if not longer. What was new, different and a change of pace is settling into “the norm.” Conditions that might have been acceptable in crisis mode will inevitably begin to chafe once people realize they’re in it for the long haul.
As the sense of crisis dissipates — and as some businesses begin opening their doors for skeleton-crew versions of their previous ranks to spend time in the office — it’s time to envision how this new normal could work better. Which quick fixes need to be rethought? Which new ways of working should be fortified with additional tools and infrastructure? How can we be sure remote employees feel as supported as if they were physically present in the office?
Forward-looking businesses are tackling these issues by revisiting decisions made and actions taken in the heat of crisis thinking. They’re assessing what went right or wrong in the last three months of WFH to make the remote worker experience even better.
Learning from the WFH experiment
Here are just a few of the key takeaways we’ve observed from client experiences:
- Examine your shortcuts. When the WFH mandate began, some businesses were able to move more quickly than others. Some had the needed infrastructure in place: cloud-based hosting capabilities, virtual private networking, modernized applications, endpoint security, encrypted application streaming, virtual desktops, unified device management capabilities, etc. (see figure below). Others were caught unawares, and the entire business came to a halt while IT worked around the clock to figure out what to do. In many cases, organizations switched on their collaboration platforms overnight, and shortcuts were taken for expediency that resulted in security gaps, governance issues or productivity slowdowns.