Apr 22 2020

Lessons Learned from Early Weeks of Widespread Remote Work

CDW experts take a step back to look at how businesses responded to the change in work and how they can be successful moving forward.

It’s been a trying time for businesses across industries. From potential financial strain to moving employees to home offices, organizations have had to clear hurdle after hurdle to remain operational and productive. 

But now that it’s been several weeks since many businesses began widespread remote work, leaders can take time to look back on the transition. At CDW’s Future of Work Virtual SummIT, CDW Digital Workspace Solutions Director Nathan Coutinho and CDW Vertical Markets Vice President Ben Weiss talked about what they saw when the change first started and there was a big push to get equipment into the right hands. 

"Everything from webcams to laptops, video devices, the video conferencing platforms," said Coutinho. "It's been crazy."

"We saw customers abandoning their standards if necessary," said Weiss. "If they typically got one manufacturer, but another manufacturer was available, they were taking that inventory. We saw folks pushing off configurations just to save a few days and get that product into the hands of their customers and their coworkers at home."

The initial strategy, Weiss said, was to grab what was available and figure out the rest later. But now that the first wave of transition has mostly come to pass, businesses are now turning to that next phase.

How Businesses Have Used Tech to Adapt to Remote Work

Once the equipment was acquired, organizations needed to make sure it could be deployed. For many, this meant boosting their existing virtual private networks (VPN) or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). 

"A lot of customers still use VPN," said Coutinho. "It's a valid technology, especially if you have a lot of on-prem technologies that are sitting in your data center. But making sure you have the right VPN capacity, the right encryption, there are a lot of pieces."

“A lot of our customers had to buy a lot of licenses really quickly to expand the capacity,” said Coutinho. “Now we're seeing the second phase. How do we optimize? How do we make sure our security is set up correctly? How do we make sure everyone’s clear with their audio and their video and that they’re having the right optimized network in their homes?” 

Depending on the office setup, this meant a learning curve for employees. Some organizations were more prepared for the shift than others.

"It is probably more a function of the type of business that the customer is in, and whether or not they had already embraced some degree of work from home," said Weiss."We have had some customers that had zero work from home, and now obviously that was a significant challenge because they didn't even have work from home structures."

Businesses are also turning more of their attention to cybersecurity as remote operations become more standard.

“We saw a lot of interest in identity management solutions, multifactor authentication solutions, and a lot of phishing attacks” said Weiss. “It would be fantastic if we could come up with some kind of a truce with the hackers and basically say, ‘Hey, things are tough right now, could you maybe give us a break for a little while until we get back on our feet?’” 

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Watch the full webinar from the CDW Future of Work Virtual SummIT.

Remote Work Has Shifted Workplace Culture

In addition to the technological adjustment, employees are also adjusting to new company cultures. Becoming fluent with new communication platforms and collaboration platforms is one thing, but putting it into practice in an optimal way is also important. Businesses have been adjusting to different workflows, and that requires more touchpoints.

"I put daily checkpoints in place for team members to connect via video," said Weiss. "I think that's one of the most important things that we're going to take out of this, is the importance of video as it relates to staying connected."

The after-hours communication, through things like, virtual happy hours, has proven to be equally valuable during a time when employees have been under unique stressors both inside and outside the office.

"Let's each grab a drink of our choice and let's talk about things other than work," said Weiss. "Because that's one of the things that's the biggest thing that's missing in this environment, is that connection point with people about things that aren't necessarily work related."

Which of these new practices will be carried into the future remains to be seen, but both Weiss and Coutinho agree that it’s safe to say going to work as we remember it will likely be a thing of the past. 

"This whole movement is working from home," said Coutinho. "The remote tools, the VDI, the video conferencing. It's really forced customers to think about transformation, but not in the way you would normally think about digital transformation. It's literally transforming the way we all work together, which could actually be a huge positive."

Keep this page bookmarked for articles, videos and webinars from the Future of Work Virtual SummIT, and join the conversation on Twitter @BizTechMagazine.

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