As it becomes clearer that businesses will soon need to enable a variety of working experiences, organizations are starting to restructure for the new normal while collaborating within the current structure.
With the benefit of additional time, that new normal looks like an opportunity for a leap forward, according to CDW Collaboration Technical Architect Andy Kleinheinz.
During the CDW Tech Talk “Optimizing the New Workforce Dynamic,” Kleinheinz highlighted how existing collaboration trends have expanded during the pandemic. He noted that even before widespread remote work, his team was already set up for a hybrid environment, and many others were as well.
“Many companies are already working on a digital transformation and really accommodating to the work-from-home user,” Kleinheinz said, “whether you're talking about the hybrid worker that's working some days in the office and some days at home or whether you're dealing with somebody that’s strictly in the office or somebody that’s strictly at home.”
Of course, that changed in a big way in the middle of March, as many companies went fully remote, some for the first time ever. Many of CDW’s customers needed support to keep functioning in that environment, from provisioning devices to building out increased bandwidth for infrastructure.
“The challenge was helping them pivot to their home-work environments,” Kleinheinz said.
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Collaboration Across Devices Is Key to Remote Work
One thing that made the transition easier for many organizations was the fact that the shift to collaborative technology used cloud platforms, Kleinheinz said. That played a major role in simplifying the transition to fully remote environments.
“The companies that really were able to make that shift well at the onset were people that were kind of already utilizing it, and this was just increasing that user base,” he added.
Citing his own habits — getting out of bed, looking at his phone and eventually picking up his laptop — Kleinheinz noted the consistency of those experiences makes it easier to collaborate, no matter the device.
“Most of the platforms that I work with today are cloud-based, or at least have a client, or have an internet site that you can go to to get the same experience,” he said. “So, you’re not dealing with an abnormal or disjointed experience.”
The Role Security Plays in Collaboration
Of course, changing environments also raise security concerns as employees work across these different devices with varying levels of security.
Kleinheinz characterized the situation as a constant push and pull. “It's always the battle: How can we enable our users while also being as secure as possible?”
Beyond pointing to different compliance standards such as HIPAA that collaboration environments should be designed to follow, he recommended training on standard business security practices such as not sharing passwords.
Reopening Offices in Fits and Starts
With phased reopening starting to take place, Kleinheinz warns that it’s not a good idea to break down remote infrastructure, even for employees that have returned to the office. He recommended an approach that allows employees to fall back to a remote structure as needed.
“If they try to open up, and they’re changing greetings, or they’re changing messages, or hours or building constraints, how flexible can it be?” said Kleinheinz. “If there starts to be a spread or if there starts to be anything like that, you might need to pivot back.”
In building out a flexible environment for different use cases, Kleinheinz recommended identifying a critical team and working with it on building a collaboration structure upon reopening.
“Get their feedback and really make sure that you can weigh all those different sides you can — how to keep them safe without disrupting their business,” he said.
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