Apr 01 2022

Businesses Must Rethink Employees’ Relationship with Offices and Technology

For seamless digital work experiences, employees will need well-equipped workstations in multiple locations and robust collaboration tools.

The pandemic is easing, but the remote work trend it inspired is not. Many workers will not tolerate a full-time return to the office, and most businesses say they don’t plan to make such a demand.

For example, according to a McKinsey survey, only about 10 percent of employers say they expect to have more than 80 percent of their workers back in an office post-pandemic. Nearly half of employers will have no more than half of their workforces back in offices full time. Meanwhile, about 30 percent of U.S. employees said they’re likely to switch jobs if their employers demand a full-time return.

“As we enter the post-pandemic period, there’s going to be a mix between office and remote, distributed teams and work groups,” explains David Sehlhorst, an enterprise collaboration consultant with CDW.

Just as the sudden onset of the pandemic in 2020 forced employers to adapt to a shift to nearly fully remote work, Sehlhorst says this emerging era of hybrid work — with a mix of in-office, at-home and on-the-road workers collaborating every day in real time — is presenting business and IT leaders with a series of new challenges concerning how they will securely deliver optimal working experiences.

30%

The percentage of U.S. employees who say they're likely to switch jobs if their employers demand a full-time return to the office

Source: McKinsey & Company, "What Employees Are Saying About the Future of Remote Work," April 1, 2021

Optimal Digital Work Experiences Will Require Office Makeovers

To be ready to support a digital workforce, businesses will have to rethink the layouts and technology stacks of their physical offices, Sehlhorst says.

Pre-pandemic workplaces tended to be static. Only a minority of conference rooms were video-equipped. Virtually all employees worked onsite at the same desks each day, almost entirely on employer-provided laptops and desktop computers. Business applications were typically maintained in onsite data centers, protected by a perimeter-based security architecture.

The pandemic pushed much of that offsite, with workers using a mix of employer-provided devices and their own tools, logging into meetings remotely and working on cloud-hosted applications secured through zero-trust architectures. Those once buzzing offices stood empty.

Post-pandemic, many offices will be smaller, with fewer workstations; employees will use technology to reserve workstations on days they visit the office. Those offices may need digital signage to direct people to the right places, and businesses will have to consider equipping workstations with second and third monitors, telephone headsets, ergonomic mice and keyboards and whatever other hardware employees need to work efficiently.

WATCH: Learn how to leverage technology to ease the remote work experience.

Overall, employers will have to think carefully about their workers’ day-to-day experiences interacting with technology and each other, wherever they’re physically located on a given day, in order to optimize that experience every time for worker productivity and long-term retention.

“How do we have that seamless integration where we could have five or six people in a conference room and 10, 15 people remote and still have a great experience?” says Tony Oquendo, a collaboration sales manager at CDW.

Virtually every conference room will need to be video-enabled, and Wi-Fi will become vital.

“All that needs to really feel smooth and connected,” Sehlhorst says. “We’re going to start to see offices be redesigned for flexibility, and people will be going to the office to collaborate.”

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An Updated Security Strategy Is Essential to Supporting Digital Work

A digital workforce will need effective security too. The good news is that a consensus has formed among security professionals that a zero-trust security architecture that relies on managed identity authentication is the gold standard for data protection. The bad news is that only about 29 percent of organizations have deployed it, according to one survey, so businesses have work to do.

“When everyone went home to work, applications started to move from data centers into the cloud,” Sehlhorst says. “And with that, the traditional security that we had in the past, of securing everything behind at a firewall, really started to disappear. That’s where we started to think about things like borderless security and zero-trust architectures and really integrating that security into the way people work during the pandemic.”

Another area of security for hybrid workforces is physical: How will employers manage access to and around office buildings for employees who are not in them full time? That may require building pass technology, applications for reserving conference rooms, and perhaps advanced security cameras that alert building staff to violations of building usage and safety policies, Sehlhorst says.

DISCOVERLearn more about achieving a high-performance digital workplace.

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