“How will the enterprise office change?” was a thought that we barely had time to think about or process, before the changes hit like a ton of bricks, and happened without warning at the start of the 2020 pandemic.
Now, the office has changed. And it’s changed for good.
The world of work has seen historic and transformative disruptions and a fundamental shift to remote working. While some companies used to offer the ability to work from home as a perk, it has now become the norm.
In 2021, the remote workforce has increased by 173% since 2005. And By 2028, 73% of all departments are expected to have remote workers.
Where we started:
Remote working became essential overnight when the pandemic began. Digital transformation was accelerated, and enterprises needed to shift their systems and security to enable and accommodate a remote and distributed workforce. This has put enormous pressure on IT departments and has called for better technology.
Where we are now:
There is now the issue of how organisations plan for the future after the pandemic, and the question of whether to go back to the office is a contentious one. Many organisations going back to office work are facing backlash, and many are staying fully remote, or in a hybrid working model that combines office and remote work.
Top employer concerns
Deloitte’s 2021 Return to Workplaces survey found that the top employer concerns as they develop their onsite/remote/hybrid office strategies for 2021 and beyond were:
- Maintaining culture
- Maintaining high performance
- Collaborating effectively
- Maintaining fairness
- Employees not wanting to return to the office in-person
So what does the future look like for the enterprise office? How has the office transformed since the pandemic started (and before)? What does this mean for the enterprise? And their IT?
Employers need to ensure KPIs still align with both businesses and employees working remotely. Is it time revaluate KPIs as a whole?
The state of the office in 2021
Whether they are fully remote, hybrid or in-office, enterprises have had to entirely rethink their set-up and office space. Or, lack thereof:
- Office spaces are evolving. Even before the pandemic, digitisation and evolution of the workplace was already underway. Large enterprises like Google led the way for open plan layouts, hotdesking. This made workers’ physical presence in the office less essential and more ‘drop in’ and ‘out. The pandemic has only accelerated this.
- The meeting has fundamentally changed. The pandemic has also seen a shift to shorter, more focused meetings, and less time spent in meetings per day. And, aside from the shift to video conferencing and collaboration tools, research suggests that unstructured collaboration outside formal meetings is key to a successful business. Now, office spaces are used as dynamic meeting places.
- Fewer desks, more collaborative and social spaces. Cubicles, rows of workers on computers at desks, and a presenteeism style of management is considered old-fashioned by many. But rather than abandoning the office entirely, the focus has shifted to the office as a collaboration and social space; people will come to the office more purposefully to meet for specific reasons.
- Work in the cloud and on mobile is rising. Cloud is the backbone of remote work, and enterprises will need to lean on high-performing and secure cloud applications and services to allow people to do their jobs. People have also started working more from mobile devices, meaning multiple devices to manage for enterprises.
- A preference for remote and hybrid work from employees. In one study, an overwhelming majority of employees (90%) prefer to work from home. And 83% of workers in a recent Accenture survey on The Future of Work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward.
- Remote working benefits are undeniable. There is widespread sentiment around health concerns due to the pandemic, the benefits of no commute, and a focus on wellbeing, happiness and family. Gone are the days of a 9-5 schedule, which has paved the way for greater flexibility and work-life balance for employees.
- Most companies are going permanently remote, or hybrid. After the pandemic, the number of permanently remote workers has doubled, and a survey by McKinsey found that the majority of employers are adopting a hybrid model.
- Coworking space memberships are soaring. Research from Allwork shows that there are an estimated 35,000 flexible workspaces in the world today. The global market value of flexible workspaces is estimated at an approximate $26 billion. And shared working spaces are expected to grow at an annual rate of 13%.
- Remote working has brought costs down. Remote working can slash operational costs by a third. Less office space is needed, and those that do maintain an office have fewer desks, hotdesking options, and fewer people in the office at one time.
Nobody knows for sure what the office beyond 2021 will look like, and it will take time for enterprises to figure out and refine their work environments optimally. But the gradual (and often hybrid) return to the office over the coming months will no doubt shape its trajectory.
Questions still to be answered
While the office may not be ‘dead’ yet, remote working and the hybrid environment at least is here to stay. But there are many key questions around remote working and the future of the office, and the jury’s still out on the answers.
- Is productivity up? For productivity, remote working, is… working? Many employees and enterprises cite an improvement in productivity with remote working. However, there are still questions of distractions, difficult home environments and connectivity issues to consider.
- How connected do people feel? It’s important to maintain a strong company culture remotely. However, this survey shows that in the UK more than two thirds (67%) of workers in the UK feel ‘disconnected’ from their colleagues. And two fifths (42%) feel ‘lonely’ at work.
- Do people miss in-person meetings? These issues of disconnect are clear when we think of the lack of face-to-face meetings. In fact, 46% of employees miss face-to-face meetings and side-by-side conversations that happen in the office.
What does the shift to remote mean for enterprise IT?
Changes in ways of working means enterprises need to continuously review their approach to strategy, management, as well as — crucially, IT and solutions.
Technology needs to be fit for purpose, and as effective as possible, to support enterprises and remote workers, now and in the future. There is a need for:
- More suitable and reliable connectivity solutions. The most crucial tech component of the post-Covid-19 office will be a tool to help bridge the gap between remote and in-person, help people connect with each other, without disruption, just as well as they would in an office.
- Stronger security. Cybersecurity will become an even greater concern in 2021. Securing the cloud, managing access data and increased threat are key IT concerns as remote work increases. In Cisco’s Future of Secure Remote Work Report, 85% of all respondents reported that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than before the pandemic.
- Ways to manage productivity and wellbeing better. Enterprises will need to utilise technology to find the right balance between what’s best for the business, and employees. IT shouldn’t slow employees down. Instead, it should enable flexible, productive remote work and happier teams.
The right technology for the job
Enterprises need a robust set of systems and solutions to adapt effectively to the remote working change, empower workers, and keep the workplace secure.
In response to this issue, IntraLAN recently built WorkIN. This is an IT and connectivity service built specifically for home-based, remote or distributed workforces.
Affordable, quick to deploy and easy to manage, WorkIN ensures:
- Every user has the same robust IT experience as they would in the corporate office
- Your IT people can provide a safe, secure working environment
- Employers know that their IT and data protection policies are being adhered to
- Your own customers enjoy the same exceptional experience, regardless of where people work
To find out more about how IntraLAN’s solutions can help, get in touch, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.