For a full year now, the business world has engaged in a grand experiment. Almost overnight, thousands of companies switched to a remote workforce. Remote work has proved a mixed bag, offering clear benefits but also significant challenges. Now, as we look ahead, the “new normal” almost certainly includes a partially remote workforce.
For many employees, particularly knowledge workers, the move to remote work has increased productivity levels and job satisfaction. Businesses benefit from flexible hiring and lower office costs. However, not all jobs lend themselves to remote work, and not all employees enjoy working from home 100 percent of the time.
As businesses prepare to reopen, many will implement a hybrid workplace model, with a mixture of in-office and remote employees. Consider the following ways that IT can support productivity in a hybrid environment.
1. Focus on Remote-first IT Solutions
To sustain productivity in a partially remote workforce, organizations need to understand the difference between supporting remote work and taking a remote-first approach. Companies that simply support remote work allow employees to work remotely, but in-house workers enjoy more benefits.
Conversely, companies that take a remote-first approach implement solutions that provide a great experience for both in-house and remote workers. For instance, using video conferencing for every meeting helps to ensure engagement from all participants.
Additionally, companies should intentionally create environments conducive to virtual “water cooler” experiences. Liberal use of chat tools can help. Companies may even schedule digital happy hours or workout opportunities. Shared calendars also provide the digital equivalent of peeking to see when colleagues are at their desks and available.
2. Uncover the Benefits of a Virtual Desktop
For many organizations, a key IT solution for promoting productivity in a partially remote workforce includes virtual desktops. In a virtual environment, the operating system, applications, and data live on a central server, either on premises or in the cloud. Administrators create preconfigured images of the applications and operating system, tailored to each end user.
The end users then access their virtual desktops from anywhere, using any device. The virtual desktop looks and operates like a normal workstation. This solution offers several important benefits for a partially remote workforce, including the following:
- Greater productivity with anytime/anywhere access – As long as employees have an internet connection, they can access their virtual desktops.
- Flexibility – Employees can use virtually any endpoint device to access their virtual desktop, from laptops to tablets and even smartphones. The operating system does not matter. Even outdated devices work. Consequently, virtual desktops work well in a BYOD environment.
- Easier maintenance – Because the operating system and applications live on a server, IT maintains employee workstations and delivers updates from a central location.
- Less bandwidth – All the work happens on the server, rather than on the user’s device. As a result, much less bandwidth is required.
- Access to on-premises applications – Not all organizations can operate completely in the cloud. Fortunately, virtual desktops provide access to on-premises applications, as well as to cloud-based services like Microsoft 365.
- Centralized data – Data resides in a central location, facilitating security and data loss prevention and making regular backups easy.
3. Remember Endpoint Security Basics
While virtual desktops centralize many important security functions, endpoint security remains an important factor with remote work. Any device that connects to the network presents a possible access point for hackers.
Consequently, organizations must follow endpoint security best practices. These include implementing mobile device management and multi-factor authentication, as well as keeping devices and applications up to date.
4. Employ Desk Sharing with a Partially Remote Workforce
When many employees split their work time between home and the office, office buildings can resemble ghost towns. To avoid paying high overhead for unused space, some companies have implemented desk sharing. In this arrangement, multiple employees share a single workspace.
For a desk-sharing arrangement to work smoothly, companies need to provide the appropriate technology. Start with basics, such as printers and phones, laptop docking stations and monitors. Additionally, a company might use IoT tools to help monitor desk occupancy and automate lighting and temperature accordingly.
Trusted IT Partner
Armed with the lessons of the past year, organizations should plan their next steps carefully. The right IT solutions allow business to tap into the benefits of both remote and office work environments. And partnering with IT experts makes choosing and implementing those solutions much easier.
The engineers at eMazzanti can help your business navigate the challenges and opportunities of a hybrid workforce. From comprehensive cyber security to cloud computing and network management, they will help you tailor a system to your specific business needs.