A desktop strategy for post pandemic return to work

Most surveys Computer Weekly receive on remote working during the pandemic assume everyone will be running an office laptop at home.

Crouching over a laptop on the kitchen table, or sitting on a couch with a notebook computer – the image many stock photographs use to illustrate home working – is not doing anyone any favours, especially for their posture.

Recent surveys show that people do not feel compelled to return to the office. At the very least, they have no plans to work in an office full time. Hybrid work, where people are given the freedom to work from home, will mean that office space will have to be reconfigured. Dedicated desk space or hot desking? Laptop or desktop? Mac or Windows?

At the end of the day, people require a device to access corporate applications. The employee experience needs to be the same, whether access is from home or within the office.

The latest data from Canalys shows that the total worldwide PC market (including tablets) grew strongly for a fourth successive quarter, with shipments up 53.1% year on year at 122.1 million units. Sales of chromebooks grew 275%, with 12 million units benign shipped in the last quarter.

The data from Canalys demonstrates two trends. First, chromebooks are now mainstream. Second, the fact that such devices access everything via the web browser, illustrates that many people are happy with browser-based applications.

Applications are getting thinner

There is always going to be some power users who require a Windows or MacOS application, but for many enterprise applications, a computationally lightweight device is sufficient. Power-hungry desktop software can be streamed via desktop as a service to low-powered devices. The one bottleneck is how to move large volumes of data from where the data is captured to the cloud, for processing. But data should never be stored locally without a full backup. So uploading to the cloud is simply good information management.

Does hybrid work mean everyone has a corporate laptop? Is Chromebook-style, thin client terminal style access to enterprise software viable? How will office work be conducted at home?

The Health and Safety Executive has updated its guidance for long term home working. This states: “If you have staff working at home, you must still manage the risks to their health from display screen equipment.” For long-term home working, businesses need to ensure staff have a full workstation assessment. Laptop or desktop; size of screen, mouse and keyboard, chair and desk space and whether to permit BYOD need to be taken into account.

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