daniilvolkov - stock.adobe.com
The speed with which the Covid-19 coronavirus has forced companies into universal remote working has moved us forward to a place that, in my view, we will never return from.
Almost overnight, entire workforces are operating from home, connecting to work systems via a virtual private network (VPN) or the cloud, and speaking to each other on video-conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype.
The traditional barriers to all of this – from not having the appropriate software to worrying about how your kitchen table will look on screen – have essentially been removed. It has been a real tipping point in how, and where, we work.
I don’t believe this will just melt away once the health crisis is over. Looking forward, we can expect a significant proportion of what used to be carried out face-to-face moving to an online environment – people have got used to working this way and many have had a “ta dah!” moment in realising that it actually works.
Novelty of working from home will not wear off
There are some valid push-backs. Some may say we are all looking at remote working through rose-tinted spectacles at the moment. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s happening in extraordinary circumstances – everyone is available at home, all united by a strong sense of purpose to get things done. Will it all gradually wear off after Covid-19?
First, we just don’t know when exactly we’ll be able to talk about a “post-Covid-19” situation – that may not be for a considerable period of time. Second, the acceptance of the principle of remote working seems to be with us to stay. Of course, people will generally return to offices when it’s safe to do so, but there seems little doubt that nearly all of us will spend more time than before working remotely. Indeed, we may come to stop talking about “remote” working altogether. It could become just “working” – part of the normal mix of how things are done.
Bev White, Harvey Nash
Nevertheless, the virtual world will not entirely replace the real one. In fact, face-to-face meetings will arguably become even more important, because they will occur more sparingly and so will mean more. Our city centres and business districts will not disappear after all. Critical face-to-face meetings will still take place and key business decisions and agreements will still tend to be made in person.
Overall, however, I have no doubt that what we are experiencing right now will have a long-term effect on how we work in the future. This wouldn’t be the case if the technology had fallen over during this period – but it has, in fact, stood up remarkably well.
Technology can rise to the challenge
As a result, technology is only going to become even more central to how businesses work. We can expect to see increased investment in hardware, software and automation technology. Businesses will need to invest even more in laptops, mobile devices and soft phones.
Offshored IT services will rise in demand as businesses realise the advantages of this over self-run systems. Demand for cloud services will hugely spike to provide the bandwidth and capacity needed. Pressure on on-premise servers will increase exponentially while the cloud offers a scaled, reliable and secure environment with failover safeguards.
Businesses are needing to think about every aspect of how they operate, and technology is crucial to that. Technology firms need to rise to the challenge and think about how they can help organisations adapt – innovation must accelerate, not decelerate.
The tech sector has a pivotal role to play in supporting and enabling the new future of work.