By Alexander Malienko, Business Unit Director Middle East & Africa, Dynabook Europe GmbH
The pandemic continues to evolve and influence how we do business. Although, with the vaccine rollout looking optimistic, there is hope that life will soon start returning to normal – with offices opening their doors and employees back at their desks.
When the mass return to the workplace commences, and a newly flexible workforce emerges, addressing the new business mobility puzzle will become ever more important. However, said puzzle is increasingly complex. In the wake of the pandemic, organisations will need to navigate changing employee expectations when it comes to ways of working, new technology requirements and the challenges that come with adopting these.
Managing new employee expectations
‘Business as usual’ has certainly been turned on its head over the last year and this has bought about a re-adjustment of what it means to keep employees happy and retained. Time away from the office and in their own homes has given workforces a chance to rethink their workplace priorities and expectations.
In recent months, we’ve seen discussions over whether employees want to return to the office or remain working from home – or a combination of both. In fact, over half (59%) of people say that they would like to keep working remotely as much as possible even after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. Flexible working options have been high up on the list of most employees for some time now. And now that we’ve proven as a society we can work just as effectively, this has only been amplified further.
What’s more, it’s not just home-based working that is high on the agenda. The pandemic has also accelerated a change to workplace design and location that was already underway. You only need to look at the popularity of co-working spaces worldwide before COVID-19. New working patterns mean that business will need to reduce desks to make room for flexible collaborative and social areas.
Employee desires to be in centralised, city-based offices have also shifted. With companies taking a fresh look at how much and where space is required, many employees are pushing employers to set up regional offices closer to where they live. An impact of the pandemic could be that companies split operations between several locations, potentially benefiting from smaller offices.
Recent events have also naturally changed the way that employees will use workplace benefits. Office-based perks will be less relevant in our new world of business. As a result, businesses will need to work harder on the value proposition they bring to employees.
The role of technology
At the heart of enabling these new ways of working and meeting employee expectations is technology. For millennial employees, in particular, technology is already a defining factor of a good work experience. However, for all employees, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of reliable workplace technology – especially end-user devices which have been so heavily relied on by employees working remotely.
Some businesses may have scrambled overnight to equip their workforces with IT kits to support remote work. As many enter recovery stages, they will need to not only rethink their technology procurement choices but enhance digital innovations to thrive long term in the ‘next normal.’
Laptops and PCs have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic, and will continue to be so in this new world of working. As such, businesses need to ensure they are investing in lightweight and portable, yet powerful devices designed to accommodate both home working and time in the office. These devices need to be durable enough to withstand being on the move, whilst also having the same next-level connectivity as a smartphone to enable effortless collaboration and avoid costly downtime.
That said, it’s not just end-user devices that will play a key role in facilitating a work-from-anywhere model for businesses. We’ve well and truly entered a new reality where teamwork no longer means having to be in the same physical location. Other digital technologies such as wearables will also play a key role in workplace collaboration.
Smart glasses, for example, will enable interactive remote communication – bringing people face-to-face with functions like document retrieval, workflow instructions and real-time data capture. The global wearables market has proven resilient during the pandemic, with CCS Insight predicting that sales of wearables are now expected to reach 300 million units in 2024.
Solving technology challenges with more technology
A potential obstacle for any business adding connected devices and solutions to their network is the amount of data these devices will create and how they manage and process this data effectively and securely. The answer? Investing in more next-generation technology. Completely overhauling networks can be time and resource-intensive, especially for businesses navigating a recession. Edge computing offers a viable solution to resolve this, processing data at the edge reduces strain on the cloud so users can be more selective of the data they send to the network core.
Another consideration is security. With devices accessing and entering the corporate network in and away from the office, this opens up the threat landscape for businesses. According to recent research, the number of ransomware attacks reported by web users grew by 485 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year. End-user devices with in-build security features such as facial or fingerprint recognition and hardware-based credential storage capabilities provide a secure first defence against cybercriminals, while solutions like zero client solutions ensure devices themselves do not retain sensitive information.
Even as we continue to face the ongoing impact of the pandemic, conversations around what business mobility will look like post-COVID-19 have already started. The world of work has changed forever and with it comes new ways of working and fresh employee expectations for businesses to adapt to. Getting mobility right in the ‘next normal’ will require time and investment, and will ultimately need to include next-generation technology.