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In a race to remote everything, what can possibly go wrong? Actually, a bunch of things.
Enter Enterprise Ver. COVID19.
It’s 10 AM here in Berlin and I’m at the kitchen table flipping my laptop open to kick off the sweatpants office day 75 (or is it 85?). Mostly in remote mode for the past three years, never have I thought that this will be the only choice I have with no other option in the foreseeable future. We, the warriors of the remote, were of course spoiled by WeWork’s beer on tap, midday yoga sessions, and organic products promo days. But it looks like this last bastion of motivation and work excitement is not coming back any time soon.
Nor is the regular office routine. With major tech giants choosing to give up the brick-and-mortar at least till the end of the year (and some going even further with plans to stay in remote permanently), I can’t bear to imagine the shock level of nine-to-five workers who were so brutally deprived of bonding with their teammates.
This time, we’re all in this together: welcome aboard Enterprise ver. COVID19. Today, I’ll walk you through the labyrinth of myths that surround the technological and ethical challenges of remote everything. We have some legit professional takes on the workplace dynamics from tech executives and more crappy tips on how to stay sane while being locked up at home from yours truly.
In its April’s survey, Gartner found that almost a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to remote work permanently.
ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott said this week that $7.4 trillion will be invested in digital transformation over the next three years. EY’s COVID19 framework for enterprise resilience highlights the ‘highly connected business’ with focus on software-defined network architecture intelligence and security around the zero-trust agile and adaptive model (Trust Workforce, Workplace and Workload).
Prompted by the raging uncertainty, businesses are rushing to piggyback on technology to close the budget holes. Anything goes In a bet to optimize operations.
Mark Zuckerberg says that new normal means digital transformation. Pretty much everyone in the space agrees adding that to enable this transition critical cloud infrastructure and security should be carefully tuned. Hybrid cloud and SaaS are the trends that were already picking up steam before the pandemic, and it looks like now the trend only accelerates further:
‘I think that this current crisis is really going to accelerate the overall trends that we've seen in the industry, whether that is the adoption of public cloud, SaaS, remote and flexible working. These are trends that were already in place before this crisis hit. I think this will just serve as an accelerant to continue to move those forward because businesses realize that this isn't a one-time event’. David Henshall, CEO of Citrix.
The biggest pitfalls of remote work are of course the security concerns. From insecure passwords and weak Wi-Fi raging through rural America to phishing scams that put sensitive commercial data at risk, these require the enterprise to check the security of every working device. Which is a hardly plausible task:
"Organizations of all kinds are facing an uptick in email-based threats, endpoint-security gaps and other problems as a result of the sudden switch to a fully remote workforce,” says William Altman, Senior Analyst at the Global Cyber Center of NYC.
What all this means for you: Get ready for constant cloud backups and check-ups of your files and gear because now you are your own IT guy (unless you work for Facebook or Google). Maybe this is an opportunity to finally clean up your hard drive and install a decent malware detection system. I personally just got myself another SSD which cost about $50, and now my good old Macbook Pro just flies.
A pro tip: “Discard hardware-based legacy VPNs in favor of cloud-agnostic and scalable network security solutions. Legacy VPNs can leave gaping holes in your remote security efforts, as they are difficult to deploy and configure, and moreover, they lack the ability to effectively secure policy-based remote access to on-premises resources, hybrid cloud environments, and business applications.” Sivan Tehila, Director of Solution Architecture at Perimeter 81.
Meet your new digital supervisor.
Enable your webcam and get ready for every keystroke to be tracked. Fewer in-person chances to interact with your boss means more desktop surveillance software. This is not necessarily a bad thing:
‘This kind of system determines which tasks cause people to slow down. If you see a trend that everyone seemed to have a break there, you can investigate,” he says, saying such an incident could show where a company's software is particularly clunky. But let’s say this idle time isn’t consistent. Managers want to know which employees are struggling.” Brian Berns, CEO of Knoa Software.
What all this means for you: With your privacy and mental health at stake, there are still a few things that you can do to sweeten the pill. Set up work-home boundaries to fight the illusion to be available 24/7. Fake it till you make it: try an old freelancer trick - dress up and do your hair every morning, take breaks in work, and walk home, Zoom that five-o’clock beer.
While in most cases that meeting could have been an email, frequent communication is still the success guarantee for remote work settings. EY’s framework recommends to re-evaluate your enterprise collaboration and communication strategy (voice, video and collaboration tools for remote work, office, agents and business services) to enable the organization to work smarter with greater agility across distributed and remote workforce and customers.
There is one pitfall though that makes everyday remote communication very tedious - too many apps. We’ve all spent a ridiculous amount of time chasing people on Slack and copying emails between messengers..
What all this means for you: Make sure your go-to apps are in sync - the last thing you want is constant switching between inboxes and feeds.
A pro-tip: ‘We believe that distributed remote collaboration is here to stay and teams that can adapt best-performing SaaS integration software will eventually thrive. At the same time, most difficulties in remote work stem not from a lack of tools but rather overengineered enterprise software that forces people to alter their communication habits. That's why it’s very important to have an integrated way of keeping track of the work process from those tools that are already in use - be it email, Slack, or even SMS. And that’s the exact promise of the workflow integration software’, says Steven Pu of Taraxa.
EY’s frameworks underscores the vitality of compassionate team support and ensuring that employees have the resources and support they need to stay healthy and perform well. MIT notes that companies derive subtle but profound value from social interaction with productivity and sound decision-making heavily reliant on informal communication like morning chit-chats and coffee breaks.
Workplace trust, solidarity, and of course mental health depend on gestures of support and empathy. The good news is that there are software tools that tackle just that. RIFF Analytics uses AI to analyze online conversation dynamics and provide real-time personalized feedback to each participant. Cogito offers similar analysis of individual voices, helping people understand the nuances of tone and intonation.
What all this means for you: Make sure you voice concerns and anxieties to your supervisor early on to avoid misunderstandings. Have a quick video call instead of slacking back and forth - you’ll save up time and also add a spark of motivation.
According to a recent survey from Grid Raster, 91% of tech enterprises are already using or are planning to adopt AR and VR. Once a prerogative of funky product designers, engineers and forward-thinking artists, the tech is offering efficient business models for a bunch of sectors from hardware and ecommerce sales to advertising and location-based entertainment.
Speculations aside, one thing is for sure - we will be seeing more and more creative ways of simulating the once-not-so-much-loved nine-to-five. And while the executives are trying out new marketing strategies and management styles, we still can reserve the luxuries of lunch walks in the park and friendly Zoom chats. Until the sweatpant office sinks or swims.
Disclaimer: The author of this story has vested interest in Taraxa.