Out of necessity, organizations are enacting work-from-home policies, and many are turning to cloud-based solutions to get up and running quickly. Could this be the start of a major change in the business landscape? I think so.
No going back
We’ve all seen changes to the business landscape brought about by major disruptors. But, have you noticed that once things change, they don’t tend to go back to the way they used to be? Some of these disruptors become the new normal very quickly, while others take some time to fully catch on. And I think the seeds of the next major business disruption have already been planted.
Due to some extraordinary circumstances, organizations around the globe have launched work-from-home initiatives. And as this imposed separation from the office is expected to last several weeks (if not longer), employees will quickly get used to this new work flexibility, and organizations will be faced with a growing work-from-home workforce.
Home is the new office
The terms “telecommute” and “telework” were first introduced in 1973 to describe the idea of working remotely. While this concept may be decades old, it hadn’t been fully embraced by global organizations for any number of reasons—lack of technology, fear of productivity loss, corporate cultures that value personal interaction, and many others.
Yet, the recent global crisis has forced organizations to put their preferences aside and embrace, at least temporarily, a working-from-home model. And some experts believe, now that employees have firsthand experience working from home, they won’t want to go back.
“I think this is a watershed moment in terms of wider acceptance and implementation of work-from-home,” said Philippe Weiss, president of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, a Chicago-based workplace training consulting services company. “Employees that have tasted the benefits of more freedom and autonomy are going be hard-pressed to let it go.”
The 5G effect
Some employees have resisted working from home as the technology in the office—specifically, internet speed and connectivity—was better than in the home. But that is no longer the case.
Many home networks provide employees with robust connectivity—all while not having to share bandwidth with hundreds of others. For those that don’t yet, 5G will likely be the answer. 5G brings with it phenomenal speeds—up to 10 Gbps. At that rate, you could download an entire HD movie in a few seconds on your laptop or mobile device. That should provide any work-from-home employees with speedy access to work applications, especially video conferencing.
This critical business tool will play a major role in the work-from-home future, as employees can still have “face-to-face” meetings, even if other members of your team are on the other side of the globe.
Those employees that have embraced working from home have done so largely for convenience. After all, going from your bedroom to your home office is a much easier commute than the drive to the office, which for some, can be one hour or longer. But that’s not the only benefit.
According to a 2019 study, telecommuters "worked 1.4 more days every month or 16.8 more days every year" than those in an office. The same study also showed that remote employees lost only 27 minutes per day on distractions, as opposed to the 37 minutes distracted office workers lost.
And, those organizations that use a cloud-based solution for remote access not only help improve productivity for their employees but for their IT and networking staffs as well. These professionals no longer have to worry about manually updating or patching appliances, or managing multiple network security devices. Instead, they can take on new projects that provide even greater benefits to the organization.
And, yes, even your IT staff can break free from the confines of the office and enjoy working from home as these cloud-based solutions are managed by the service provider.
Of course, any disruptive change won’t be adopted unless it benefits the organization where it counts most—financially. And organizations can recognize a host of cost savings by implementing a work-from-home program.
Having employees work from home, even part-time, means organizations require less office space for employees and, with that, fewer office supplies and furniture. And, as working-from-home initiatives often go hand-in-hand with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, organizations have to purchase and supply fewer laptops and other devices.
In addition, employees working from home can’t bring their coughs and sniffles with them into the office, possibly infecting others. And, those same work-from-home employees are less likely to take sick time.
Additionally, organizations are always looking for the best talent, even if it is on the other side of the globe. Unfortunately, some organizations are hesitant to cast the talent net that wide as relocation costs (as well as other government-mandated requirements) make the process overly complicated. Those barriers can be avoided if the new talent can work from their home, whether it is in your home country or not. Ultimately, this greatly increases the available talent pool for organizations.
A new business requirement
Until now, working from home has always been a nice bonus. But not anymore. Organizations face losing out on talent as working from home becomes less of a benefit and more of a job requirement. It might even be the difference between an employee choosing to work for you or your competition.
After all, the current Generation Z has grown up with anywhere, anytime access, and many even grew up with online learning. So, a generation that is used to learning from home will expect to work from home, and experts are advising organizations to be ready to accommodate these future employees.
According to Gartner, the demand for remote work will increase by at least 30 percent simply due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce.
Are you ready?
Whether you are an organization that already has work-from-home policies in place or are hurrying to implement them in these unprecedented times, it would be foolish to look at working from home as a short-term situation.
What some see as merely a “trend” or temporary necessity is likely to be the next major business disruptor. Of course, the corporate office isn’t going away, but work-from-home options will soon become a normal part of doing business. And organizations that don’t embrace this new business reality will be left behind.
Steve Grossenbacher is Head of Product Marketing for Zscaler Internet Access