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Distributed Companies, Work From Home, And The Technology Enabling The Change
by Daniel Newman | November 1, 2020

There’s a mass exodus happening in San Francisco right now. The demand for housing has dropped dramatically as the Silicon Valley tech employees who once populated the peninsula are moving to more affordable locations now that remote work is here to stay — at least through 2021. And San Francisco is not alone. Suddenly, businesses around the world are no longer constricted by geographical boundaries. Employees can work wherever they are in the world for companies whose offices might be hundreds of miles away — and successfully too I might add. In the last 6 months, companies have kept employees productive and safe at home while still accomplishing goals.

Companies that had broadly promoted remote work as a fringe benefit to employees have a leg up on other businesses in the post-coronavirus world. But even if your company was a remote worker laggard, there’s no need to worry. There are lots of technologies—and lots of guidance—available to keep your company moving smoothly, no matter where you, your employees, and your data are located.

Why They’re Here to Stay

If you’re someone who’s been hoping the whole “work from home” trend would end as soon as retail and restaurants open, think again. While some parts of the country seem set on reopening, many companies have realized that the health threats associated with coronavirus are here for the long haul. Companies like Google, for instance, have already announced aggressive work from home policies that will allow employees to work remotely into July of 2021. Facebook has one even further, noting that employees will no longer be forced to work in-office—ever. It’s rumored that Microsoft will follow a similar path too.

Others, such as Siemens, have used the coronavirus pandemic as a method of moving even further into digital transformation, including not just technology but overall corporate culture. According to its CEO, “These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office. We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results.”

Still, to fully empower employees to work from home, companies need to invest in the right technologies that will allow them to work seamlessly. Clearly, as “zoom” is set to become a verb in its own right, those technologies are far from limited. But does your company really know which ones are best suited to your employees and their work?

Technologies Aiding Change

Yes, the lowest hanging fruit right now from a remote working perspective is probably a collaboration platform — people need to communicate. However, there are lots of other technologies available that can help you manage your employees and data safely for the duration of the global pandemic. Dell recommends focusing on a three-pronged approach to remote work technologies: empowering your people, managing your devices, and securing your data. It’s a great place to start if you are still trying to figure out how to determine your remote workforce needs.

  • Empowering Employees: As Siemens noted, one part of empowering your employees is letting go of technology that monitors minutes and hours and instead focuses on helping your workers get their work done more efficiently. From a tech perspective, that could involve investments in RPA or video conferencing. In fact, a recent PwC study on remote work showed that while employees want a flexible work environment, they also still value engagement with fellow employees. In fact, it’s a reason many still opt to go into work, even if it isn’t required. Thus, providing technology that allows for opportunities for meaningful interaction as a team is an important investment, as well. Pexip, a videoconferencing provider, has gotten its videoconferencing software down to such a science that it thrives on remote work. Seriously. It can happen.
  • Managing Devices: Again, we’re not looking for technologies that help you track who has devices, and where. We’re looking for technologies that help you keep your devices up to date, compliant and safe—automatically—no matter where an employee may be working. Dell’s Unified Workspace, for instance, can help securely deploy devices and updates, saving your IT teams the stress of visiting every employee home office when an update appears.
  • Securing Data: Obviously, data security is an important issue when working from home. Studies show that 81 percent of breaches are caused by compromised employee credentials. Cisco’s Secure Remote Worker can help by securing endpoints and supporting teammates while working both on and off the VPN.

According to Pexip, companies that allow for remote work experience 50 percent less turnover than others that are less progressive. We’ve seen stories that women in particular, have had to make a choice between working and caring for families stuck at home. So what will happen for companies going forward? There’s never been a time in history when the flexibility of remote work can bring. You owe it to your employees, and to your company, to see how a distributed company model could benefit you.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.

The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.

Daniel Newman