Before 2020, most businesses operated under the idea that employees needed to physically come into the office to carry out their duties. However, with the COVID-19 crisis, a majority of organizations were forced to take on remote working as their primary method of employment and to adjust their infrastructure accordingly.
Hard vs Soft Infrastructure
Hard infrastructure includes the physical aspects of the workplace that enables a safe and productive work environment, such as buildings, desks, chairs, computers, and the servers for the organization. These are tangible items that you can interact with and can make your work life more efficient.
Soft infrastructure includes the intangible aspects of the working environment that are necessary for you and your colleagues to sustain productivity and safety. Soft infrastructure is exemplified by Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), network firewalls and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Infrastructure to Support Business as Usual
As companies across the world move their employees to a work from home (WFH) model, they have had to make many considerations on how this would affect the business as a whole in terms of hard and soft infrastructure.
Hardware to Work with at Home
Most companies have had to consider providing remote working hardware – from laptops to RSA Tokens – to their WFH employees. Using the office-based network hardware such as desktop computers and fiber optic connections was no longer an option with mandatory stay in place orders. The unforeseen high upfront costs of new hardware led many companies to weigh the alternative of putting a portion their full-time resources on furlough to offset or avoid them.
As the WFH environment is being extended into the foreseeable future, and even being seen as a way to cut real estate costs, the companies that made this initial decision are now having to explore making the investment in a change to WFH necessities.
These changes are sure to affect many IT related companies across the market in both positive and negative ways. Cloud-based storage companies, remote access security and VPN services, and video communication tools are all sure to see increased sales. Alternatively, traditional IT infrastructure like cabling and fiber optics along with routers/switches and physical server storage may become more and more obsolete.
Data Security and Integrity
Technology companies that manage sensitive and confidential data for their clients have been apprehensive to conduct business outside their offices, where they had control over surveillance and data access/sharing. Managing who accesses company data in a BYOD situation is a concern that has accelerated the adoption of multi factor authentication (MFA) across companies and industries.
Data warehouse offerings from Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure have come into their own during this period for a number of reasons. They are extremely versatile platforms that provide the full range of data management for medium to large enterprises. In addition, they provide integration to their productivity packages that contain spreadsheet, database and document processing software.
Each provides extremely flexible, large capacity storage that can be scaled up or down with minimum downtime (low recovery time objectives) and massively parallel processing (MPP). This removes the need for companies to build their own storage facilities and can allow them to redirect these resources to facilitating their employees’ access the cloud-based data at home.
Employee Productivity at Home
Productivity management is a major concern where the home and office environments have merged so suddenly. Encouraging and monitoring the productivity levels of employees has led to the use of system monitoring software such as Time Doctor. This is a Software as a Service (SaaS) product that tracks time usage on a computer system by logging which websites are visited online through browser monitoring and which applications are used through the installed desktop app.
Avenues of Communication Have Changed
Employee accessibility in the office simply meant walking to their desk, but with remote work, this is no longer possible. Remote communication tools that were previously used in the enterprise space of global multinational companies found themselves with a rapidly broadened client base in enterprises of every size. Many companies have adopted audio and video conferencing for meetings, sales pitches, stand ups, and everything in between.
Some companies have begun using the video conferencing tools offered within office productivity bundles such as Google Meet within Google Suite, and Microsoft Teams within the Office 365 suite. These bundles are great but come at relatively high subscription rates due to their tight integration with cloud-based productivity software such as Google Sheets. Other companies have resorted to using specialty conferencing software such as Zoom and GoToWebinar which offer a variety of features and lower subscription fees.
Effects of WFH on the Employee
The option of working from home has been widely accepted by a majority of employees, especially when the job market has slowed down and approximately 40 million people are now unemployed in the US alone. However, there are still challenges and considerations for effectively transitioning to WFH.
The mental switch from leaving the house to going into the office has been lost in the WFH model, and with it, some employees are facing challenges of adapting to working remotely. Especially since this move was caused by a global crisis. There has been an increased need for wellness counselling for many people, and access to mental health professionals via phone or by video conference is now seen as a necessary service to maintain employee productivity.
Busy Home Environments
Before the global crisis, many remote workers could take advantage of empty homes to work in peace and solitude. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, remote workers are finding themselves in full houses with spouses, young children, and other extended family members. Companies that have been successful at fostering a productive work from home environment have modified office hour policies to accommodate irregular shifts and have become understanding of the voices of children and other distractions during important business meetings.
Is your company’s infrastructure creating a great work from home environment?
The work from home era was made mainstream by the COVID-19 pandemic but given the many benefits that remote working has to offer, most organizations have realized that it is here to stay even after the lockdowns are lifted.
Let the experts at ASB Resources help your company implement and/or optimize the crucial infrastructure changes you need to make the most of working from home. Schedule a call with one of our experts today!