The Future of Remote Working in 2021

Secure remote working became one of the most important areas of technology during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An influx of home workers and new requirements for online working put organisations under huge pressure to quickly role out modern workplace solutions. A few months into 2021, Camwood Business Development Manager, Toby De Heer shares his thoughts on the future of remote working, the huge efforts by IT teams across the globe to facilitate this new way of working and new opportunities for growth and optimisation as the end of the pandemic is almost in sight.  

Let’s begin by exploringwhat the objectives were for many organisations when tackling their modern workplace strategy? For most, it was the ability to provide a seamless experience for employees whilst working towards a strict budget due to other financial pressures. A seamless environment is envisioned by many as being able to take any device, anywhere and everything should simply, work! This is the definition of truly flexible working. Microsoft has tried to make this as straightforward as possible with its modern workplace offerings. However, as we all know, it is never as straightforward as choosing a product and it performing perfectly. So, what have we found from working with our customers over this year? Read on to find out.  

Rapid Deployment 

Firstly, it was inspirational to see IT departments and wider business units coming together to put their employees first and to ensurthat the tools and software that helped enable remote work were deployed as soon as possible. Organisation after organisation have continued to impress us with what they were able to configure in such a short space of time and we’ve seen a newfound focus from leadership teams and company boards on critical IT and digital workflows. 

This can be demonstrated by the incredible growth of the Microsoft Teams platform. The months of April & May 2020 saw an increase of 31 million daily active users, propelling Teams to become Microsoft’s fastest-growing offering. This translated into a growth percentage of just under 900%, beating out competitors such as Zoom by over 250%. Microsoft have continued to introduce new features to its growing platform, with features such as Breakout rooms providing essential functionality to sectors such as higher education. This, in addition to increased core functionality such as increased meeting participants and improved integration with third-party applications positions Teams to continue to lead the market and help organisations. 

Long-term impacts 

This fresh energy has not come without its limitations. The economic pressures of COVID have hit all but a select few industries with ongoing financial strains. On top of this, the pandemic has led to unprecedented time pressures and the need to be up and running as quickly as possible. 

This has several knock-on effects. Including ineffectual rollouts, limitations of features and underlying security & compliance issues. Microsoft provides several solutions such as MFA, PHS & PHA, as well as Azure AD to combat these issues but its never quite as simple as ticking the box.  

The importance of doing so, however, is critical. In fact, Gartner recently released a survey that indicates happy employees, who are able to conduct their work in a comfortable fashion, outperform the top 500 companies in America.  

The impacts of COVID drove organisations to deploy remote working capabilities as quickly as possible. Whilst, the accelerated nature of transformation was inspirational, it became apparent that restricted budgets along with time pressures led to less than best practice rollouts of Teams and remote workplace solutions. As a result, there has been a steep increase in the number of customers requesting assessments of their solutions to test their functionality, security and long-term effectiveness. Those who were less affected by budget restraints have also been requesting assessments but have done so with the intention of automating as many workflows as possible, a trend I am sure will continue as more and more organisations perfect their modern workplace offering. 

The Future of Remote Working 

So, what is coming for everyone and from the modern workplace tech stack? With the UK vaccination programme in full swing and a dropping infection rate, the question has to be asked. Will remote working become less of a priority or will it become the forefront of the workforce for the considerable future? 

I see it as the cornerstone of the new normal. Offices and cities may reopen but it has become very clear that employees are capable of working just as well outside of an office environment whilst being able to spend more time with family and less time commuting every day. This brings us back to the definition of flexible work, any device with all functionality, anywhere and anytime.  

With this realisation comes a new wave of risks associated with work devices and infrastructure. Security, compliance & Identity are pressured to new extents due to an influx of data being created and required to be monitored from countless new access points. How can we approach this on a continuous basis?  

We can look towards the theory of Evergreen for this. The idea is to keep everything updated through continuous improvements on an ongoing basis. Insuring Teams is constantly updated, the latest security and compliance solutions and ongoing identity management.  

First, we have to endeavour to ensure that modern workplace solutions are best practice. Costs can be reduced and employees’ workflows can be improved and security and compliance can keep your environment and employees safe.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Toby De Heer
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