As companies come to grips with letting employees work remotely, the constraints to replicating a true office environment outside of the office has come to the fore. Rather than simply looking at providing employees with devices and remote access to their data and applications, they are having to take a closer look at the entire ecosystem in order to enable true workforce mobility.

This technology-enabled shift toward remote or blended working is a generational one, and is one that has been in the making for some time; Covid and resulting lockdowns merely accelerated the rate at which companies started digitising certain aspects – or all – of their business.

The changes have been such that in late 2020, Bill Gates predicted that 50% of business travel and 30% of days spent in the office would go away, and that face-to-face meetings will no longer be the ‘gold standard’. Software vendors are bringing even more technology to the market that further entrenches remote working, with functionality such as digital contracts that don’t need all signatories to be in the same place.

Rather than being tethered to a physical office, employees can now carry out their duties from a place where they are the most productive – wherever that may be. It also means that companies can source talent regardless of where they are based. If anything, it will be the desire for direct interaction where ad-hoc collaboration is required without having to schedule calls that bring employees together in the work environment.

Enabling workforce mobility

True mobility is about giving your employees the ability to access all the amenities that they typically would have in the office, including all the data and tools and applications they need to carry out their job from a remote location. A real ‘anywhere, any device’ experience should not limit employees in terms of what they can or can’t do based on what tools they have access to on a particular device.

It is about ensuring synchronicity across devices, whether desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, and the ability to seamlessly switch between devices in order to use what is most convenient for the workspace that employees find themselves in. This is much easier done when organisations move to the cloud.

With people accessing company data and applications from multiple locations and devices, it is critical that organisations make cybersecurity a priority, and safeguard their data and networks through the use of technology such as Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). This should further be extended to the use of multifactor authentication for all applications and accounts in order to protect users against hacks.

Equipping employees, change management

While turning to the cloud can help organisations better equip themselves for remote or blended working environments, connectivity remains a critical component. This means that apart from providing staff with devices, organisations will need to ensure access to stable internet connectivity, such as with a fixed-LTE solution.

While this may seem expensive at first, companies adopting these new approaches might see a reduction in spending in other areas – such as rent and office consumables – allowing them to substitute costs. Many organisations already have detailed policies around mobile devices and laptops (who can get it, how much airtime and data they are allocated, etc) and this can be easily extended to include connectivity devices.

One should remember that remote working is not entirely new; this has been the standard way of operating for companies in some sectors, such as in auditing, where staff regularly work from customer premises, and these organisations have been able to respond to the current (forced) shift more easily.

The rate of change, and developments seen in technology means that the devices and tools or applications needed to function remotely – across many industries – are out there. The only thing holding back the widespread adoption of mobile workforces is the change management capability of organisations who are looking to bridge the gap between those who are embracing this new way of working, and those who would prefer their office and desk back.

By Rob Lith, CCO at Telviva