Whether for better or for worse, remote work is here to stay. As countries grapple with uneven vaccination rates and new coronavirus variants, the COVID-19 battle rages on. Even as organizations in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region swing between working from home and returning to the office, one thing is for certain – the way we work has changed forever. Hybrid work is our new reality!
In fact, business leaders and managers who fail to see remote work as the future require a mindset shift. In the early days of the global pandemic, many organizations were focused on helping employees make a smooth transition to working from home to minimize business disruption. Back then, employers were looking for immediate fixes such as purchasing video conferencing and collaboration software or tweaking basic policies in favour of flexible work. Today, however, this “band-aid mentality” needs to change, and employers must approach remote work with a long-term strategy in mind.
It’s no secret that technology is the underlying enabler of a successful and sustainable remote work strategy. The good news is that at least 50% of employees in APJ feel that their employers are doing everything they can to provide them with the necessary technology resources to work remotely, according to Dell Technologies’ Remote Work Readiness Index. The not-so-great news is that employees continue to face tech challenges when working remotely – the top three being unstable remote networks; limited access to internal company resources; as well as using personal productivity tools for work, which can pose a threat to cybersecurity.
When it comes to making tech investments for long-term remote work, it is important to get it right from day one. After working with numerous clients and partners to enable their shift to hybrid work (as well as through our own experiences at Dell Technologies), we’ve narrowed it down to three fundamental tech investments that organizations must make in order to thrive in a remote work environment.
Tip #1: Help employees do their job better by providing the right productivity tools
Supporting employees with the right technology and tools is a critical first step. From an employee perspective, productivity equipment is a basic need for remote working. Our study found that among the 7,192 respondents across seven markets in APJ, 39% named company-issued productivity equipment and tools as the top tech resource that employers must provide for long-term remote work.
There are two key implications that could arise if employees do not have access to company-issued productivity tools they need. Firstly, this may result in reduced productivity and increased frustration among staff who feel that they are not set up for success in their remote work environment. In the long term, this could take a toll on team morale, retention rates and business performance.
A second and more serious implication is that without the right productivity equipment, employees may resort to downloading company documents onto their own personal devices to perform their daily tasks more efficiently. This leads to exposed data and the “double handling” or duplication of data across multiple platforms. For organizations, this poses a challenge in tracking, managing, and protecting sensitive data stored at endpoints or employee devices.
My advice to business leaders is to prioritize the employee experience in a hybrid work model, by investing in quality tech resources – from laptops and monitors to peripheral accessories – to empower staff to work productively and securely.
Tip #2: Set up your organization with advanced IT infrastructure for hybrid working
A long-term hybrid work model is one that is designed to be a ‘ready-for-anything’ digital workplace. This means that regardless of whether employees are working from home or in the office, organizations should be ready to enable seamless collaboration and manage IT resources from anywhere.
One key investment that can help achieve this is cloud computing technology. Cloud infrastructure enables more seamless accessibility to company resources and offers scalability and cost-efficiency. In fact with the rise of the hybrid workplace, the adoption of cloud technologies has been increasing – Gartner predicts that worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services will grow 26.7% in 2021, as CIOs and IT leaders continue to prioritize cloud-delivered applications such as software as a service (SaaS).
As a start, organizations making the shift to the cloud can consider starting with a hybrid cloud infrastructure model – one that combines public, private and edge clouds to support workloads from traditional and next-generation applications.
Learning from our own experience of enabling flexible remote work for team members worldwide, Dell Technologies built a multi-cloud environment and put in place other virtualization initiatives, allowing our cloud infrastructure to run what team members are accessing remotely at a faster rate and without having to increase the number of IT staff. Solutions like Dell Technologies’ Unified Workspace also allow our IT teams to deploy, secure, manage and support company-owned devices from the cloud.
Tip #3: Protect your organization’s data with endpoint security solutions
A non-negotiable must-have in an organization’s hybrid work model is a robust security and data protection strategy. I cannot emphasize this enough. As remote work causes data to be distributed across multiple locations such as data centres, various work sites and hybrid and multi-cloud environments, a comprehensive data protection strategy – combining proven and modern data protection – is essential.
The Dell Technologies’ Remote Work Readiness Index found that in APJ, nearly 1 in 3 (28%) of employees had to contend with using personal productivity equipment or tools for work. This gives rise to a large volume of confidential data stored on personal devices, or endpoints. To securely manage the enormous amount of data being generated at the edge, organisations need to prevent, detect and respond to threats wherever they occur.
A new global commissioned study by Dell Technologies and Forrester Consulting showed that 55% of businesses in APJ have had to put emergency steps in place to keep data safe outside of their company network as people continue to work remotely. But rather than take a reactive response, I recommend investing in cybersecurity infrastructure that is flexible, scalable and manageable, and ensuring the proactive prevention of security threats and data loss through AI, machine learning and easy-to-implement behavioural endpoint detection.
Embracing a connected workplace
With the right tech investments in place, organizations will be well-placed to pivot seamlessly between working from home and the office with minimal disruption to business operations. At Dell Technologies, we have a Connected Workplace program which was initially created to help provide a flexible working environment for our team members across the world, and we thrived in this environment. From our decade-long experiences with flexible work, we were able to quickly enable 90% of our team members globally to work remotely in just one weekend – during the early days of the pandemic in March 2020.
Organizations must also remember that business success today is not just about providing the right technology. It is equally – if not more – important to invest in digital upskilling and the wellbeing of employees as they cope with other challenges of working from home, like blurred boundaries between professional and personal lives. The success of a connected workplace ultimately depends on an organization’s ability to embrace a flexible culture and support with the right technology infrastructure, to enable innovation and effective remote working.
Jean-Guillaume Pons, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China, Client Solutions Group, Dell Technologies
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