From 100% remote to hybrid – working from home is here to stay. It might surprise you to discover that the foundation for the post-industrial work from home trend began during World War II and wartime technological advances that included the world’s first electronic digital computer in 1942. By the early 1970’s, during a major national energy crisis in the United States, former NASA engineer, Jack Nilles founded the idea of telecommuting as one of the lead authors of the book, The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff. Then, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 was passed in the U.S. and a study from Flexjobs and Global Workplace Analytics on the state of telecommuting in the U.S. uncovered that working remotely at least half the time had increased by 115% between 2005 and 2015.
The increase in people working from home due to COVID-19 prompted many companies to adopt newer digital technologies
Flash forward to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic drove many white-collar workers to work remotely rather than risk catching the potentially deadly virus. According to Vox, at the peak of pandemic lockdowns, more than 50% of the workforce in the U.S. worked from home. With so many employees working from home, companies that had resisted the idea or that had been reluctant to embrace advances in digital technologies, found themselves forced to adapt and adopt to survive.
With the advent of various vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2, some businesses have seen employees return to the office. However, research from Professor Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University, predicts that once the pandemic ends, workers who can work from home will embrace a hybrid approach where they work from home 2-3 days a week, while according to Emergent Research, 15-18% will be in permanent work from home positions.
That means that technologies businesses started using during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow most or all their workforce to work from home will still be necessary once its over. Furthermore, to foster collaboration and productivity between employees, each individual tech solution we’ve come to rely on will need to work together or companies will need to add more IT services and software to help them integrate their technology stack. But which technologies took off due to the increase in people working from home? Let’s take a look.
What technologies are companies adopting because of the work from home phenomena?
Computer and other technology advances are what allowed workers to telecommute prior to the pandemic and work from home during lockdowns. However, increasingly since the start of the pandemic and beyond, that has reversed and now it’s employee demands that are shaping business technology.
In many ways, these technologies aren’t just used between the office and employees working remotely, but inside the office as well, including amongst workers sitting one cubicle away from each other. The following list includes examples of everything from cloud-based solutions and software as a service (SaaS) to improvements in network connectivity and computer accessories.
- Better hardware and accessories – increasingly companies must invest in better equipment to improve video meetings, including those between people inside the office and people at home, including headphones, headsets, webcams or computers with better built-in cameras, laptop computers and tablets.
- Faster, more reliable internet – Remote workers need the bandwidth and connectivity speeds required to hold high-quality video calls and meetings not just with their colleagues and managers, but also their clients.
- Project management, collaboration tools and communication tools – Cloud-based SaaS solutions such as, Slack, Asana, Basecamp, Trello, and others as well as calendars and cloud-based office software make both communicating between team members and cross team collaboration from anywhere in the world to the office and vice versa easier.
- Video meeting and conferencing technology – Tools such as, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, etc., existed prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but didn’t become as widespread until the lockdowns started. Industries from entertainment to insurance made a Zoom into a household name and synonym for video calls and video conferencing everywhere.
- Cloud storage – Whether employees work from home full-time or need to take work home after hours, the remote work boom of 2020 meant more companies needed to make storing and accessing files and data both convenient and secure. Advances in cloud computing over the years means remote teams can share, access and collaborate on projects from anywhere.
- Cloud-based HR and hiring solutions – A mostly to partially remote workforce means employees can be recruited from everywhere and work just about anywhere. Increasingly, the first interview might be remote. Screening and filtering resumes have become increasingly automated. Furthermore, many HR tasks inside companies are now done via cloud-based solutions. Allowing HR teams to focus on the human element of their jobs and not repetitive tasks while making things such as signing up for and accessing benefits and paystubs more convenient for both remote and in-office staff.
- Network, data and computer security – With more employees working from home at least part-time, there’s an increased need for network, hardware and communication security. Better firewalls, multi-factor authentication, biometrics, data and end-to-end encryption technology help remove some of the worries companies have when staff needs to access servers from home or share sensitive information.
- Integration – A transition to a remote workforce during the pandemic meant an increase in the adoption of multiple tech solutions, all made using different programming languages and on different interfaces. To reduce task duplication and keep collaborations and communications as well as sharing of data and information across platforms and between employees, there’s an increased need for hardware, software and cloud-based services to work together or for businesses to invest in services that help foster that integration.
The transition to a hybrid workforce has increased the need for technology integration
It’s clear whether a portion of your staff never return to the office or if many of them continue to work from home part-time, your business needs to incorporate more digital and other advanced communication tools, if it hasn’t already. There are challenges for both managers and employees when even a small percentage of your employees work from home. To be successful, you must embrace a more connected approach that includes better, faster connectivity solutions, increased digital network security and integrated technology software and services. At the same time, advanced technology can help you to encourage your remote workers to create boundaries, thus improving your staff’s idea of what work and the company culture looks like.