COVID-19 has launched us into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment, one nobody had much time to prepare for. While knowledge workers struggle to develop new time-management, boundary-setting and transition rituals, tech leaders at the helm of knowledge-driven companies are trying to find the best ways to enable remote work.
Our VP of Innovation & Strategy, Tim Kulp, took to his trusty whiteboard recently to explain 4 technology models for remote work. You are probably using some elements of the first two right now. Three and four are hot growth areas you may want to investigate; they are ripe for exploration.
As you assess the tech model(s) currently underpinning your remote work, we want to share some resources to help you think about where you want to go and how to get there, both in the crisis-caused present and the long-term future.
1 & 2. BYOD vs. Virtual Networks
Bring Your Own Device. Whether employees are using their own tech or company-issued devices to work from home, we all know the drill here. At its most basic, the team is emailing files back and forth. (“Who has control of the doc right now?” “Is ClientProposalv4FinalFINAL the most recent version?”) Security experts have been having nightmares about people banging away on proprietary projects from coffee shop Wi-Fi for years now. At least that’s one problem we don’t have right now.
The cloud-enabled virtual networks and machines Tim talks about in his video are usually more efficient (barring systemwide outages) and can alleviate security concerns, but they are complex creations. If quarantine has made you realize you’re behind the curve here, seek expert help. Work with your cloud provider to plan the right solution for your company and build a roadmap to get there. If you don’t have a cloud provider, you can find partners through Microsoft, IBM, Google or Amazon’s partner network websites.
ZDNet recently published a helpful summary of essential tools for telecommuting. It lists popular products for remote desktop access, real-time collaboration, video conferencing, project and time management. And since all knowledge companies are in the same boat right now, some providers (including Google and Microsoft) are offering free trials of remote work tools to help ease the pain.
3. Automate to Delegate
Automating high-volume, repetitive, rule-based tasks with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can improve operational efficiency and boost remote worker morale. RPA teaches digital assistants to use existing computer systems the way humans do, so it’s much quicker to implement than a system overhaul that requires process optimization and platform redesign.
In this front-end automation video, Tim explains how human workers hand off tasks to digital assistants. Right now, that can free remote employees to homeschool their kids or take a sanity-saving walk before they get the ding on their smartphone informing them the digital assistant has completed its portion of the process.
The endgame of automation is to give workers at all levels more dedicated thought time, time to puzzle out the things that really matter. That’s especially important right now as we stare down the economic repercussions of global pandemic and quarantine. You can use your automation-saved time to think strategically about what comes next, how to weather this storm and position your business for what lies ahead.
4. Hologram Help
As the fourth tech model for remote work, mixed reality means a subject matter expert’s reach will no longer be constrained by physical location/geography. Frontline workers can get the help they need anytime, anywhere. This HoloLens 2 video shows the implications for employee training in the manufacturing industry. Having a brilliant “digital sidekick in your head” (as Kulp describes it), or access to your pick of remote experts, can help you head off any number of crisis situations.
Take a Deep Breath
No matter where you are in your tech journey to facilitate remote work, now is not the time to beat yourself up. Globally, we are living through circumstances that haven’t been seen in over 100 years. Like everything in business, we must try to see it as a learning experience. Assess your current remote work technology, investigate other tech models, and pursue what makes the most sense for your company.