During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work became one of the reasons resilient companies survived the mass shutdowns. But according to research by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, half of workers simply won't be able to work from home in 2022. The other half will be divided into a small percentage of those who can work from home indefinitely, while most others will work under a hybrid mix of remote and in-office work.
Work from home opportunities will continue in the coming years as part of a new norm, but not the majority. A trend is developing of hybrid workers moving further away from heavily populated areas, seeking larger homes and longer commutes. One of the top advantages of remote work is it allows people to move around and live where they choose.
Technologies You Need for a Remote Work Infrastructure
Remote work is best organized and communicated through a cloud-based network. That means you'll need a virtual private network (VPN) and an in-house or outsourced IT team with a data center or an internet service provider. At some point, you'll likely need tech support, which is why many companies outsource to a managed services provider (MSP). Here are the other technologies businesses effectively utilize for remote work that make them able to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic:
The cloud is the story of today's business and consumer culture. It's where social networks are in the spotlight and commercial transactions take place. It's also the primary underlying technology behind remote work and other reasons for anytime/anywhere access to a network. The reason businesses have flocked to the cloud is due to cost-efficiency, easy scalability and greater convenience.
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Virtual and Unified Communications
Virtualization is a common technology integrated with cloud-based infrastructure that allows for a wide range of seamless digital experiences. Combined with unified communications, which facilitates integration of multiple channels into one platform, this solution boosts productivity and improves collaboration.
Disaster Recovery and Data Backup Plan
If your company suffers a cybersecurity breach or a power outage, critical data can be damaged or lost. That's why you need to regularly back up your data in multiple places, so you can easily resume normal business activity. Your disaster recovery plan should list the steps to take during an emergency. Backup power generators and backup servers are useful for maintaining business continuity.
The more mobile devices that connect with your network, the more you need 24/7 network monitoring software that detects suspicious activity. The strongest cybersecurity systems can still be breached by hackers, so you need to build as many layers of security as possible to protect your data.
If remote workers use their own devices, you'll need to set policies on how to use company data. You should use cybersecurity tools to register and monitor devices allowed to access your network. Other things you need for protection are antivirus software, firewalls, and encryption.
Various business apps are available to empower your digital business activity. Consider apps for cloud platforms such as Office 365, WordPress and Dropbox. These platforms can be accessed by anyone on your team at any time to conduct business affairs.
Mobile or Desktop Devices
The widespread professional use of mobile devices continues in the era of increasing remote work. People can now do work on their notepads while they travel. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model had already become widespread prior to the pandemic. It's an excellent strategy for cutting technology costs, but it requires more robust cybersecurity. For remote workers who have developed home offices, desktops are still widely preferred.
Project Management Tools
Chat tools are helpful for real-time communication when a project is in progress. Sometimes a project manager needs to make quick adjustments to a project. Broader project management platforms exist to organize work assignments and schedules. Some of the most commonly used project management tools include Asana and Azure DevOps.
Working From Home?
Here are 12 challenges with remote work and how to overcome them:
- Real-time collaboration and communication - Remote workers should be available to interact with supervisors and coworkers digitally during a scheduled work period. Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams can keep a workforce connected on the same page.
- Lonely remote work experience due to isolation - Remote workers should be encouraged to pursue social activity outside of work.
- Inability to disconnect from work environment - A well-organized home office environment can make a remote worker feel more connected to their employer.
- Household distractions that reduce productivity - Finding a quiet place in the home while working is helpful for those with mobile devices. Turning off the TV, a smartphone and other technology that makes noise ensures less interruptions.
- Dealing with people in different time zones - Use file-sharing services when working with a remote team scattered around the world.
- Maintaining motivation to stay productive - Write down long-term goals and post them where they can be visible as a daily reminder.
- Taking time off occasionally - Everyone needs to take a break sometimes, which managers need to understand, expect and plan for workers.
- Accessing reliable wireless internet - Make sure remote workers have sufficient connections and are equipped with appropriate apps.
- Falling into poor habits that reduce efficiency - Workers can give themselves reminders on their phones about their work schedule. It's also important for physical and mental well-being to consume nutritious food.
- Managing work schedules effectively - Set specific work hours that are comfortable and keep the schedule consistent.
- Casual approach to work - Instead of doing work in pajamas, remote workers should treat work at home the same as work in an office.
- Failing to network effectively - Professionals can stay in touch with their industries by attending virtual events and embracing professional relationships.
Many digital nomads are relocating to more rural states where spending power is greater and taxes are lower. But remote workers and their employers face major challenges to address and overcome in the next few years. The key for a successful remote work environment is for skilled people and modern technology to work together.