SOURCE: The Liincs Thought Leader Blog
By: Justin Hermann, smartIT Managing Partner & IT Consultant, Liincs CTO
The COVID-19 Pandemic has created two classes of organizations, particularly here on Long Island: those which were prepared to have their office staffers and management work from home, and those which were not.
Prior to the pandemic, “working from home” was more often than not a catch-all phrase that meant the employee was really taking care of a sick child, waiting for the plumber to help with a household emergency or downright playing hooky. What was once an aberration accepted with a wink and a nod has now become part of the everyday work vernacular. The trick is to ensure the “new normal” enables and empowers employees to be as productive as they would be in the traditional, if not more so.
Some companies were better prepared for this transition than others. The two biggest areas where many companies could enable their office-working professionals so easily to work remotely stemmed from their ability to examine their technology infrastructure and overall work culture. This includes large companies, non-profits, and small businesses of which there are plenty on Long Island.
For companies that have never worked from home before, there was certainly a culture change for some of their employees. No longer are those hallway conversations, office lunches, or birthday parties in the office. It is a big change for some. These companies may not have set up their technology stacks to allow for remote work. Many IT Departments of traditional office-based companies were scrambling to set up their remote work systems.
Companies that leveraged cloud-based technologies and work from home programs were already ahead of the curve. They already knew how to use the technology too, which made them more comfortable communicating internally/externally with their colleagues.
Architecting IT solutions that address mobility, security, and productivity are key to ensuring productive output from those working from home. Many companies invested in laptops post 9/11, which made it easier for “disaster recovery” to take place and mandate all employees to stay home. Employees can get work done no matter where they are, using corporate-owned laptops. Laptops are not inexpensive. They require a significant hardware investment. No longer should employees have to say “I need to go to my office to do X”. Employees also need reliable home networks built, reliable internet, and the appropriate budget required to do so.
Employees love using cloud solutions such as productivity software, remote meeting, and phone systems with both desktop & mobile applications that give them the ability to work from anywhere. We hear all the buzzwords: Zoom, Slack, Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), and Google G Suite. Millennials have grown up with this technology, yet so many enterprises have yet to adopt some of this technology.
Post-COVID, we are seeing technology investments being made to enable work no matter where workers want to work (although companies should establish set boundaries at their discretion). IT and business leaders have adapted their companies to become more digitally enabled and the business community is recognizing true productivity from it.
This shift does not mean we need to see the end of the traditional offices, but offices will adapt to the modern needs of society. For Long Island, this means more people can expect to work from home more often, making rush hour traffic a little more bearable (talk about an unintended benefit)! Also, we may even see a lot of Manhattan-based companies set up satellite offices for employees to work on Long Island, which is great news for our economy and the residents of Long Island.
For me, I’ll still hide out in my office here in Bay Shore, NY. The building I work out of is a former Long Island company’s headquarters and I am lucky enough to have the privilege to work here. Even though everyone else I work with is remote, it is nice to have a place to go to and get out of the house!
I think we will see a trend of people starting to look for small offices in the suburbs they can “work remotely” from that is only a short distance away from their homes! This can be a co-working opportunity as well as an opportunity for people to find a space where they can focus on their work.
In addition to operating smartIT, Justin Hermann serves as the Liincs Chief Technology Officer. Liincs is a non-profit dedicated to “Connecting Long Island” to cultivate a platform for Long Islanders looking to better their community and careers through new connections, professional development, civic engagement, and social impact.