Changes in IT infrastructure, company culture, and the future of work

In their March 2020 survey, Gartner found that almost three quarters of CFOs and Finance leaders believe that at least 5% of what was the ‘on-site workforce’ will become permanent ‘work-from-home employees’ after the restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic have been lifted. Pre-pandemic, 1.7 million people mainly worked from home in the UK, but this number has soared since lockdown.

Rather than being able to ease themselves into a new way of working, taking time to research and trial new strategies, businesses have been forced to make seismic changes and simply cope with their new remote working culture with little or no notice. For many, this points to a shortfall in equipment, technology, and technical skill amongst employees. Without the understanding behind remote working, operations and communication is disrupted, and therefore more support is needed.

To combat this, 58% of companies have ordered new devices including laptops, tablets, and mobiles to manage working remotely. A knee-jerk response such as this may provide the equipment necessary, however with 33% not upgrading their security systems to include their new hardware, there could be more trouble ahead. The lack of IT infrastructure that inevitably comes from a fast shift to remote working means inexperienced companies face challenges in managing their new complicated technology, however 34% of businesses have hired external IT support to combat this.

Remote working is enabled through technology

As you might expect, collaboration and conferencing technology usage has absolutely rocketed in the wake of lockdown. On 25 March, Slack reported 12.5 million simultaneous users, which is up from 1 million in October 2015, and saw 9,000 new users through Q1 of this year compared to 5,000 in both Q3 and Q4 2019.

According to third-party data, daily usage of Apple Inc.’s current top free app, Zoom, was up more than 300% compared to figures pre-lockdown, and rival Cisco’s Webex product, reported hosting 50 million meetings in March. Microsoft Teams usage had increased to a reported 44 million daily active users as of 19 March, which is up by 12 million from the previous week. And active daily Skype users are up 70% to more than 40 million.

Of course, the increases aren’t purely due to more remote meetings. Apparently 27% of companies have conducted employee performance reviews and offered promotions through video conferencing, and 42% have conducted online quizzes to strengthen employee relations while everyone is separated. And it’s not all corporate either. Although official figures haven’t been released, Trello and Asana spokespeople have confirmed an increase in people signing up from non-corporate email addresses around the world, where families are attempting to organise their family’s new lives, dealing with their newly home-schooled children.

The rise in demand for these collaboration and conferencing tools shows business’ perceptions towards remote working, or working from home, are changing. Although they’ve had little choice in the matter, and little notice, reports indicate that these shifts in company culture may stick around, even when lockdown becomes a distant memory.

Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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