Prepare for the work-from-anywhere revolution

Traditional in-person physical offices have been disappearing from our work lives for many years. With pandemic-wracked 2020 receding into history, many sectors of the global economy now have experienced the pleasures and frustrations of working from home.

Emergence of hybrid physical-virtual work environments

We’ve now seen practically every big technology company from Google to VMware give up trying to bring employees back to traditional offices for the indefinite future. According to a recent enterprise survey by 451 Research, the emerging technology research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, 80 percent of companies have implemented or expanded universal work-from-home policies, and 67 percent plan to keep at least some work-from-home policies in place long term or permanently.

If this recent London Business School study published in Harvard Business Review is any indication, knowledge workers generally have met the remote work challenge with flying colors. As discussed by study authors Julian Birkinshaw, Jordan Cohen, and Pawel Stach, productivity is booming. Based on comparatives responses to interviews conducted with knowledge workers in 2013 and then again in 2020, respondents are now spending 12 percent less time drawn into large meetings and nine percent more time interacting with customers and external partners. Knowledge workers reported performing 50 percent more activities through personal choice and 50 percent fewer activities because someone else asked them.

The pandemic hasn’t entirely eliminated physical offices that we share, at least occasionally, with other people. Few employers have committed to closing their traditional multiperson offices permanently. Most companies still reserve the right to require that personnel come back to at least one of these physical offices at some point. And few organizations have achieved full parity between the support infrastructure they provide for work-from-home employees and the level enjoyed by those who report to a traditional office.

At least for knowledge workers, the global economy is rapidly shifting toward “work from anywhere.” Going forward, most knowledge workers will spend their careers in hybridized work environments that blend physical and virtual sites in endlessly shifting patterns. Much of this change will foster work culture, behaviors, and processes geared to hybrid, distributed, work-from-anywhere productivity. We’re even seeing this new order begin to transform working environments such as cinema production in new and surprising ways.

Enterprise IT can facilitate work from anywhere

What impact will these “new normal” work location arrangements have on enterprise IT infrastructure patterns? In this coming post-pandemic social order, the most pivotal technologies will enable greater social distancing, more productive remote collaboration, and more comprehensive biosensing.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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