3 phases of Workplace strategies in COVID-19: react, remediate, reinvent

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The speed at which the effects of COVID-19 hit the world has been stunning. From the first news of infections in Wuhan, to a global lockdown six months later, this has been an unprecedented shock to everyone – especially since the myriad aftereffects and continued impacts remain unclear.  

This blog highlights the business impacts around the world. Most organizations have responded in three phases:

  1. React – organizations jumped into action just to sustain the business. Some countries were hit harder than others because it was not a common practice to work from home (WFH) and the necessary infrastructure was not in place. Other countries had limited capabilities for small numbers of people to work from home. This meant organizations faced challenges that differed from country to country – but the key was to react quickly.
  2. Next, organizations needed to remediate the solutions deployed in the react phase. Often, reacting quickly resulted in deploying traditional solutions to sustain the business. Normally, such solutions would have taken months of planning and testing – but the pandemic did not allow this. This resulted in the deployment of vulnerable solutions and increased the number of cyber-attacks. This called for a higher degree of remediation.
  3. Now is the time to reinvent remote working and review how your organization works. As the immediate impacts of COVID-19 subside, organizations should take stock and digitally transform. The effects of COVID will be with us for some time, so organizations need to reinvent themselves to allow all employees to work remotely.

Let’s look at the three phases in detail:

React

The uptake of flexible remote work was steadily growing even prior to COVID-19, driven by several factors, including environmental concerns, sustainability goals, and work/life balance initiatives. COVID-19 caused a sudden acceleration of flexibility, meaning that organizations had to react suddenly – at unprecedented scope and speed.

The ability to react and the speed required to do so differed from organization to organization. Those with established infrastructures to support remote working or those that had previously embraced cloud technologies were better placed to expand their existing environments. For others, it was a sudden re-evaluation of their strategies and IT priorities.

Either way, the key question was: “What devices will people be using to access corporate information and applications on so that they could continue to do their work – and how can corporate data be kept secure?Organizations did what they could. Some committed to large hardware purchases of laptops for remote users (leading to ongoing shortages of hardware endpoints and components). Others sent staff home with armfuls of existing desktop computers from their offices. Still others allowed employees to use their own devices. While these approaches met immediate needs, several additional IT challenges on how to secure, manage, and support remote working accessibility ensued.

Remediate

Many organizations want to move more permanently to a flexible remote working environment (see Gartner reports CFO Survey Reveals 74% Intend to Shift Some Employees to Remote Work Permanently and Workplaces with Shared Seating Will be the New Normal After COVID-19). This makes ensuring the IT strategy is resilient, flexible, and secure more challenging. Balancing remote employee needs for a great, seamless experience against continual and growing cyber threats is tricky. Making remote workers jump through too many security hoops creates a poor experience, but lax security is not an option.

The growing number of cyber-attacks targeted at edge devices since March 2020 has led many organizations to reflect on how they deliver ongoing remote access. Given the steps organizations took during the react phase and the current budgetary and supply challenges of just replacing new hardware, how can the security of a remote/cloud solution be extended to a broad range of endpoint devices such as laptops, desktops, thin clients, and BYOD?

Reinvent

Now is the time to look at how remote working is enabled for your organization. Instead of a traditional transformation, digitally transform your environment using new, secure cloud-based solutions that can grow/shrink on demand.

Many organizations turned to VPN, a staple that allows remote employees to connect to internal resources remotely. However, VPN is showing its age, and has a host of concerns, including security problems, performance issues, scalability issues, and complexity. It was designed for the problems companies faced twenty years ago. Because it secures the channel of communication between the end user and the corporate network, this means you are placing the end-user device (and any cyber threats it may contain) on the internal corporate network alongside other corporate machines.

Digital transformation is a much safer solution in this day and age. So how can you digitally transform? Let’s look at collaboration and corporate applications separately:

  • Teams is Microsoft’s cloud-based collaboration solution and part of the Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suite of applications. Microsoft was inspired by the challenges raised by COVID-19 and developed Viva as a new employee experience platform and part of their digital workspace offering. Designed to work with Teams, it acts as a portal for both employees and organizations to assist with challenges of working from home. Viva is a little like a traditional intranet, presenting all the essential tools and information from a central location (within Teams).
  • To support corporate applications and desktops, many organizations turn to Windows Virtual Desktop. Windows Virtual Desktop is Microsoft’s cloud-based service, which provides virtualized Windows 10 operating systems-based virtualized desktops and applications from the cloud. Alternatives include Amazon WorkSpaces or Google Workspace. IGEL Technology’s solution has over 90+ different technology integrations built into the IGEL Linux-based operating system and optimized to support the growing multimedia and video collaboration technologies that more and more people rely on in these times (see the Capgemini/IGEL Podcast one and two).

Some organizations have already started this digital transformation and have seen productivity gains, simplicity in management, and significant cost savings as they implement solutions that are optimized for cloud-delivered desktops and applications. Those that haven’t, should consider how to reinvent themselves and deliver a great experience for their employees, keep them engaged, and give them a fully connected employee experience.

At Capgemini, we design solutions that help organizations on their digital transformation journey. Our Connected Employee Experience brings new levels of choice and flexibility for employee interactions, engagement, collaboration, and support. We can expedite your journey to building a superb experience with the Connected Experience Framework and offer outstanding collaboration experience’s through our Connected Collaboration solutions and best-in-class virtual applications and desktops, including IGEL options through our  solutions – in addition to many other workspace solutions that can be delivered individually or integrated to meet your requirements.

 

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