Remote working has long existed, but what was once the preserve of peripatetic executives and hard-driving salesmen has become the norm, or close to it.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic is at the root of this, but the change has been dramatic. In fact, data from the EU’s labour research agency Eurofound said that, in 2020, Ireland had one of the highest rates of homeworking across the bloc.
Those who were sent home on March 13, 2020 could be forgiven for having a mixed view of remote work, though. Not only were networks and systems not in place; even basic technology such as laptops were close to impossible to obtain, due to supply-chain wobbles.
Now, more than a year down the line, however, companies are attempting to make certainty from uncertainty, and this means instituting software that supports and facilitating remote work because, despite the vaccine rollout, the future remains uncertain.
“Your data is exposed and your applications need to operate seamlessly; it’s time to take a strategic view of it,” said Jim Lehane, head of security and emerging technology at Exertis Ireland.
Exertis distributes to enterprise clients through its partner network. Its client base does include small and medium businesses (SMBs). Even these businesses can benefit from the right technology allowing them to enable remote working.
“It’s important even for the smallest business, because they probably don’t have an IT department,” he said.
The solution, he said, was not to lash together a complex system using VPNs and remote login but to instead virtualise the workplace with VMware Anywhere Workspace, a range of solutions that includes zero trust remote connectivity, digital workspace insights, app analytics, and automation and support solutions.
“It really was the next step for VMware: they had already virtualised the servers, they’d virtualised the data centre, then the cloud, so this, virtualising the workplace, is the obvious next step,” said Lehane.
Recent research published by VMware, Employee Experience Dilemmas and the Anywhere Organisation: What Leaders Need to Know, says that while it was itself a matter of happenstance, in 2020 the pandemic precipitated a shift to widespread remote work, which has ushered in increased demand for workstyle flexibility.
The final destination, though, is the hybrid workplace, with some staff working in the office, some at home and some doing both.
Indeed, VMware said some 70 per cent of employees want the ability to easily work from anywhere and, it said, that this will result in the rise of the so-called ‘multi-modal’ workplace.
According to VMware, the future will be one of different approaches for different employees. For some, the digital workspace has replaced the physical workspace, but two other groups also exist: hybrid workers who divide their time between work and home or a third location such as a shared workspace, and a cohort of 100 per cent at-work location.
Lehane said that the first thing Anywhere Workspace brings is security.
“The first thing is, it means people can’t use applications they shouldn’t,” he said.
“It’s all about protecting the data on the devices: the data is secure, the application is secure.”
It also brings performance benefits, both for the system and the user: the systems are properly provisioned and, whether using a laptop, phone or tablet, the user experience is consistent.
“You don’t have your device competing for resources, and it looks and feels like [being in] work: simply, people can work from anywhere,” he said. “Standardised delivery makes people productive.”
Device-wise, this standardisation means people can work on any machine. “I use my phone half of the time,” said Lehane. Whatever device people choose to use, Anywhere Workspace aims to address a range of concerns that VMware has identified: employees complain of poor on-boarding, failure to support preferred applications, poor performance, friction with IT support, and onerous security procedures that have a negative impact on productivity.
For Lehane, it is the right solution at the right time, because the working world will never be the same again.
“People are going to work everywhere. They’re never going back to the office full-time so any device, anytime, anywhere is just part of the new normal. Workspace one is the solution,” he said.
For more information, visit exertis.ie/vmware