Lee Thompson is Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand, for enterprise cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure company, Nutanix. He explains what companies need to do to help employees work efficiently from home.
For a moment in June, it seemed like we were close to returning to some semblance of normalcy.
Offices in CBDs across the country were eagerly preparing to welcome workers back for the first time in months – albeit with new measures to enforce social distancing requirements. Employees, who had been working remotely since March, were getting ready for morning commutes they had almost grown to miss.
Now we face a very different reality
Melbourne is in the grips of a second wave of the pandemic, recording daily infection rates that dwarf those of the initial crest. Sydney is grappling with ongoing community transmission as new clusters pop up across the city, forcing the Queensland Premier to block all Sydney-siders from visiting the Sunshine State.
Suddenly it’s clear the remote working arrangements many thought would be temporary are – and will remain – permanent features of the modern workplace.
With work from home mandates extended – in some cases indefinitely – businesses must now consider how to enable their homebound workforce to truly work while at home.
A little less video conference, a little more action
When businesses were first forced to enable their staff to telecommute in March, there was a pervading sense that the changes would only be in effect for a few months.
As such, the technology investments many made were relatively shallow. Employees were given licenses for cloud-based video conferencing and collaboration platforms which, although they certainly helped keep people connected, did little to enable them to actually work from home.
After all, how many Zoom or Teams meetings can one have before any actual work gets done?
Empowering remote workers to actually work from home requires a more mature approach. For example, consider all the business-critical applications employees need to access to do their jobs while they’re in the office.
There’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), internal databases and intranets, not to mention business email accounts hosted on Exchange servers and industry-specific applications such as CAD design software.
Think about how much productivity you would lose on a normal day if access to all these critical applications suddenly disappeared. That’s exactly what’s happening every day employees work from home with only video conferencing, collaboration and other basic apps at their fingertips.
In other words, there’s a lot more to remote working than simply talking about work.
Bringing the business home
These applications aren’t called ‘business-critical’ just because it sounds impressive. Collectively, they contain an enterprise’s crown jewels – whether that’s intellectual property, customer data or other proprietary and confidential information.
This data isn’t just important to the everyday functioning of the business. When it comes to personal information, it’s also of critical importance to customers – and the regulators who protect their privacy.
As such, any strategy to give workers remote access to this information must have security and data governance front-of-mind. The apparent complexity of managing hundreds – if not thousands – of employees as they retrieve a business’ most sensitive data while outside the purview of the IT team is enough to keep any executive awake at night.
But it doesn’t need to be.
One of the key strategies that enable workers to access all the critical applications and data they need to remain productive from home is known as virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI.
We’re all familiar with the traditional desktop computing experience. Walk to your desk, press the power button, wait for the computer to wake up and ask you to log in. A wallpaper appears, application icons load on the screen and you’re ready to start your day with access to all of your native applications, files and web browsers.
This is life in the physical desktop world, a world we were getting ready to revisit before just a few weeks ago.
In the virtual desktop world, however, the same access is delivered to workers located nowhere near the physical computer. With VDI, remote workers engage with a virtual version of their office terminal ensuring the files and applications critical to the business remain securely at the office.
No one saw this crisis coming. When it dawned, few could anticipate its duration. As we seek to rebuild the economy, we must accept remote working will be a major feature of our future. Simply having another video conference call won’t cut it because, at some point, it’ll come time to do the actual work.
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