The Sunday Mail
This will sound crazy, but we actually used to go to offices to work. Like, people woke up, showered, got dressed and fought through rush hour traffic and the challenge of finding decent parking so that they could sit at a desk in a building to do work.
Now, people work from everywhere.
A new report from Ivanti examines the trends of the “Everywhere Workplace” and its implications on the future of work.
Digital transformation or death
A lot has changed in two years.
It’s hard to imagine that at this time in 2020, I had just returned from the RSA Conference in San Francisco and had plans to travel to Austin on business the following week — and then the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything.
As regions implemented quarantine protocols to limit the spread of the virus, businesses had to shift overnight to a completely remote, work-from-home business model.
Most organisations initially treated it similar to natural disaster response — as if we just needed to get through a couple of weeks and then things would return to normal.
That did not happen.
After a couple of weeks went by and it started to sink in that we were in this for the long haul, organisations that were already engaged in digital transformation accelerated their plans, and businesses that hadn’t yet considered digital transformation found that failure to embrace it would likely be fatal.
We are not going back
The results, however, have been impressive.
While the circumstances that got us here are tragic, the outcome of the shift to working from home have been almost universally positive — for the business and for the employees.
With Covid-19 finally starting to seem under control to some extent, businesses are starting to consider the question, “What now?” What does “normal” look like going forward?
Those are not questions that should be answered in a vacuum.
Smart businesses weigh all of the factors and consider input from employees as well.
The 2022 Everywhere Workplace Report from Ivanti is a useful resource for companies looking to understand what employees prefer and how to strike the right balance moving forward.
Ivanti surveyed 4 510 office workers, and 1 609 IT professionals across the United States, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and Australia to gain insight into the attitudes around working from everywhere and examine the pros and cons of remote work.
For businesses that hoped to just go back to the way things were, good luck.
There is no way to put this genie back in the bottle.
The Ivanti survey found that nearly nine out of 10 (87 percent) survey respondents do not want to work from the office full-time.
Nearly half (45 percent) would be happy to never step foot in an office again, while 42 percent indicated that they prefer a hybrid model that splits time between home and office.
One shocking stat is that 71 percent stated that they would choose to be able to work from anywhere over a job promotion or compensation increase.
Responses from the survey include saving money (40 percent), less time commuting (48 percent), a more flexible schedule (43 percent), and better work-life balance (43 percent).
Organisations made the dramatic shift to an everywhere workplace model with surprising success, and — based on the survey results cited above — most workers really love the idea.
That doesn’t mean there are no issues or challenges, though.
I had an opportunity to chat with Jeff Abbott, CEO of Ivanti, about the survey and what the future looks like as organisations explore their options.
“CIOs and IT leaders are trying to wrestle with, you know, ‘What’s the level of flexibility I give my workforce here? Can I let them have an Apple Watch Connect?’ Well, you probably should, because this generation considers that part of their productivity stack — a part of how they stay connected.”
Abbott continued, “So you take all those conditions, and the data is clear. IT leaders are now going to have to manage this extreme flexibility and how they allow their workforce to connect and do their jobs. In fact, what I find compelling about the data is that it suggests they will sacrifice promotions and pay and positioning for the flexibility.”
I also spoke with Ira Wolfe, a TedX speaker and author of “Recruiting in the Age of Googlisation,” who has emerged as one of HR’s most visionary thinkers.
Wolfe noted that even though many companies were able to make the transition to an everywhere workplace, the technology they relied on was not really built for that model.
He also stressed that organisations need to consider all of the risks involved with a hybrid model where workers sometimes work from home, and sometimes come into the office.
“We are now dealing with this workplace without borders. It’s not just working out in the coffee shop. The challenge is that when you work out in the coffee shop, does that person have a VPN? Are they protected? What if they don’t? What if they come back to work and they bring their laptop or they bring their phone devices and they plug in? How does that impact the company?” warned Wolfe.
The future of work
As with all things related to business—and especially technology—there are two major factors to consider.
One is the performance and productivity, and the other is security. You need both.
Companies seem to have adapted relatively seamlessly to the everywhere workplace when it comes to performance and productivity, but the security element is more complex.
Abbott explained to me that Ivanti is working to address that challenge for customers with an automated platform to manage the full lifecycle of devices, networks and other resources.
There is no going back.
It definitely seems like the future of work will lean heavily in favour of the everywhere workplace.
Organisations need to accept that so they can ensure they have the right tools in place to manage and secure it effectively.
Tony Bradley is a senior contributor of Forbes.