18 Jul WFH: How we got here.
Posted at 15:08h
If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you remember what life in the office was like a few decades ago. The uniformity of the structure was pretty much the same, no matter what office you worked in. It was 9-5 or some such standardized schedule for everyone. You had your own desk/office/cubicle. They gave you a PC for your desk. It was heavy and didn’t go anywhere, especially not to your home. You had your office phone–part of the company PBX. They gave you pencils and paper and other things you needed, and… there you were.
Then, everything sort of began to splinter apart, and “The Office” wasn’t “The Office” anymore.
Suddenly, you were given a company mobile phone. They could reach you off-hours. Then, residential broadband internet became widely available. They swapped out the big desktop PC for a company laptop. Now you could use that laptop with your new broadband and work from home at night. Answer emails at 11 pm. But you probably still used company equipment for company tasks. But then you got your own cell phone, your own laptop, and your own tablet. Suddenly, it was easier to use your own technology and forget about the company-provided equipment. This gave birth to the idea of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device). In the end, this made it possible to do your work outside of the office, outside of the scheduled workday. Then WiFi was added to the mix and you could work from a coffee shop or the local park on a nice day. Long story short, Work From Home became possible and, to many of us, a very attractive alternative. However, as a business owner, getting your arms around a successful WFH policy can be a challenge.
In summary, WFH represents challenges to both traditional ways of handling IT, and traditional ways of managing a workforce. To what degree WFH will dominate the work experience in the future is unknown. However, it should be expected that it will not go away. The workplace will return neither to 2019 nor to 1980. The point is, WFH will require paying serious attention to how we handle and design our business’s IT infrastructure. As forward-thinking managers, we need to realize, as mentioned above, the paradigm of a centralized IT infrastructure is outdated. No matter what, even partial WFH will require us to redesign our IT models to support activities that are widely dispersed. This will create threats, but they can be handled. The point is that you need to proactively find the IT management design that can provide the infrastructure that works for the new WFH business model. For smaller firms especially, you will only find the depth and breadth of knowledge by finding a managed service provider with experience in your industry.