Will work from home replace the office? Don’t be so sure

    September 24, 2020

    As COVID-19 spread rapidly throughout the United States, many organizations did the only thing they could: Send people home to work remotely.

    By mid-February 2020, 46% of American companies had implemented work from home (WFH) policies. In May, Facebook announced that most employees could work remotely through the end of the year. It has since extended that policy through July 2021. So did Google. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told employees they can work from home “forever” if they wish.

    While remote working has been relatively successful, the cracks are starting to show and executives are quickly realizing that WFH, as a full-blown replacement for the office, may not be sustainable over the long term.

    Of course, WFH is not the only – or necessarily the best – workplace recovery option when the office is unavailable. The options might shift depending on your employees, the disaster and the timeframe. All of which underscore the need to plan ahead and think about what makes the most sense for your business depending on the disaster you’re facing.

    Lack of workplace recovery planning

    Many organizations never sat down to think about what they would do if their workspace was unavailable following a disaster – whether that be a pandemic, hurricane or wildfire.

    According to a recent survey from Sungard Availability Services conducted by IDC, 43.6% of companies don’t have complete workplace recovery plans. Furthermore, 81.2% of organizations identify less than 20% of their employees as being “critical” enough to be considered in workplace recovery plans.

    WFH is a default response when disaster strikes businesses that are unprepared. But many are now experiencing the drawbacks of WFH, including difficulty collaborating with co-workers, insufficient bandwidth and inadequate endpoint data protection.

    Assigning employees to work from home may be the quickest and easiest method of workplace recovery, but it can’t and shouldn’t be the only option.

    Alternative workplace recovery avenues

    Plan ahead to ensure your organization has the right options available when your office is unavailable.

    Aside from WFH, there are two additional workplace recovery models:

    1. Company-owned facilities: Companies with more than one location can use them as cross-recovery locations if one experiences a disruption.
    2. Third-party facilities: Consists of basic office space rentals to purpose-built facilities. These capabilities are usually sold by vendors in “seats”: Shared/dynamic seats are contracted to more than one customer; dedicated/contracted seats are exclusive to a single customer.

    When thinking about the best workplace recovery option for your organization, consider your employees’ roles. It’s likely that some employees can do their jobs remotely, but others might require the bandwidth, hardware and additional capabilities of an office environment.

    Take into account the potential implications of compliance requirements. Government regulations, unsuitable cybersecurity measures or insufficient enterprise technology may make a job difficult or risky to perform from a home office.

    In addition, consider your time frame for recovery. Put contingencies in place for short-term, medium-term and long-term events. WFH might work for a day during a blizzard, but for a pandemic lasting months, you might need better options.

    Companies that utilize third-party workplace recovery facilities experience a distinct competitive advantage, in terms of network stability and performance, power resilience, staff motivation, end-customer feedback, etc., compared to companies that are strictly employing a WFH workplace recovery strategy.

    When push comes to shove, a hybrid solution that includes multiple methods of workplace recovery will make the most sense.

    Plan ahead

    Without adequate planning, most companies turn to home working if their workplace becomes unavailable because of a disaster. While this may have made sense at the onset of the COVID-19, it’s not always the best solution and certainly shouldn’t be the only workplace recovery option in your arsenal.

    Take the lessons you’ve learned from this experience, determine what worked and what didn’t, and put contingencies in place for multiple scenarios. That way, when the next event inevitably happens, you’ll have a plan ready to go.

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