The New Normal: A Digital Workplace

By Wes Garner, Content Marketing Manager

Published on August 27, 2020

As companies adapt to having large portions of their employees working from home, some leaders are considering keeping their workforce remote indefinitely. As SVP of Strategy at LogMeIn, Rob Lawrence was part of a team planning for the future of work long before the pandemic. It was his job to keep a pulse on what the future holds and track the acceleration of remote work trends. Once the pandemic hit, he was primed to direct not only their internal response, but their external positioning as well.

Currently at LogMeIn all offices are completely closed with 4,000 people working remotely. Despite making remote work software, they have a very office-centric culture which values in-person collaboration. This, coupled with heavy office investment and around 85% of employees working in-office on a daily basis, meant they had to pivot from making remote work software to being a remote work company.

This situation is far from abnormal, in fact it is quite the common position most organizations have found themselves in. Many people are now referring to this as the ‘new normal’, which highlights the need for rapid adaptability, and puts the role of transformation leaders like Rob squarely at the forefront of companies’ responses during the crisis.

Current Situation and Outlook

While countries are beginning to open back up, social distancing policies are considered the only actionable means to avoid overwhelming healthcare systems when infection rates are high (in absence of a vaccine/treatment). Global health officials and researchers are forecasting COVID-19 to remain a global health crisis for at least 18 months, requiring on and off again social distancing measures. Recent demand spikes show an appetite for digital workplace products changed dramatically based on public policy shifts (e.g. offices open vs. offices closed). Therefore companies can track the on and off again social distancing policies to tailor their GTM tactics around the customer’s context. 

Despite countries starting to open up there aren’t effective treatments or therapeutics, and certainly no vaccine. As a result social distancing is the only actionable means to mitigate against overwhelming the healthcare system and driving infections higher. Therefore universal alignment between global health officials and COVID-19 researchers is here to stay for 18 months at a minimum. Conservative estimates predict a 24 to 36 months impact on business, because even with a vaccine (and the best vaccines are 60-70% effective) people who can still get sick need social distancing policies in place for their protection. 

Business leaders need to consider these forecasts in long term strategic planning, and plan accordingly. The onset of the crisis saw a massive spike in demand for remote capability software, which enables workers to be productive from home or other remote locations. 

The next phase of remote work software should optimize tools around work from anywhere, fortify an organization’s security posture, and ensure preparedness for the next potential office closure – as offices can be open or closed in an on-again, off-again cadence over the next two years.

Accelerating & Emerging Trends

The pandemic has precipitated a massive acceleration of secular trends recently, as the crisis has had an impact on every person on the planet. Social distancing measures are impacting the way we live, work and interact with one another. Thematic mega-trends have accelerated due to COVID-19 and government intervention, and transformation leaders must account for the business implications of each.

The Way We Work

  • Workplace closures force a global remote work experiment
  • Companies scramble to maintain business continuity

The Way We Learn

  • School closures accelerate use of digital learning tools
    • Schools were not prepared for fully-online learning, will persist indefinitely
  • Explosion of online learning and web conferencing solutions

The Way We Stay Healthy

  • Health crisis accelerates use of digital health tools
    • Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston sees telehealth sessions explode from 10-20 to 3,000-4,000 daily
  • Digital health services increase dramatically

The Way We Socialize

  • Virtual communication becomes primary way to socialize and communicate
    • Zoom cocktail parties ubiquitous across the globe
  • Expanding consumer use cases for video based socialization

The Way We Consume

  • Non-essential store closures force online buying and consumption. 
    • Birth and acceleration of ‘Shut-in economy’
    • Older consumers who used online shopping sparingly now staying home due to health concerns
  • Digital tools required to support online purchasing experience

The Remote Work Change Curve

Forced office closures have established a new run rate for employees working from home or elsewhere. Prior to COVID companies saw a work-from-home average of 5%, which took into account people who work remotely 1-2 days a week. The new run rate after a vaccine removes the need for continuous government intervention for remote work will be 25%. This represents a 500% increase in people working remotely 1-2 days a week and will necessitate companies investing heavily not only in software to enable the work, but security infrastructure and cultural cohesion as well.

One of the specific challenges associated with the transition of remote work is re-norming companies on a dime. One solution to this challenge that LogMeIn found was to offer emerging work kits, which hold capabilities from all their software portfolios, as well as remote access, support, collaboration, and security services. These they offered free to frontline workers, educators, and state & local government for business continuity purposes. This was because the scrambling out of the gates directly post-pandemic was chiefly about maintaining business continuity. Interestingly, getting to new norms happened a lot faster in this crisis vs during the normal course of business. Traditionally,  managing moving an office to fully remote would be a massive lift, and the organization would lose a lot of employees in the process while juggling lots of change management. This situation has proven that there’s nothing like a crisis to drive behavior change quickly as both companies and employees have to adopt new behaviors to continue to function.

The prime example of new behavior adoption is working from home. Anecdotally employees are more engaged in remote conferencing meetings than in-office meetings, which is being borne out by data tracked by remote-conferencing software. Previously managers have been reticent to allow employees to work from home, concerned about productivity dropping. However, companies have seen employee productivity increase during the pandemic period, across various BU’s like sales and engineering. Part of this discrepancy had been cultural, with younger employees feeling empowered to work from home but being stymied by management that had been in-office for their entire careers. As both groups are adjusting behaviors they are finding common ground in new challenges, such as ‘Zoom fatigue’.  This occurs as video conferencing requires much more engagement which can cause burnout afterwards. Finding a solution, such as  turning the camera off to dissipate cognitive load, is one of the challenges in re-norming a company and its employees.

Remote Work Trends

There are many implications from an IT leader perspective that COVID has changed. Work from anywhere is the new norm, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies need major overhauls, endpoint security is paramount and SMBs accelerate a shift to the cloud.

Work From Anywhere Accelerates

  • Pre-COVID <5% of workforce remote, yet ~70% would prefer a remote work option
  • Office closures create mass remote work experiment (>300M workers globally)
  • Projections suggest >25% of workforce embraces working from anywhere post-COVID

BYOD Programs Expand

  • ~80% of US companies have a BYOD policy, mobile most common device
  • BYOD policies need to expand due to device shortages
  • Major security risk is exposed as employees use personal devices
  • 30% of companies expected to extend BYOD to a wider set of devices
  • End-point security spend to increase

Cyber Security Threats Increase

  • IT expands security investments, but cyber breaches are more costly
  • 30% of SMBs rely on MSPs for security
  • Volume of endpoint attacks have increased due to BYOD expansion
  • Health sector has been targeted
  • New security norms & policies (ZeroTrust) enacted to secure remote work
  • VPN phasing out

IT Re-allocates Spend

  • IT spend up 5% YoY, with software as largest category
  • SMB budgets have tighten due to COVID and must focus on critical areas such as Collab & Security
  • In 2021 SMBs are forecasted to invest more heavily in cloud apps due to remote work

In addition, IT leaders are investing heavily new remote work tools across all business functions to adapt to the current remote work environment. New tools for HR, Project Management, VR/AR, Sales/Marketing and C.S. are being rolled out to mitigate pain of rapid pivot to fully remote.

Today’s Workplace – The New Normal

COVID-19 Outlook & Impact

Global health officials forecast CV19 to remain a health crisis for at least 18 months, requiring on/off again social distancing. Tracking policy changes at a geographic level can help tailor a go-to-market approach to best match customer context. CV19 is here to stay, the realistic  strategic time horizon for business impact is 2-3 years. Leaders need to ensure organizational readiness, which is the key to business continuity, strategy execution, and productivity.

New Remote Work Run-Rate

Adoption rates for remote work are projected to increase from 5% (pre-CV19) to 25% in the US, even after offices reopen. Along with an increase in remote work,  BYOD programs have expanded, end point attacks have increased, and SMBs spend more on cloud infrastructure.

Priority Remote Work Industries

Certain industries have a greater propensity for remote work and will be more resilient during the likely recession ahead.  Industries that will be at the forefront of remote work  include Government, Professional Services, Healthcare, Finance & Insurance., Education, Wholesale and Tech.

Where Catalant Comes In

At Catalant we are fueling the remote work transformation with our platform to accelerate and accomplish most strategic work, such as work against a strategic plan, driving a set of critical transformation initiatives, or enabling a COE to supercharge org with critical capabilities. We enable the visibility required to orchestrate critical work across remote workforces of full and part-time employees. We recognize that flexible talent better meets the needs of customers in a rapidly evolving set of emerging conditions. Our clients tell us that work has to be aligned to strategy, information about ongoing work and resources attached needs to be accurate, and leaders need to be able to access and deploy internal and external resources.

In this new era of remote work, it is critical to understand how work is progressing, how assumptions may have changed, when and what is the expected result when employees can’t walk down the hall to ask. After all, the most important work has to go on remotely, flexible access to strategic capabilities is more important than ever, and visibility enables operational clarity to navigate uncertain times.

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