Working from home has quickly become the norm and now that companies know that it’s feasible, will likely be more common in future. These remote working tools have been around for a long time, so why are so many organizations fighting to catch-up during lockdown?

All the way back in 2018 before any of this happened, ServiceNow’s CEO, John Donahoe (who has since gone on to run Nike), gave the keynote speech at the firm’s annual IT knowledge management conference in Las Vegas. He stressed that tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z are starting to demand tools that give them the same experience in the workplace that they get from home.

They’re asking why, if they have a handheld device that runs their entire lives for them and provides answers to any question at the touch of a button, they need to call a service desk during office hours to fix a job issue, or can only work from a clunky terminal attached to their desk?

Consumers can access free services like Google Drive to write and share documents, but in the workplace they need to improvise elaborate versioning processes and email back and forth to collaborate on text. You can view your bank account balance live at 3am, but you have to wait for the morning to request a paper copy of your payslip.

You can contact anyone in the world, wherever they are, but have to wait for your colleague to get back from making coffee so they can answer the physical phone at their desk.

I know people who still used DOS programs at work, but carried their own brand-new iPad Pro in their bag to watch YouTube on in their lunch break.

How is this a good user experience?

New millennium, new tools

From cloud-based word processing and storage systems to video conferencing, there are a variety of free tools that any user with a mobile phone can now access at any time from anywhere. As such, it was really not acceptable to expect your employees to cope with Windows 95, a desk phone and a prayer; even before social distancing.

The modern-day office is just a space with a plug socket and good mobile data signal. Employees can tether their laptops to mobile phones, meet in video conferences, work together on documents at the same time and access workplace systems from dedicated apps. They can communicate, collaborate and succeed from a park bench or a board room just as easily.

Remote working even means you can recruit the best staff from anywhere in the world, rather than just within driving distance of your office.

Support new tools with new devices

Of course, none of this will be possible without investment. New platforms and systems need paying for, and devices that are capable of running them cost even more. Asking your board to pay for a complete revamp of your computer systems and hardware can be an awkward business when you seem to be doing okay without.

Still, a cloud-based Chromebook is relatively inexpensive and G Suite’s range of tools can be set up for a low-cost per user, per month. In many cases, these tools will do for remote collaboration.

So, if it’s all feasible, why didn’t we have it all in place already before we went into lockdown? Well, mainly it’s just habit.

If it works, why aren’t we all using it?

You’d be shocked at the number of times I’ve sat managers at large companies down and showed them what can be done with modern tools and they’ve been thrilled. Start-ups with young founders are all over the latest workplace tech, but plenty of senior people at larger, more ‘traditional’ firms have no idea of the potential. When they realise working from home can actually mean working, they’re more than happy to pay for it.

So, how do you persuade them?

Just send them a laptop with a working platform and let them use it. Set up the right toolset and they should be able to pick it all up and see the benefits in minutes. Often, they’ll end up demanding you go buy software to do more than you had even considered.

The only question is, how do you know what the right toolset is? There are plenty of firms out there that are happy to give you a whizz-bang demo and make some impressive claims, but many of them can’t go on to deliver. Make sure you consult an unbiased expert on what the best toolset is for your business, and likely you’ll find there’s an affordable alternative.

The future of work

Ultimately, the future of work is here. We could ignore it and carry on with outdated tools back in 2018, but that’s no longer an option. It’s not about digital transformation, it’s pure survival.

Companies who can’t get their staff working from home efficiently won’t be doing business at full capacity for some time, and those whose staff are working remotely on systems that weren’t designed for it, won’t be achieving the results they want.

It’s soon going to be too late for your business to not have sufficient cloud-based systems. Now really is the time to start looking around at what’s available.


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Main image by @charlesdeluvio