Office Space Technology Post-COVID-19: Three Key Trends

This article was contributed by Sean McCarthy, VP of Business Development, Comcast, as part of the BuiltWorlds Verified Contributor Program.

Reliable connectivity is a critical part of modern businesses, now more than ever. The current climate in Chicagoland’s business community — as well as the rest of the world — has indicated the importance of internet access. Businesses are making tremendous efforts to keep their organizations humming amidst a global public health crisis, encouraging many organizations to shift to remote work wherever possible.

There are three leading trends impacting the business technology environment, related to the rise in remote work in a post-COVID world. 

Cloud-based collaboration tools are being adopted rapidly, as companies develop remote work policies as a viable part of the future. 

After years of hypothesizing whether productivity would decrease with employees fully remote, we have been forced into a massive social experiment that is showing most organizations that working from home doesn’t mean people are doing less. We now know in some cases, the opposite is true. Employees are able to collaborate, share screens, video conference and work on documents no matter where they are in the world using cloud-based platforms like Office 365, Google Suite, Slack, and Zoom. Companies that had adopted these types of tools pre-pandemic were significantly better prepared to pivot — overnight, in many cases, like Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region — to a fully remote work environment. 

Even if some companies choose to send folks back to the office once it’s safe to do so, many others will want to switch to a remote work scenario, either partly or fully, and the cloud is key to supporting these new needs. It’s entirely likely that any technology that is not cloud-based may disappear permanently; this was onset prior to the pandemic, but it’s clear to see the demise of any technology that is not flexible, scalable and cloud based is on the horizon. 

Home broadband accessibility and reliability have never been more important. 

Entire families are now self-isolating in one spot: kids are attending virtual classes, streaming TV shows and movies, or playing internet-based video games, while parents are working remotely and video-conferencing — all the time and at the same time. Internet can slow to a crawl and impede work productivity without a high-speed, high-bandwidth network.

While most people working from home have access to ultra-fast internet service plans that can reliably handle dozens of connected devices and heavy usage activity, a business-class home office solution offers more. This leads us to a new trend in home broadband: some remote employees are choosing to have two separate accounts – a residential service provider for non-work activities like television streaming, and business-class internet for their work activities. Business-class internet comes with a higher level of back-end support and the ability to add services like a static IP address and LTE back-up in case of a power outage or damaged wireline connection.

As remote work becomes even more prevalent (even after the crisis is over), businesses are going to take a new approach to at-home productivity. This will include tactics like reimbursing employees wholly or partially for high-speed and/or business-class internet, and require an involved vetting process on the part of the employer to ensure they are guiding employees toward optimal networks. 

Enhanced cybersecurity — inside the office and out – has become a priority.

Preventative measures amount to far less than the costs of being hacked, which means even businesses without a large budget should dedicate resources to critical cybersecurity technologies — especially for remote employees who have left the security of the corporate office’s network. Coveware found corporate ransomware payments increased dramatically in Q1 this year, in several cases because of the shift to remote work and the complexities surrounding it. 

Education and software: the two main ways businesses can help protect their data, even with a remote workforce. If an employee in an office accidentally clicks on a phishing link, there are some protections but that’s not necessarily the case at home because most people don’t have a corporate firewall on their home network. 

Education turns employees into another line of defense by informing them of existing cybersecurity threats and teaching practices to avoid them. IT teams will begin training employees on detecting threats, like phishing, and how to handle seemingly suspicious activity, as well as implement policies like strong password requirements, including forced password changes, and two-factor authentication.

Software allows companies to use the latest technology to secure the services and network that employees use. Businesses may turn to software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) to manage their networks over the internet. A company’s IT staff can monitor traffic and adjust network settings as needed from anywhere in the world, using a secure portal with SD-WAN.

The COVID-19 pandemic will reshape the way people live, work and play. The way we connect with each other has undergone a massive shift and no organization will come out of this completely unchanged. We are all relying on technology to help ensure employees stay productive and focused while upholding the security of business data – in the office and remote. Talk to trusted technology providers, ask questions, do your research, and rely on experts’ advice. You and your business will be ready to meet current and future challenges.

This article was contributed by Sean McCarthy, VP of Business Development, Comcast, as part of the BuiltWorlds Verified Contributor Program.