The Shift and Lasting Impact of COVID-19 on Workforce Transformation
Like many of our clients, Zycom was forced into COVID-19 crisis planning to protect business operations (our processes and technology) via our workforce (our people), and how we interact (people, process and technology) with our client’s. We were somewhat more prepared than some companies for the pandemic ‘new normal’ of business operations due to workforce transformation we went through over eight years ago. Specifically, we already had virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for our sales, service delivery and operations in production. Layered with that was migrating email and collaboration to online cloud tools like Microsoft Office 365, including SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams.
There is always a curveball or wrinkle you need to manage effectively. Our technology-based challenge was not having load-tested our IP Telephony solution to run in parallel to VDI for remote access. Our service desk is tightly aligned with our phone system. Post load testing, we were able to successfully move our remaining workforce to work from home with VDI and soft/hard phones.
The most common problem we observed from our clients who were enabled with VDI is that they hadn’t load tested their Wide Area Network (WAN) for what if all these VDI users started working remotely versus working outside our four walls. And then it happened. A false sense of security exposed companies with hundreds to thousands of VDI enabled workforce only using VDI at the office were crippled to learn that the mobile workforce solution would only allow a small percentage of workers (some as low as 20%) to work from home based on internet bandwidth coming into the data centre.
Our soft challenge was collaboration. Like most of our clients, a small percentage of our staff were not used to or had developed the discipline of working from home. And even seasoned mobile workers were not used to working from home while having their children home at the same time due to schools shutting down. None of the coffee shops or libraries you would usually scout for ‘WFH internet backup’ during your work from home days, should your internet provider suddenly go down, were available to you. Staff used to the social aspect of working with others around them had to adjust to people working virtually around them. In time, this new reality became more ‘normal’.
Early into the pandemic and with a government-enforced stay at home orders, Zycom experienced 35% increases in call volume from our managed clients to assist with VPN configurations, and a burst of web-based email access requests. Companies started to realize their new reality required more mobility for their workforce than they had provisioned for. Suddenly our vendor partners were running low on Chrome Books, PCs, notebooks, and then used PCs and used notebooks became scarce. If you didn’t get your end-user computing requirements purchased early, you were not getting any in time to keep your workforce productive.
Where is this new normal leading business? A business culture that was driven to require their workforce to be in an office to work, to be productive, to see it working, are in for a revolution. As businesses and their teams adjust to the new reality, they are seeing that business can run without being confined to ivory towers, and people are becoming accustomed to the benefits of working from home. Organizations realize they can maintain productivity and eliminate corporate real estate expenses. Their people are already starting to demand more remote access flexibility. For businesses that are now working remotely, we don’t expect them all to go back to the old way of working in an office. One of our partners that preferred the physical office is considering not reopening three of its physical offices and staying the course with a remote workforce. How quickly will cultures shift? Post COVID-19 businesses will be forced to relook at their workforce and transform for our newly established reality. People will now look for jobs with lasting work from home benefits as a reason to join that company and feel safe. Organizations will need to better embrace work from home solutions as a competitive advantage and to ensure continuity of their business operations.