Technology companies embrace remote work
For Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, the pandemic brought to fruition the long-expected work-from-home paradigm the world is experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And he’s not alone, as technology companies are embracing the work-from-home model and expect other businesses to follow suit in the post-pandemic economy.
The Lowdown: As governments prepare to lift social distancing measures and reopen economies, questions remain about how businesses will adjust. Preventing COVID-19 recurrences requires businesses to adjust their workspaces to create separation between employees, limit common areas, and implement off-setting shifts to reduce the number of people in offices.
In China, commercial real estate management firm Cushman and Wakefield spent the past few months rehabilitating millions of square feet of office space to create barriers between workstations and six feet of clearance around desks. In New York, businesses are racing to restore private offices in their existing cubical mazes or erect Plexiglas dividers between desks. High-rise building managers are limiting the number of people able to ride elevators to as few as two at a time.
The ongoing measures to safeguard people from the COVID-19 threat has many businesses rethinking their recovery strategy to allow some or all employees to remain in a work-from-home posture.
The Details: Businesses are learning they can maintain operations and productivity with large portions of their staff working from home. According to a YouGov poll, the United States saw a 20% surge in the number of people working from home as a result of the pandemic, with 4% being able to work from home but choosing against it. The lesson: Roughly 25% of the U.S. workforce doesn’t need to work at an office on a regular basis.
In the recent study, Evolving Impact of COVID-19 on Vendor Channel Programs, The 2112 Group found that 7% of channel chiefs were struggling with managing teams working from home. The percentage declined sharply from an earlier 2112 study in March, in which 23% of channel chiefs expressed being challenged by managing remote workers. The implication is that vendors are getting more accustomed to the work-from-home arrangement.
Technology companies are quick to jump on this trend. Social media powerhouse Twitter announced it’s transitioning to a permanent work organization. Google and Facebook announced they will allow employees to work from home through the end of 2020. And other companies are examining either more work-from-home or flexible working arrangements.
The Impact: Amazon’s Vogel said work-from-home is the new normal at the Amazon Web Services Summit Online this week. He said cloud computing is enabling remote and distributed workforces in ways long predicted that are now becoming a reality as a result of COVID-19.
In new earnings guidance, Synnex credits the shift to work-from-home for lifting its second-quarter (April to June) outlook. Synnex says the demand for work-from-home products and services — much of which is sold and supported by channel partners — is buoying its confidence that the tech sector will weather the COVID-19 recession.
In the work-from-home economy, solution providers and managed service providers can expect a boost from technologies that enable remote work. While major IT projects stalled because of the pandemic, demand for unified communications, videoconferencing, security, and PC accessories skyrocketed. Cloud services are the big winners, as vendors and solution providers that help customers adopt and operationalize cloud services are in high demand.
The Buzz: “If nothing else, these past few months have truly ushered in an era in technology where we are seeing fundamental shifts in how everyone is feeling, not only in technology itself but how to access that technology, as well as how we build that technology,” said Amazon’s Vogels.
“There’s just work, and it’s work from anywhere,” said ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi.
“We’re going to see this come back more slowly than you might have expected, especially in organizations where people believe employees can be equally productive at home,” said Liz Fealy, head of the global workforce advisory group at EY.
“As we navigate through this difficult and uncertain time, our critical role in the markets and supply chain we serve has never been more apparent. From the time of our last update in March, Concentrix has rapidly enabled additional work-from-home capabilities to support its client-base needs, and Technology Solutions has continued to support work-at-home, learn-at-home, delivery-to-home, and many other customer requirements,” said Dennis Polk, president and CEO of Synnex. “The significant increase in work-from-home and ability to support clients by the Concentrix team are the main contributors to our improved outlook for the second quarter.”