The confusion and fear of the coronavirus pandemic have triggered some wacky theories. So just to set the record straight: COVID-19 is not caused by the roll-out of 5G networks, and the earth is absolutely, positively not flat. But, in a sense, you could say that COVID-19 is making the world a bit flatter – and that’s a very good thing.
Granted, with the deaths caused by the pandemic, mass unemployment and civil unrest, it’s hard to keep a positive mindset. But in the long term, I firmly believe there is room for a lot of optimism – for our companies, for us as individuals, and for the world as a whole.
WFH Shock Therapy
Most of us were forced to shift to work-from-home (WFH), and some of these scenarios happened literally overnight. One of our customers, a top-5 credit card company, had to move 100,000 users to full remote work mode in one day. Companies were not happy about this, to say the least (though we made the shift easy for our customers). But the way things unraveled was a total surprise.
This radical shift to WFH acted as a sort of shock therapy for enterprises worldwide. Two months-plus into the crisis organizations are getting used to WFH and have found that remote work may not be as bad as they originally thought. Not only that, it is now clear that this mode of operation offers many advantages to companies in terms of business continuity, productivity, and operational efficiency.
Buoyed by this surprisingly positive experience, most companies are now planning to permanently adopt remote work models for at least some of their staff. Going forward, we’re likely to see fewer massive HQ campuses, more smaller offices in diverse locations, less travel and much greater acceptance for working from home. To ensure business as usual in this new world, enterprises need solutions that enable fast and secure productivity from any location and device.
A Flatter (and Better) Post-COVID-19 Business World
The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed the world we live and work in. No one knows when things will go back to normal – and the million-dollar question is what “normal” is going to look like. In the meantime, many industries (such as hospitality and travel) will have to re-invent themselves to avoid extinction.
Despite the hardships, the collaborative global efforts to overcome the pandemic and save the world’s economy have positive, long-term repercussions for the way we work. Dividing lines and borders have collapsed, resulting in a much flatter world. This new order – driven by remote work models – has created several benefits for the modern enterprise:
- Flatter global operations: A flatter world saves time, money and office space. Supported by advanced collaboration technologies, productivity increases as employees spend less time traveling and more time working.
- Better hiring practices: Companies have discovered that remote work gives them access to a larger and more diverse talent pool without geographical restrictions. They can hire someone that lives several hours away or even in a different region altogether – and it works! It’s also possible to save on payroll by hiring skilled workers in regions or countries where the cost-of-living is lower.
- Improved employee satisfaction: Employees can achieve a better work-life balance, which was elusive in the office-centric and flight-intensive world. WFH models allow people to work more flexible hours and spend more time with family. In addition, since proximity to the office no longer matters, employees can live in less expensive, non-urban locations with a better quality of living. Imagine splashing in the swimming pool with your kids during lunch break – that’s not such a bad vision.
What IT Will Look Like in a Flat World
Widespread adoption of remote work models will also have a flattening effect on the way IT is structured. As enterprises shift to off-site work models based on remote data access, remote collaboration and even remote IT, the need for tools to automate IT processes across multiple sites and clouds increases.
To meet business needs in a flat world, enterprises require a flat infrastructure much less tied to geography. In this context, IT strategies will focus on leveraging the cloud to “remotify” IT operations. Files will be stored in the cloud and made available to remote locations using caching and other tools that connect the edge (e.g., remote offices, home users) to the private or public cloud. This type of architecture will enable users to work from any location with an “office-like” experience.
Global file systems, such as those developed by CTERA, replicate remote office data to the cloud and enable WFH users to access the corporate file system with their existing applications and file sharing protocols. Such an architecture unifies branch filers, desktop endpoints, mobile and VDI clients, giving users always-on data access from any location and any device.
Uniting the World
Like a movie where the planet is attacked by aliens, the COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to unite to fight a common enemy. As leaders realize we’re all in this together, we’re seeing more cooperation between countries. Work from home is creating and strengthening the direct personal ties between people in different regions who – with the magic of Zoom – feel just as close to us as our colleague in the next cubicle.
This crisis will pass. And when it’s over, a flatter world will open the door for a closer-knit global community, while helping to break down the barriers and prejudices between different nations.