While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the streaming service Netflix has upended the U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil in terms of market valuation. Crude oil prices are bottoming out as people stay home and consume ever more content online. This trend signals a significant change underway: When the whole world has gone back to basics, the needs of consumers can still be met with online services. This is the ultimate win of data over oil.

The workplace is witnessing similar upheavals. With non-essential travel suspended and lockdowns still in place in many regions, today’s employees are connecting to their office environment through remote desktops and collaborating with colleagues via videoconferencing services. It looks like we’re still far from a future where we can all work as we once did. Through forces of nature, we are left with no choice but to embrace remote work immediately.

In our interactions with customers, we see much more openness to new ideas and ingenious ways to bring employees online again. Here are a few strategies we’ve seen organizations use to optimize the productivity and safety of their workforce.

Home Office Help

In a report from Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, the notion of spending 50 to 70 hours a week in the office is over. Residential realtors will emphasize the home office in their marketing of apartments and houses, and in time, home offices will come with a host of accoutrements and the latest technologies to drive productivity, starting with a dedicated space, soundproof walls, internet routers in the right place, and Gorilla glass wall screens.

Forward-thinking employers will offer employees a stipend for setting up their home office. Companies could save a lot on physical infrastructure costs, such as renting or owning office space, building maintenance, power, networks, etc., even after considering the minor cost borne for the home-office allowance. For their part, employees are freed from the daily commute, non-essential meetings, generating pollution and, of course, the spread of infectious disease.      

Seamless Switching, from Work to Home

We’ll also see employers stagger shifts to decrease office occupancy at any point in time or ask groups of workers to alternate between working from home vs. in the office. To optimize employee productivity in this setup, employers can implement solutions that enable a seamless transition between the two environments. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions, for example, retain user sessions on the cloud so that users experience no change in the state of applications when they switch locations.

Another enabler is a remote desktop connect solution, which enables users to connect to their office-based physical workstations using any device at home. Because employee workstations usually offer powerful computing capabilities, they don’t tend to work in a home setup. Using the remote desktop connect system, however, workers get secure access to files and applications on on-premise computing assets so they can execute their day-to-day operations from remote locations.

Reimagining the Office

The threat of spreading a deadly virus through community transmission will transform society drastically. The next big challenge for organizations to tackle, once the pandemic subsides, is how to inculcate social distancing norms into the workplace.

The ”touchless” workplace will proactively deal with the spread of contagious disease by establishing workstations that help employees maintain a six-foot distance, regularly sterilized spaces and touchless elevators. In fact, architectural firms have started to incorporate this philosophy into their new office designs. The office space will need to be marked with proper signage and instructions on how occupants should behave to respect social-distancing norms. This will give rise to new types of in-office interactions, with colleagues using collaborative solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and so forth instead of face-to-face discussions.

The proliferation of sensors in the workplace will reduce the need for touch through biometric access and automated power switches and door handles. An Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem will become the backbone of workplace facility guidelines. Sensors could track worker activity and apply rules based on organizational policies like preventing the gathering of crowds or temperature monitoring of workers. All of this can be supported by a mobile app that empowers worker to engage in activities like requesting access, ordering food and keeping up-to-date with office policies and facility guidelines.

With reduced social mobility, we need to continuously innovate to address the needs of the digital workforce.  Carrying this mindset into the future, we can undoubtedly deal with the workplace challenges that will remain with us well after this global pandemic.

Visit our COVID-19 resources page for additional insights and updates.

Amresh Singh

Amresh Singh

Amresh Singh is a leader for the global Digital Workplace Services practice in Cognizant Infrastructure Services. He has more than 18 years of experience working... Read more