COVID-19

Office space? How is your infrastructure coping?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have had to make difficult staffing decisions. Many that are able have also closed offices and made their workforce work remotely. This has put pressure on their IT infrastructure.

In theory, working remotely is fine. However the practicalities – especially when it comes to IT – are not so straightforward. Let’s take a look at some of the key infrastructure implications you need to consider when many of your staff are working from home.

Equipment

At the basic level, do all of your employees have laptops? If not then you need to look at how they can do their jobs without. Do you ship their desktop PCs to their homes? Or do you allow them to access your systems with their own devices using a token? This can cause some security issues if not done correctly.

Also, can your IT team provide adequate support? Being able to provide this is important if your team needs to work from home for an extended period.

Security

Keeping safe and secure online is vital. This is magnified when many of your staff work remotely and they are all dialing in from different locations.

Robin Haughan, CIO and CTO at Alight | NGA HR says “It’s important to watch out for things like phishing scams. Cyberattacks are more sophisticated than ever.”

He adds “Cyberattackers look at people’s social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook) to find out what they are working on. They use this information to try and gain access to a company’s systems”

Giving employees who work remotely tips and training on staying safe online should be mandatory in order to reduce the risk of a cyberattack.

The home

It is not only online security. When people work from home the home itself can be a security risk. If an employee lives in a shared house, their housemates could potentially view or access sensitive information.

This could be an innocent mistake, but companies should be aware of these types of issues when increasing the number of people work from home.

This may have been less of an issue when it was only high-ranking employees that we ‘trusted’ to work from home. However, now working remotely is commonplace at all levels, there are far more potential security risks than ever before.

It is not only security that is affected by working from home. With video conferencing the only way people have been able to meet during the COVID-19, the backgrounds people have on camera can be interesting.

The likes of Zoom and MS Teams allow users to choose their backgrounds. However, to remain professionalism companies could encourage staff to use a selection of corporate approved backgrounds. This is particularly important when virtually meeting clients.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is a key cog in the machine of working remotely – this applies to your servers as well employees’ home networks.

If employees have poor quality internet connections this can cause frustration as well as being inefficient. Servers also need to be able to support more remote workers. If they can’t, this could affect overall productivity.

It is not just employees trying to log on to systems that have been under pressure since the COVID-19 pandemic.

One company we are aware of has capacity for 30% of its staff to work remotely at the same time. However, they currently at nearly 100% of their workforce working remotely. This has anecdotally reduced overall efficiency by 20% due to latency.

It’s important that your servers and systems can cope with the additional surge in demand. It also makes sense to do this as a matter of course as, after these events, working remotely may be even more in demand.

Systems

Companies that operate with cloud-based systems have been able to transition employees to working from home more easily than companies that rely on employees logging in from an office location.

This demonstrates the value the Cloud offers. Before cloud-systems, it was far more difficult for employees to work remotely. Now it calls into question the importance of location, as now you really can work from anywhere.

The future of the office

It is clear that COVID-19 will have an impact on how we work. Especially if more people work from home more often.

There may still be a need for a ‘home base’ where people can meet, but these could be significantly smaller and maybe located in lower cost areas as people may only need to travel there infrequently.

There will occasions when people will have face to face meetings and teams may suggest they do this weekly or monthly.

However, Robin Haughan says “Businesses will have to co-ordinate when they meet up. Normally many teams say they will meet in the office every Wednesday. But, if all teams do this then the office will be quiet on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Yet on a Wednesday, it may be overcapacity”

Consequently, firms will have to co-ordinate remote teams closely, so that they can optimally manage office space.

This will be a bigger issue if companies decide they no longer need large offices in city center locations as fewer people commute into the office everyday.

Future office design

If more employees are home-based then companies will have to ensure their workers have adequate set ups in their homes.

In the offices that do remain, companies will probably have to rethink the spaces they have. Not only in where they are located, but also how the spaces are used. The boss of Barclays, said that “Big offices, maybe a thing of the past“.

Karl Carty Senior Designer at Morgan Lovell said “COVID-19 has understandably prompted a large scale discussion in our industry about the future of workplace design.”

Agile office design

Example of agile office design. Source: Morgan Lovell

“People have realized that they can work from home successfully.”

“However as the weeks of lockdown go by, it has made people realize that there is still the need for an office. But it’s functionality will warp into something more ‘agile’.”

He adds “Desk ratios will reduce and there will be a focus on collaborative settings.”

Our Alight | NGA HR experience is that we have a large number of employees already working remotely, which has enabled us to reduce the amount of office space we need globally.

We were able to do this as we have invested in our infrastructure and systems. It is what we do, so we practice what we preach and can advise you on how to optimally do this too.

The future is now

It almost seems that the way we work has changed overnight. Some companies’ infrastructure has coped better than others with the move to remote working across the board.

In the main it seems that many companies’ infrastructure has been able to adapt. However, with the move to increased remote working being more of an inevitability rather than a possibility, businesses will have to continually upgrade their HR systems, technology and infrastructure to cope with this.