End-user productivity becomes a priority for remote work
The initial response to COVID-19 focused on purchasing new technologies and retooling systems to support work from home, but organizations must help maintain end-user productivity.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, organizations were forced to purchase and adopt new technologies to enable remote work setups. Those that successfully transitioned to a work-from-home model must now focus on the next challenge: maintaining end-user productivity.
Enterprise organizations have, for the most part, the technologies and infrastructure to support remote work, but problems still exist.
"The main things for us when we made the decision that we're going to start working from home were on the productivity side," said Brian Nordmann, CIO at environmental consulting firm Dudek in Encinitas, Calif.
Many workers are dealing with extenuating circumstances that could affect their work, so organizations should take additional steps to optimize end-user productivity.
Devices that can enhance remote end-user productivity
Many users are forced into new hardware setups without the same monitors and ancillary hardware they're used to.
Nordmann was worried about his firm's employees having to hunch over small laptop screens when they were accustomed to the larger monitors that the office workstations provided. Dudek partnered with technology products and services vendor CDW to ship monitors to employees who requested one for their remote work setup, according to Nordmann.
Like many workers, Dudek's employees need multiple monitors to view several windows at once and to avoid switching between different files and applications.
"A lot of our workers are in multiple documents or doing CAD work and they need to be comparing different documents," Nordmann said.
A shortage of PCs, laptops, desktop monitors, external keyboards and other hardware has left some organizations with limited options to support remote workers with the optimal hardware setup.
Users may need access to printers or scanners if they don't already own them. IT should be ready to ship printers or other devices or offer workarounds. For example, Nick Casagrande, IT director at LGL Recycling, deployed a mobile app that enables users to convert images into documents on their mobile devices, replacing the need for a physical scanner.
These hardware issues can persist for existing employees, but they also come up when onboarding new hires.
"We are continuing to hire, but the onboarding process is a challenge with everything from training to shipping new laptops and other hardware," Nordmann said.
Some organizations rely on laptops to provide users with usable remote workstations, but if laptops are not an option, the computing power of a smartphone or tablet can often be enough.
"The portability of the [endpoint] device itself absolutely matters -- if that worker has [a portable endpoint], then they have the option to work in multiple locations. There's a very good opportunity for smartphones or tablets to take the place as a fully functional device to access [the] corporate workspace," said Mark Bowker, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
Users can connect their tablets or smartphones to external keyboards, monitors and a mouse, and access a Windows desktop through the device.
"If a full Windows desktop is projected into a tablet or smartphone, and it's connected to a monitor, a full-sized keyboard and a mouse, that [endpoint] is 100% identical to a laptop experience," Bowker said.
However, Bowker warned that this setup is only valuable when it has all the necessary hardware add-ons. If workers rely on touch input alone, it will limit end-user productivity.
Maintain end-user productivity with creative, flexible remote work policies
One major step in ensuring end-user productivity is giving employees the flexibility they need to juggle work and other issues in a location that may not be conducive to productivity.
Mark BowkerEnterprise Strategy Group
"A lot of folks are not outfitted to work from home in a space dedicated to productivity; they may have children at home or no private space to work from, so organizations are trying to find out how to help their employees stay productive," Bowker said.
In addition, remote workers' hours have become more nebulous than the typical office workday.
"We've got staff -- myself included -- who have kids at home and are working odd hours just to get a day's work in," Nordmann said.
Organizations should rely on technologies such as cloud services, VDI and cloud-based VPNs that support anywhere, anytime access to workplace resources.
"[With our VDI setup,] you can log in anywhere, use any device and [not] worry about it -- your data lives in the cloud," Casagrande said.