Insight

Now we can see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, organisations are increasingly looking beyond what has become the “new normal” and starting to plan what comes next. One huge topic for the “next normal” is going to be how, where, and when employees work. In those halcyon pre-pandemic times, for the majority of employees working generally meant being at work, and organisations built their network and telecoms infrastructure accordingly. For many organisations, this quickly had to change in the early days of the pandemic as they rushed to enable most of their employees to work from home.

The question now is what model will prevail post-pandemic, and what network and telecoms infrastructure will be required to enable this model?

For many organisations, the likely “next normal” model will mix employees on company premises with employees working remotely. This mixed model offers a number of advantages – surveys show that employees like this approach, it enables many of the benefits of collaboration and team working, whilst also allowing organisations to reduce their expenditure on office space.

However, whilst the likely end state is starting to become clear, how to build the infrastructure to enable it has not. Pre-pandemic, allowing employees to work remotely was generally considered a perk available only to a small percentage of usually more senior employees. As a result, little provision was made to enable remote working, and there was no great expectation that the company would provide any support to enable it. In the early days of the pandemic, most organisations essentially extended this same approach to a much bigger group of employees – they were given laptops and appropriate software, but were largely expected to fend for themselves in the provision of infrastructure.

Whilst this approach may have been acceptable in the emergency situation of a pandemic, there are two major reasons why it will definitely not be acceptable as the new status quo:

  • Organisations will increasingly find that this approach will have multiple detrimental impacts. These include whether it is reasonable to rely on cheap, low quality home broadband to enable very senior, highly paid employees to engage with clients on video, or whether it is viable for multiple more junior employees to cluster around a single table in a shared apartment
  • Employees may not be willing to provide the facilities to enable the “next normal” to their employers for free over the long term. This has been termed “bring your own office” – in other words, where organisations used to provide facilities, infrastructure, heat, power, even water and coffee, at the present time employees are largely providing these facilities for free to their employers. In the short term, employees have largely accepted this as a necessary response to the pandemic, but over the longer term may require more support to enable successful remote working

TNC is at the forefront of supporting organisations to develop network and telecoms strategies for the “next normal”. Through these processes, we can see that many organisations are well advanced with their thinking on what their corporate provision of network and telephony will look like, with an ever-increasing focus on flexibility and agility enabled through technologies such as SD-WAN, and cloud-enabled telephony and contact centre services.

However, whilst many organisations are developing their corporate strategies, there appears to be much less thought being applied to the best models to enable remote working for employees. Given the criticality this may well represent for future ways of working, TNC has been developing a tool kit to help organisations fill this strategic gap.

The purpose of this toolkit is to enable organisations to develop models that enable sustainable remote working – not just for the duration of an emergency but for the long term.

Key to this tool kit are the three key approaches TNC has identified that organisations can take to build their future-facing infrastructure: 

Allow Model
Model Allow
Description Similar to the pre-pandemic model for remote working. The employer provides laptop and appropriate software and systems but makes no wider provision for the employee
Infrastructure Provision Employer provides laptop and appropriate software. Today, this likely means a mix of VPN access or remote desktop to corporate systems and access to cloud-based software through the internet.
Pros Simple and cheap for the employer to set up. Simple and cheap for the employer to run and maintain.
Cons Relies on the employee having suitable infrastructure e.g. home broadband, reasonable mobile signal etc. Therefore, this approach is compromised if that service isn’t of sufficient quality. Employees are responsible for their own service provision – in the event of service issues, employees must resolve. Given the lack of SLAs for home broadband, outages could last for days. Employees may not like “bringing their own office”.
Suitable For This model clearly has worked in the past and therefore will remain suitable for certain types of employees, particularly those who are more senior
Support Model
Model Support
Description In addition to the provision of the “Allow” model, the employer also provides some form of financial support to the employee, whether as a one-off action to ensure employees are well set-up for remote working, or an on-going stipend, or some combination.
Infrastructure Provision In addition to the provision of the “Allow” model, the employer’s financial support would be aimed to ensure the employee is effectively set-up for remote working. This could include ensuring they have a suitable desk, chair, monitor, keyboard etc., and could include providing funding for standalone connectivity, uplifted mobile service etc.
Pros Employees are likely to find this model more attractive. Employees should be better able to work successfully over the longer-term. Whilst more complex and expensive for employers, it is likely to be simpler and cheaper than the “Provide” model.
Cons More complex and expensive for employers than the “Allow” model. May not resolve employees’ technical issues e.g. if an employee lives in an area with bad mobile signal, giving them a stipend won’t address this issue. Employees are responsible for their own service provision – in the event of service issues, employees must resolve.
Suitable For In addition to being suitable for those employees suited to the “Allow” model, this model would be suitable for more junior employees who may not have the ability to provide infrastructure to enable remote working without financial support.
Provide Model
Model Provide
Description In addition to the provision of the “Allow” model, the employer actually provides services to enable remote working.
Infrastructure Provision In addition to the provision of the “Allow” model, the employer would provide, own, operate and manage specific services to enable remote working. For example, the employer could provide network hardware, network connections, enhanced mobile services etc. directly to employees’ homes.
Pros Employees are likely to find this model more attractive. Employees should be better able to work successfully over the longer-term. Removes the need for employees to manage their own services. As the owner of the services, the employer can be sure they meet the organisation’s standards for performance, security etc.
Cons Complex and expensive for employers to provide potentially significant volumes of services. Managing this estate in life, particularly in an environment with high levels of staff turnover, could be very complex and expensive. May not be cost effective for many types of employees.
Suitable For Given the cost and complexity of this model, it is likely to only be suitable for more senior employees.

Given that none of these approaches is appropriate for all types of employees, TNC’s expectation is that most organisations will end up blending all three of these approaches to create the most effective model for remote working. 

How can TNC help?

Developing and implementing a new strategy for remote working is going to be complex, challenging, and risky. Get it right and it will enable enhanced productivity, increased employee engagement, all while saving money on expensive real estate and facilities. Get it wrong and employees will be dissatisfied and leave, productivity will be impacted, and costs will escalate.

However, risky or not, most organisations are going to have to face into this challenge in the coming months as they look to establish their “next normal”. As always, what is key is that you take the time to tackle all these elements completely, and ensure you have the skills and resources in place to do so.

To help customers with the strategic planning and preparation for their new remote working strategy, TNC has developed a detailed tool kit to assist customers at each step of the process from baselining current services, business case creation, statement of requirement development, option analysis and sourcing strategy.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you on your remote working journey, we would be delighted to talk to you and share our experience and knowledge.

TNC is completely independent of all service providers – always has been, always will be

Disclaimer

Other than matters relating to The Network Collective, this research is based on current public information that we consider reliable. Opinions expressed may change without notice and may differ from views set out in other documents created by The Network Collective. The above information is provided for informational purposes only and without any obligation, whether contractual or otherwise. No warranty or representation is made as to the correctness, completeness and accuracy of the information given or the assessments made.

This research does not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual clients. Clients should consider whether any advice or recommendation in this research is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if appropriate, seek professional advice.

No part of this material may be (i) copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or (ii) redistributed without the prior written consent of The Network Collective Limited © 2020

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