Work From Home (WFH): How we got here.

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    If you’ve been in the
    workforce for a while…

    You may remember what office life was like in the past 20 to 30 years. The uniformity of structure was pretty much the same, no matter what office you worked at. It was typically a 9 to 5 standardized schedule for everyone, and you had your own desk/office/cubicle. Most companies provided office workers their own desktop PC. It was heavy, slow and was not easy to transport, especially to your home. You had an office phone connected to the company digital PBX. Your were provided pens, pencils and paper and other necessary supplies, and…there you were. Then, as mobile technology advancements and the Internet came into play, everything sort of began to splinter apart, and “The Office” wasn’t “The Office” anymore.

    Suddenly, you were using a company mobile phone (the predecessor to smart phones). Managers, co-workers, customers and vendors could now reach you off-hours. Then, residential broadband Internet became widely available. In some cases, your company swaps out the desktop or tower PC for a company laptop. Now you could use that laptop with your new broadband and work from home at night, and answer emails at 11 pm! But you probably still used company equipment for company tasks. But then you got your own cell phone, you own laptop, and your own tablet. Suddenly, it was easier to use your own technology and forget about the company-provided equipment. This gave birth to the idea of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device). In the end, this made it possible to do your work outside of the office, outside of the scheduled workday. Then WiFi was added to the mix and you could work from a coffee shop or the local park on a nice day. Long story short, Work From Home became possible and, to many of us, a very attractive alternative. However, as a business owner, getting your arms around a successful WFH policy can be a challenge.

    In summary, WFH represents challenges to both traditional ways of handling IT, and traditional ways of managing a workforce. To what degree WFH will dominate the work experience in the future is unknown. However, it should be expected that it will not go away and most likely more normalized. The workplace will return neither to 2019 nor to 1980. The point is, WFH will require paying serious attention to how we handle and design our business’s IT infrastructure. As forward-thinking managers, we need to realize, as mentioned above, the paradigm of a centralized IT infrastructure is outdated. No matter what, even partial WFH will require us to redesign our IT models to support activities that are widely dispersed. This will create threats, but they can be handled. The point is that you as a business owner or manager, need to proactively embrace an IT management design which provides an effective platform to support a WFH business model. For smaller firms especially, partnering with a managed services provider who has the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience in your industry, is essential.