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Home is where the work is

By MANDY DUNCAN, Aruba Country Manager for South Africa

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What I’m learning from the Covid-19 pandemic is that the definition of productivity used in the workplace over the last few decades misses the point. Professional productivity should be measured in what is produced, not how much time is spent producing it.

In fact, looking at the remote work phenomenon we have seen after the last few months, the only real surprise is that businesses didn’t shift to this model sooner.

What was it that stopped us from working from home? Why did it take a global pandemic for companies to realise that, their employees can be productive without constant supervision?

I imagine that in the next few months and years, the relationship employees will have with their companies will change dramatically. At least, that is what I am hoping for. In South Africa it may become indefensible for many companies to expect their employees to spend a few hours each day commuting to an office, instead of providing employees with the IT equipment and training needed to remain productive at home.

A move in this direction will also allow for employees to maintain a better work life balance. Coming into the office only a few times a week will free up time employees can use assisting their children with homework, cooking, or pursuing a hobby. Where’s the harm in that?

But before any of this can happen society at large needs to ease back into a sense of normalcy, with a phased approach being taken in South Africa to reopen the economy.

Business owners around the country are asking what will the work landscape look like in the near future? And as citizens of South Africa, many of us parents, what about our children, what will their schooling looking? These are things that must be considered as we shift from lockdown to recovery mode.

At Aruba, we have already begun talking to customers and community leaders about these challenges. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on a few things to consider as we emerge from this global disruption.

Remote work becomes the new standard

As mentioned above, remote working looks set to become the new normal in the post-pandemic work landscape. There are multiple benefits to this, but a crucial one is that limiting the exposure of your workforce is likely to become a necessary reality for the near future, so that productivity levels are not compromised by having large pockets of employees off sick at the same time. It will also give your employees more freedom to structure their time in a way that works for them, leading to improved work happiness and possibly less staff bleed.

As the home becomes the primary location for where mission-critical work gets done, organisations will have to adapt their IT postures to account for this new reality. As an organisations’ connection points become distributed across households and networks, new concerns around security, visibility and user experiences will arise, so make sure you are prepared to meet these.

Employees should also be set-up with the right tools to work remotely. Different businesses will have different requirements for employees, but laptop and a set of cloud enabled or web-based applications is a good start. In South Africa, where many households don’t have access to the internet, providing internet dongles and data allowances is crucial.

Many of Aruba’s customers have chosen to provide the computing environment as well as a secure networking environment at home, so employees get the same work experiences as they do at their workplaces. This reduces the need to VPN into your work network, and requires only that the employee turn on their device and start using it, giving your IT team visibility into the environment to troubleshoot, maintain, and monitor security compliance.

Education can show us the way forward

Education in South Africa is always a hot-button issue, with challenges arising from low numbers of qualified teachers, to the disparity of infrastructure between wealthy schools and those in impoverished areas. But one thing is certain, access to quality education remains crucial for South Africa’s future.

What I have heard from conversations with customers in the education space is that their challenges are similar to those of enterprise business customers: How do we bring students back to physical locations while maintaining social distancing? How do we engage students when online learning stretches into an extended timeframe? And what are the resulting implications in how educators and planners prepare their education and technology plans to support these learning models?

There are no simple answers to this, but I believe that the advances, innovations, and decisions made in the education space will lead the way for businesses in the future. Afterall, students who now spend a majority of their time learning from home will have little trouble transitioning to remote work once they enter professional life.

Aruba will continue to support our education customers and partners as they navigate these challenging times. We’re here to help them configure their network infrastructure to get the most from the collaboration solutions they choose whether its Zoom, Teams, or something else.

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