“This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold,” writes Automattic co-founder Matt Mullenweg. “It has been a challenging time around the world—from how we live our daily lives to how we keep our kids safe in schools and our family members healthy in assisted living communities and hospitals…it’s not ideal on any level.”
That, I feel, is an understatement. The coronavirus has surged across the world, shutting down entire cities in the process. Businesses unfamiliar with distributed work have been forced into supporting an entirely remote workforce.
This is far from ideal. Even organizations with remote work policies in place aren’t likely to have the necessary infrastructure to keep every single employee connected. Bottlenecks are inevitable.
Maybe your VPN concentrator gives out under an overwhelming torrent of connection requests. Maybe your servers slow to a crawl as every single one of your employees attempts to access corporate resources. Maybe you’ll find out the hard way that your teleconferencing software was only ever intended for small meetings.
Regardless, particularly if you’re a smaller organization, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to support a fully-distributed workforce entirely on your own. Yet at the same time, it’s arguably infeasible to invest in new, permanent infrastructure. Even if you do intend to support more telecommuting after the pandemic ends, it’s unlikely you’ll need to keep your entire employee base working from home.
Cloud computing provides a solution across the board.
For general collaboration, I’d recommend a cloud chat service such as Slack. Providing the capacity for secure file sharing, group chats, and department-specific updates, it integrates readily with other services, including project management software like Wrike or Trello. It’s an excellent foundation for keeping your teams connected on a day-to-day basis.
Teleconferencing, meanwhile, will require a tool like Zoom. Enabling seamless, remote video conferences, Zoom helps distributed teams schedule valuable face-time with one another. Not only is this important from a collaboration perspective, but it can also be critical in staving off the cabin fever that can often accompany prolonged isolation.
Finally, where corporate access is concerned, you have two options. First, you can augment your existing hardware through infrastructure-as-a-service. This will allow you to tap into whatever hardware resources you require without having to install anything permanent; once you no longer require the additional processing power, you can simply spin down your cloud infrastructure.
Alternatively, you might consider leveraging software-as-a-service, shifting from internal, corporate apps to cloud solutions. While this may require a bit of extra research and legwork on your part, it can be immensely beneficial in the long run, particularly if you’re considering supporting single-sign-on for employee convenience. As such, in some situations, it may be a better option.
Coronavirus presents a series of unprecedented challenges from a distributed work perspective. While it’s unlikely that fully-remote teams will constitute the new normal, it’s nevertheless highly likely that businesses will need to adopt more comprehensive remote work policies. Cloud solutions can be of great help in that regard, providing both powerful applications and support for existing infrastructure.