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It’s the end of the office as we know it

(Image credit: Image Credit: Gpointstudio / Shutterstock)

The office is dead, right? Not so fast. Some organizations were quick to ditch bricks and mortar and adopt company-wide remote working for the foreseeable future, while others are choosing a more hybrid approach, opting to keep their physical base to occasionally be visited in tandem with remote working. Either way, it would seem that traditional working practices as we once knew them won’t be returning any time soon. Does this spell the end of the office as we currently know it?

Regardless of whether you’re reading this from the comfort of your home, or are one of the few to have returned to the workplace, or maybe you’re doing a little bit of both, the reality of our situation is that it’s still very early days in this new world, and it’s therefore impossible to predict how things will unfold in the coming weeks, months and dare I say even years, and how this will impact the office of the future - and the effect this setup will have on productivity, skills, and culture - in the long term. For now, I believe, we are guilty of looking at the huge change to working life over the past few months and seeing the future only as what we want to see, whether that be an IT nightmare or the opportunity to curve finances.

Picture the Rorschach test. The same image, and in this case the same situation, can be interpreted entirely differently depending on the viewer and the biases, fallacies, and past experiences that inform their outlook.

For CIOs the world over, this year has been heroic as they and their teams have had to scramble to enable a purely remote workforce seemingly overnight. We’ve seen two years of transformation in as many months and, quite frankly, we’re tired. We - the IT departments of the world - have performed an amazing feat this year, but that doesn’t mean we can continue to do so time and time again.

Knock on ramifications

This is news to CFOs, of course, who are thinking in terms of finances - which is to be expected. They see all that IT teams have achieved in an incredibly short space of time, with the same resources available to them - and suddenly continued transformational feats of this nature are to be expected. To make matters worse, the CFO now sees a business that can efficiently be run without the office, which CIOs (and others) need for collaboration with the business.

And it’s not just the office. This paradigm shift will also have knock on ramifications for the data center of the future, particularly since many of us still have huge investments in on-premises. Now all of a sudden we have a fortune in existing infrastructure gathering dust at an empty office, and that’s without considering the operational costs - think floor space, cooling, electricity - needed to keep it running day in and day out. The only way to continue using this high-performance environment is to access it via VPN and VDI, or a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI has never really taken off due to being costly and difficult to manage, but all of a sudden it seems like a viable option in our current climate. As a result, this wasted infrastructure could lead many to question the need for an on-premises data center moving forward, and - in a panic - consider ditching it entirely for a hybrid cloud environment.

But a mass shift to the cloud simply isn’t on the cards for most organizations, as the past few years have proven, considering the amount of resources that are needed to convert applications and gradually - or quickly - shut down the data center. This only becomes more difficult when you consider the ongoing skills gap and the gaps in significant knowledge for most businesses. That lack of capability could lead to costly mistakes; the wrong choice and they could be implementing something that could become “new” legacy in the next twelve months. Add varying security needs and the looming threat of regulators beginning to clampdown on the “new abnormal'' into the mix and we begin to understand the uncertainty ahead for CIOs.

Beyond the technological hurdles, another large unknown that has been viewed optimistically so far is long term productivity levels. While we’ve seen positive productivity from remote workers until now, we have no idea if, or for how long, this will last, when burnout could occur, and if we have the right collaboration tools for the long haul. And sadly, with new Covid-19 cases continuing to peak sporadically across the globe, we must be prepared for the long haul.

Is now the time for a hybrid reality?

Because of that lack of clarity it is vital that organizations don’t fall into the trap of deploying anything that’s going to become legacy tech in the next year, eventually resulting in more operational expenses, be they time or money. Only by simplifying their IT infrastructure and strategy, and taking due diligence when it comes to adopting or expanding new technologies, can IT teams avoid these costly mistakes. I believe that the key doesn’t lie solely in the cloud or on-premises, but in a new hybrid reality of both that offers organizations the best choice of tools as they navigate the new normal.

Though it feels like 2020 just won’t end, we are still in the infancy of this new work-from-home world. Just because burnout hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it’s not around the corner; according to Monster, over two-thirds of employees are already experiencing burnout symptoms as a result of remote working practices.

With so much uncertainty ahead of us still, and rolling spikes of new Covid-19 cases showing no signs of slowing down, businesses must be realistic in their future spending. Now is the time to be mindful not to make purchasing and infrastructure decisions based solely on the here and now, but instead invest in solutions - both physical and virtual - that will still have a role to play in a host of different future scenarios.

Robert Rhame, Director of Market Intelligence, Rubrik (opens in new tab)

Robert Rhame is Director of Market Intelligence at Rubrik with twenty years industry experience in security, risk and data management, as well as vendor landscape tracking.