The Future of Work…with a Twist

Written by: Scott Gode

“Before the coronavirus crisis’ unprecedented impact, remote working did not present the huge challenge that many enterprises are now coming to grips with.” So begins a recent story in an EMEA-based publication. “If not handled correctly,” the story goes on to say, “remote working can cause serious day-to-day disruption and, ultimately, become a risk to the enterprise.” Of course, what this “future of work” article is referring to is video conferencing and workstream collaboration tools that address employee communication, digital workplace agility, and team coordination. The key dialog focuses on technical topics like Slack channels, or Zoom security, or Microsoft Teams’ upcoming 7×7 video grid.

At Unify Square, we’ve also been on a similar tunnel vision technical focus talking about issues relating to transforming organizations to the cloud, or the lurking dangers of what a return to the office may mean for IT systems and support. But what if there’s more to the future of work? Outside of our narrow, technologically focused world, the future of work may actually have a much more critical essential meaning. To steal and convert a line from Dr. Seuss and The Grinch – “What if the Future of Work, doesn’t come from a Best Buy store. What if the Future…perhaps…means a little bit more?”

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Examining the Real Risk

Remote work future

A recent New York Times opinion piece posits that the Future of Work isn’t what people think it is. The story relates that the workforce, which truly powers our economy today, is not the Work from Home (WFH) employees, who we, here at Unify Square, target and coddle. Rather it is the millions of hourly global workers, as the Brookings Institution reminds us in their ongoing coverage of essential workers, “who risk their lives and the health of their families to perform jobs deemed “essential” for society, but who are largely unprotected by our safety net.”  

In these trying COVID-19 times, security is indeed a hot topic. Many dialogs focus on the rise of Shadow IT. Additionally, in a recent Nemertes Research survey,” states an article regarding the importance of Zoom encryption, “528 business leaders ranked end-to-end encryption as more critical for video security than enterprise key management, on-premises deployment options, and waiting rooms.” 

However, when it comes to the real risk to the enterprise, should we not prioritize even higher certain Essential Workers Bill of Rights? Shouldn’t the focus be on issues like health and safety protections, a livable wage, paid sick and family leave, support for family care, and access to health care?

Our Insulated First World Problems


remote work future

Granted, it’s very easy to focus on what we can most easily understand and relate to. At Unify Square, the first-world problems and issues we’re solving for our customers are tangible and real…. for us:

  • Zoom Fatigue: It’s so hard and exhausting to stare at many different video feeds hour after hour every day. Processing non-verbal cues over a video feed can be so trying and difficult. We’re looking for just a simple voice call, or perhaps an Avatar to break things up. Or perhaps a different background picture or video to change the focus.
  • Zoom Shirt: The troublesome issue of making sure one looks scrubbed and presentable during a video conference.  The struggles here are obvious:  the shirt must be easy to store in your home office, easy to put on and take off, and compatible with different business scenarios.
  • Work-Life Balance Obliteration:  Knowledge workers everywhere are overworked, stressed, and eager to get back to the office. According to a recent work-from-home report, two-thirds of remote workers would prefer to be back in the office.  On average, workers estimate that their workday is now 3 hours longer than it used to be as boundaries between work and life have almost entirely disappeared. 45% of workers claim they are burned out as a result. Some studies have shown that workers are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Loud Chewers and Talkers:  A recent story even goes so far as to outline a set of 5 key steps that workers can take to give themselves the best chance to remain in a perpetual WFH state.  The article suggests that it can be mentally challenging to have to listen to extraneous workplace conversations or to hear one’s colleague eating their lunch at the adjoining desk.
  • Password Lock-outs & App Access:  On the IT side, there are some earth-shattering issues beyond the previously mentioned security risk problems.  A recent report highlighted that the two biggest pandemic-related issues that are bogging down and frustrating IT are password lockouts and the inability to access internal/on-premises applications.

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Surviving the Crisis

remote work future published an article back at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis entitled “The CIO’s coronavirus playbook: 7 tips for surviving the crisis.” Among the key survival recommendations were important focus-areas such as “building an IT resiliency dashboard, increasing spending to support remote work, using the crisis to boost customer engagement. No one is suggesting that the above tips, and key issues like Zoom Fatigue and work-life balance, aren’t important. Unify Square experts in UC technology, and related issues count on customer demand for assistance to pay the bills. But we must also not forget about all the workers who don’t have the option to work from home. Or who lack a paid leave option to allow themselves to isolate if they become exposed.

Future Work Next Steps   

Here are some ideas for how to get started: 

  • Let us here at Unify Square zero in on the first world technology problems as much as possible. We want to free up your business so that you can spend more time focusing on your essential workers.
  • Think through how you might enable your essential workers with Microsoft Teams collaboration functionality on their mobile phones.  For roughly the cost of 3 hours of labor annually (F1 license), this would create a persistent, bi-directional communication channel between the workers and corporate, and among the workers themselves.
  • For video communications, acknowledge the Zoom sea-change and the free Zoom licenses to enable all your workers with Zoom on their mobile devices.
  • Consider whether you can implement your own corporate version of the US-sponsored Hero’s Fund and/or as an interim measure consider some form of “hero pay” for your hourly workers.

Together we can ensure that we don’t lose sight of our moral obligations to help “shore up every last job, especially those that have been invisible, and every worker who has taken care of us, until every job is a good job, and dignity is restored to work.” This is the true Future of Work.

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