A new species: Remote Worker

April 29, 2022

Question: What’s the difference between yesterday and today?

Answer: Remote workers! We used to call them telecommuters or distance workers. And they used to be a very rare species indeed. But today, not so rare. In fact, nearly everybody’s doing it!

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Who are remote workers?

Remote workers are employees who do their jobs at a location other than one provided by their employers. Remote workers choose their work location, which could be their home, a shared space, even their car. If they choose and provide their own work locations, they are remote workers. Closely related, hybrid workers choose their location some of the time, and report to work at the employer’s location some of the time. And both remote and hybrid workers have specific needs, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Why so rare?

Pre-pandemic, the widely held assumption was that team members must be in the same room together for the best collaboration to happen. It was also assumed that the only way managers could ensure productivity was to observe employees working in the office. However, the pandemic has largely proven these assumptions to be wrong.

Another reason remote workers used to be such a rare species was because the legacy video conferencing systems were so challenging. These systems involved a cumbersome and expensive set of hardware-based codecs and cameras with complicated UIs that were available only in dedicated rooms. However, motivated by the pandemic, video conferencing technologies such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, etc., and collaboration tools such as Slack, Miro, Trello, etc., have vastly improved. These technologies are now easy to use and can be accessed from hand-held devices such as laptops and tablets.

This is all to say that the pandemic called for different strategies, and attitudes ended up changing as well. Fast forward to today: Employers have adapted to a distributed workforce, and so have employees. In fact, employees have adapted to working remotely so well that many now prefer it that way.

What types of jobs can be performed remotely?

Not every field of employment lends itself to working remotely, but many do. In fact, more than you might have thought possible before the pandemic. For example, the lives of knowledge workers, healthcare workers, and even frontline workers have changed radically by the shift toward remote working.

Knowledge workers

Not surprisingly, the knowledge industry was quick to embrace remote working.

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They say knowledge workers are people who “think for a living,” because they typically gather and apply information on the job, rather than performing physical tasks. They collect data, analyze information, and use that information to solve problems, generate ideas, create new products or services, and so on. Knowledge workers are often highly skilled, including accountants, architects, attorneys, authors, business analysts, coders, designers, developers, editors, engineers, programmers, scientists, etc. In addition, some knowledge worker jobs require little or no experience, such as customers service, data entry, digital marketing, recruiting, sales, transcription, and so on.

Knowledge workers usually use a variety of digital devices including laptops, tablets, computers, and smartphones at a desk, often the same desk at the same location every day. And for these devices, knowledge workers require the software and services that will enable them to do their jobs efficiently, productively, and securely. The pandemic provided impetus to meet these requirements online, and for knowledge workers the shift toward working remotely was swift.

Healthcare workers

In addition to knowledge workers, the healthcare industry also quickly embraced remote working wherever feasible.

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Traditional doctor-patient relationships used to be strictly hands-on, and so were the other aspects of providing health care: examination, diagnosis, treatment, triaging, and even training. Examples of healthcare workers include nurses, doctors, dentists, anesthetists, occupational health and safety specialists, medical technicians, and more. Healthcare workers make heavy use of devices and apps while on the run from patient to patient, and must maintain the upmost security, privacy, and confidentiality at the same time.

These days, many of these jobs can be done online with telehealth apps and processes. Training for healthcare providers can be done remotely, as can primary-care visits, making virtual rounds, remote patient monitoring, in-home patient documentation, and more. Patients can engage in a video chat with their health care providers and get the advice and prescriptions they need online. Triaging can be done over the telephone. Even health care providers in the military started making use of video as both a training and treatment tool to share wound care with remote physicians treating soldiers injured in battle. In fact, some healthcare organizations already started remoting before the pandemic, as they anticipated an increase in extreme weather events like Hurricanes Mitch and Katrina.

To make all this possible, healthcare providers depend on devices and apps that they can log in to quickly and use easily during emergencies, and which maintain the utmost security, privacy, and confidentiality.

Frontline workers

Frontline workers have experienced a slightly different set of changes, compared with knowledge workers and healthcare providers.

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Frontline workers are shift-based service or task workers—and they make up the majority of the global workforce. Frontline workers include grocery store workers, warehouse managers, delivery drivers, retail associates, and more. Unlike office workers, frontline workers can’t take their work home with them, and must instead report to a jobsite or work out in the field.

Although frontline workers have used handheld digital devices for tasks such as mobile computing, scanning, and printing tasks for at least a decade, their employers have typically been slower to adapt to new digital innovations. However, even this trend is changing. Employers are now facing unprecedented turnover, labor shortages, and changing worker demographics and expectations. In response, many organizations are redefining their strategies and are now extending similar digital flexibility to their employees on the front line, enabling them to do things like clocking in and out remotely, accessing non-sensitive work content, and more.

And like knowledge workers and healthcare providers, frontline workers need the devices, software, and services that can keep their work transactions secure, efficient, and productive.

How VMware products support working remotely

It feels like we've entered a new era while witnessing the evolution of a new species of worker at the same time. Even if things never go back to the way they were pre-pandemic, a wealth of time-tested products now exist to support remote and hybrid workers with security, efficiency, and productivity.

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In fact, many industry leaders are now embracing bring-your-own (BYO) and corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) devices to provide workers with user-friendly work devices and tools. By extending BYO, COPE, or a combination of the two to their remote and hybrid workers, as well as by adapting their workplace culture to attract and retain top talent, organizations can stand above the crowd and build long-term resiliency.

VMware products and services provide these industry leaders with the tools to create digital workspaces that deliver a seamless digital employee experience (DEX) and improve workplace culture and employee engagement and retention. Which, of course, translates to improved productivity, efficiency, and business growth for employers, and greater security and ease-of-use for our new species—the remote worker.

You can find out more about VMware apps and services on Digital Workspace Tech Zone. For example, the VMware Workspace ONE, Assist, and Intelligent Hub products provide many levels of support for remote working:

  • Workspace ONE is a cloud platform for modern management whose integrated services address your remote service needs, enabling you to support your remote workers in real time, or by providing self-service tools.
  • Workspace ONE Assist is a remote support solution built for a distributed workforce, enabling you to remotely access and troubleshoot devices in real-time.
  • Workspace ONE Intelligent Hub is the multi-platform, employee-facing digital workspace application for Workspace ONE which provides your end-users with everything they need to be productive.

For more information, see Enable Self Service and Remote Support.

Do you need help ensuring performance for a distributed workforce when network conditions are not ideal?

If so, VMware SD-WAN and VMware Horizon can both be used to provide reliable and performant access to applications for remote users. For more information, see Ensure App Performance for Remote Employees.

Do you need help maintaining your remote workers’ experience, such as resolving bandwidth issues?

To learn how to make bandwidth improvements on Windows 10 and macOS devices via Workspace ONE, see Virtually Painful Networks - How to Increase Bandwidth for Remote Workers.

Do you need help simplifying operations for the IT teams who are responsible for mission-critical devices?

If so, see the following series:

 

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