January 29, 2021—The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to completely reimagine day-to-day processes and employee management. The shift to remote work has resulted in profound consequences for many. Meanwhile, the advancement of automation, hastened by the pandemic, means that many in-person jobs that previously existed, may not post-pandemic.
The future of work for many will likely be a hybrid of working-from-home and in-person, said panelists during a Washington Post Live event, sponsored by Dell Technologies, which aired Tuesday.
Many employees of Dell Technologies have been working a remote, in-person hybrid schedule for years. Dell implemented the blend of remote work in 2009 and today 65 percent of its workforce utilizes the alternative schedule.
The decision made years ago was a cornerstone of the company’s culture and caused the company to increasingly attract talent, said Kristi Hummel, senior vice president of Human Resources at Dell.
Upon making the transition, many executives worried it would be difficult to maintain company culture, especially among new hires, said Hummel. Dell has done an excellent job of focusing on outcomes and productivity levels, instead of where and how the work is done, she said.
The office atmosphere of 2021 and 2022 will be part of a larger change in companies, predicted Adam Grant, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Grant said the shift to virtual work will be a cause to create more collaborative virtual work spaces.
“People will not be sitting in cubicles alone and offices will become more collaborative spaces, with more team rooms and private rooms, for private conversations and calls,” said Grant.
Companies will start to think more creatively about where they want to locate their offices and headquarters, Grant said. “2020 was the year of forced rethinking, and 2021 is the year of proactive rethinking,” said Grant, adding that companies need to plan for their operations to be deliverable over virtual platforms.
According to Zoom’s Chief Operation Officer Aparna Bawa, the web-based video conferencing tool is developing new features and enhancing existing assets to adapt to the burgeoning work-from-home market.
The platform still has limitations, such as being unable to transmit human senses, such as touch, smell, and taste, but Bawa has confirmed that the company is working on creating some of these features. Zoom engineers are working to implement noise tonalities, music features, and even a ‘handshake’ feature.
For the new world of work to become a reality, it is up to companies to unlock the most productivity from their workforces, remotely, concluded Susan Lund, partner at McKinsey Global Institute.
Broadband Breakfast Interview: Waves Wants to Connect Entrepreneurs with Each Other
A resurgent pandemic is giving a company that remotely connects entrepreneurs with each other increasing popularity.
August 5, 2021 – As a resurgent pandemic places continued uncertainty on the workplace, despite increasing vaccinations, a new entrepreneur networking startup launched during the pandemic called Waves is growing.
Broadband Breakfast interviewed Ghaffari to learn how Waves came to be and where he sees it going.
Geared toward early-stage student entrepreneurs, members of the “Wave community” are grouped into “waves,” or people with similar entrepreneurial aspirations. Then they are given curated content, weekly calls, and daily chats for free.
‘Micro communities that are personalized to you’
Waves currently has a few “Wave” groups made, but is rapidly growing its membership as new members joining are put on a waitlist until the right “Wave” comes along for them to be put in. After three weeks, members are switched out into new Wave groups to continue socializing and connecting with new entrepreneurs that can grow their knowledge.
For example, EdTech entrepreneurs will be connected with others who have knowledge in EdTech. Virtually all communication is done online using popular messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, Slack, or Google Hangouts as the pandemic continues despite rising vaccinations.
“After testing Waves on nearly 600 users in just four months, we have closed out testing round,” said Ghaffari. Waves is now focusing on developing its business model to include business to business (B2B) clients who want to activate and engage their users, he added. Waves already booked its first client and is post-revenue heading toward profitability, he said.
Started a podcast
Ghaffari said he and Valtancoli started a podcast called “Almost Founders” that shares “practical content about early-stage entrepreneurship with a successful founder every week.”
The two co-founders saw their podcast community grow to a few hundred members, and wondered how they could keep listeners and supporters in more manageable groups. This is to keep from losing people during high growth periods.
He and Valtancoli found that groups of 10 people were the ‘goldilocks’ size to keep people involved on a personal level of connection while still having a big enough network to reach out to.
Telework Can Be Mainstay If Broadband Gets Up to Speed
Experts say telework is here to stay, so long as broadband disparities are fixed.
July 15, 2021 – As companies across the United States begin to open again, offices are preparing to make a crucial decision: to go virtual or implement a hybrid model.
But the decision may not be as clear-cut because connectivity has to be there to make a virtual work environment work, say observers, and some don’t have those advantages.
“They do not have the same job opportunities as those who do have access to broadband,” said Shelly Steward, director of the future of work initiative at the Aspen Institute during a virtual summit on Tuesday.
“If we want telework to be the future, this is critical to the process.”
Covid-19 provided an opportunity for companies to take the risk and redefine employees’ positions in order to provide the flexibility needed to work from home. “It was a forced experiment,” said Steward.
Steward said there are both benefits and challenges to digitizing the workforce. She said that telework allows for less routine and mundane work and that employees have said they feel safer and are more likely to be prepared if something comes up.
Resilience, Steward explained, was the benefit of digitalization. More money and time has gone into training and preparing employees for any kind of disruption, so they can continue to work. If there’s a natural disaster, another pandemic, or just a day-to-day life crisis, they will be prepared.
Michael Bailey, vice president at the Washington Department of Revenue, said during an event on the hybrid workforce at the summit that resilience was not “just in people but the organizations themselves.”
Companies were pushed to become flexible and accommodating in the process of shifting as many people as possible to home-based telework during the crisis.
However, during this shift, they were able to see the possibilities of positions remaining at home. Workers began to prefer working from home, emissions and office costs were reduced, and many people were able to better balance work and family roles.
“People will change their habits, and some of these habits will stick. There’s a lot of things where people are just slowly shifting, and this will accelerate that.” economist Susan Athey told the Washington Post last March.
However, Steward emphasized that “one size does not fit all.” She explained that many workers severely struggled this past year with professional isolation and may not approve of continuing this format. Inequalities can be exacerbated, Steward explained.
Broadband Providers Grapple With Higher Than Normal Data Usage
February 10, 2021—While the world continues a work-from-home orientation, broadband providers are searching for new and innovative solutions to keep up with the demands of this new normal.
“During the first six months of the last year, 2020, we have seen an increase of 62% in Wi-Fi data usage,” said Oz Yildrim, executive vice president and general manager of Airties’ Americas Business Unit.
Yildrim said that before the pandemic, there were significant differences in weekday versus weekend broadband usage, but with so much of the world telecommuting during lockdowns, this difference has disappeared.
“We used to see 6.5 gigabytes [of] data usage during weekdays and 80 gigabytes during weekends,” he said. “Now, every day is the same and we are averaging around 11.5 gigabytes of data usage per day.”
Yildrim also emphasized that Wi-Fi usage went up by four percent during work hours and that reported Wi-Fi issues increased by 70%. He said that in his opinion, the next step in meeting this level of demand would be implementing 6E technology — the next generation Wi-Fi that will exist on the 6 GigaHertz (GHz) band, instead of the standard 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz – in consumer infrastructure.
Mike Talbert, associate fellow with Verizon global network and technology, noted that while he agreed with Yildrim’s assessment, he added that expanding the spectrum would also play a crucial role in meeting consumer demand. Talbert pointed out that everything from lightbulbs to doors to washers and driers is connected to Wi-Fi, and that this trend of connectivity is only going to increase in the wake of the pandemic.
Both Talbert and Yildrim wanted to make it clear that the wants and needs of every consumer are different and that broadband providers would need to be able to address this diversity of demand in terms of the types of services they provide.
Yildrim said that it is not even enough to recognize what consumers’ needs are today and that broadband providers need to be actively trying to assess the needs of tomorrow.
“We didn’t have that many peloton devices connected to our networks two years ago—so we don’t know what’s gonna come, but we know these services will have different requirements.”
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