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Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

A millennial in the workplace – Covid-19 edition

I’ve been struggling quite a lot with how to write this post to make it relevant and adding something to the discussion. I also really want it to be inspiring and not only my opinions and personal thoughts.

The whole Covid-19 has really made me think about remote work and how the “new world” will look post Covid-19. It’s a hard topic to be concreate about since we are in the middle of the change.

I’m positioning this as a part two of the “A millennial in the workplace” post from 2019.

Oh, and the picture to this article is our new Chief Sunbathing Officer who takes her new role very serious.

Work is changing

Let’s face it, the work life is changing and a lot more sudden than most were expecting it to. The Covid-19 pandemic really challenged everyone to push their digital transformation in a much higher speed than some might have intended to. But also, the perception of remote work.

Looking at this year’s Microsoft Ignite, the common dominator was remote work for the workplace area.

When suddenly everyone had to start to work remotely, it wasn’t impossible anymore and we adopted to this situation. Even a lot of areas where it was deemed “not suitable” to work remotely suddenly were left without a choice and managed the situation.

We are still not seeing the end of this, so a lot of things will still change!

So where does this put us?

One thing which tends to pop-up when this is discussed is “when we go back to normal people will be expected to come back to the office”. But what if this is the new normal? Or at least partially a new normal.

Working from home has in my experience often been viewed as something you only do with special reasons, and often with approval from management. Now when Covid-19 is putting everyone in a situation where remote work is kind of then new normal, I’m strongly hoping to see a shift in the culture and mindset around this.

One thing I tend to hear often is the argument that “the employees are not feeling well since they are isolated”, and I completely understand that. Working from home/remotely put new constraints on the social aspect of things, the natural interaction by the coffee machine does not exist in the same way. However, there are also people who feel stressed over the fact that they are expected to show up at an office at a given time every day based on “that’s how it’s always been”. So why adopt everything based on the people who like the office? That doesn’t really cut it in 2020 to be honest and the new policy Microsoft put out regarding their new remote work policy is spot on where “Offer as much flexibility as possible” is somewhat of the message of it. You can read more about it in this brilliant article or go straight to the source.

The world is changing, and we had a shift about one hundred years ago where the eight-hour workday was enforced. After World War II most of the industrialized world had 40 hour works weeks. In Sweden, the 40-hour work week we see today were introduced in the 1950’s and introduced in the labour law in the 1970’s. (Of course, there are more to this from a legal and union perspective, but let’s leave all that). That was 50 years ago.

Choosing where to work

What is the point I’m grasping at?

What I’m getting at is that there will be a before and after Covid-19. We have now proven that remote work is something that works, and we are still productive. So why do we feel the need to enforce everyone to go back to the office?

I’m not saying that we should remove all offices and have everyone working from home. However, it should be up to each one to be trusted in choosing to work where they are the most productive. That could be the office but just as well from home. Or a combination which I believe strongly in based on choosing the office as a workplace and not the expectation “to show up”. Given that we all have a job to do, we are trusted in much more sensitive and important things than where we choose to do our job.

This will put more trust in the employer and increase the sense of being trusted with that I can myself choose how I do my job. The old term “work is not a place, it something you do” fit very well into this context.

Looking to myself and how I resonate around these things, I’m currently in a situation where I motivate why I go to the office rather than why do I work remotely.

Work-life balance

In my world, this comes down to one thing and that is work life balance. Even though I’m extremely passionate about what I do for a living, living is not only working in my world. There must be time for other things to relax and disconnect. There must be room for flexibility during my day, the sense of owning your own time.

For me, work-life balance is about being able to control and own my own time. During Covid this has been a challenge to manage since working from home means that you never leave your workplace. But for me this is something I’ve learned to deal with. It also breaks up my workday into pieces giving me possibilities to do errands, go to the gym, walk the dog and such things during the day and work a little more focused during late afternoons. For me, late afternoons are where I’m the most productive while before lunch is a less productive period of the day (not to speak of 7:30 until 9:00).

Conclusion

To be honest, I don’t really know what the conclusion of this is since this is more my thoughts on the topic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that remote work is possible, and we are most likely seeing the new “normal”. There will for sure be a before and after Covid-19 and the work life will have to adopt to this.

However, everyone is different. Some need to be at an office surrounded by other people or just can’t work from home. There is also the other group who are more productive remote and do not feel the need for an office in the same sense.

You often see arguments that people need the office to perform and feel well as an argument that we need to get everyone back to the offices. But what about the other group of people who has been thriving during the last couple of months, where the trip to the office was a stressful moment. Are they less important or why are we expecting them to just adopt?

I think the “Offer as much flexibility as possible” quote I mentioned in the middle of this post will play a key part even for companies which are not called Microsoft. People are now seeing that it’s possible to work remote and finding what is working for them. I think they key part as I view this, is to offer a flexibility where I as an employee is trusted with selecting where my office should be. If that is 100% at home, 100% at the office or a mix shouldn’t matter. Work is not a place, it’s something you do.

This will be a cultural shift, not a technical shift. We have proven that our tools allow it, now we just need the corporate culture to allow it. For some, this change will happen fast while for others this will take time.

However, my strong belief is this will be a key element for many companies to hire Millennials and GenZ going forward. Why should I join a company which requires me to come to an office, when the other offers me the flexibility to choose when I go to the office?

These were my thoughts around this whole thing, what do you think?

Categories
Modern Workplace

While you were away…

Summer holidays are always fun, but it also means that I try to stay offline (at least form work stuff) to disconnect and recharge. Covid-19 is still around which means a lot of us will keep working remotely (and practicing social distancing) and this drives a lot of development in the modern workplace area.

Except from the mandatory updates for the computer (and phone this time), there is some catching up to do. I´ve gathered some highlights of what was released during the summer:

Some Teams updates with the long anticipated pop-out meeting feature: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-blog/what-s-new-in-microsoft-teams-july-2020/ba-p/1551561

And of course, one of the most exciting device news this year. The Surface Duo is officially launched: https://blogs.windows.com/devices/2020/08/12/available-for-preorder-today-surface-duo-is-purpose-built-for-mobile-productivity/

Support for Hybrid Azure AD join though VPN in Windows Autopilot: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/mem/autopilot/windows-autopilot-whats-new#new-in-windows-10-version-2004

Preview in Intune for Android Enterprise corporate-owned devices with a work profile (COPE): https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/intune-customer-success/intune-announcing-public-preview-for-android-enterprise/ba-p/1524325

Microsoft Ignite will be an online experience which will take place 22nd to 24th of September: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/ignite

There has of course been a lot of other interesting news, but these are some of the highlights in my world!

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

The grey-area between work and private applications

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

TLDR; Microsoft AppStore, consider making this available for your users to unlock their full potential.

So, you have taken the leap over to Windows 10? (That’s awesome since support for Windows 7 ended 14th of January if you didn’t by additional extended support, I´m really hoping you did move).

Windows 10 brings you a LOT of new features, services, ideas and challenges. One of those is the Microsoft Store which grants your users access to all kinds of apps and other things like themes and language packs.

This is great, isn’t it?

This is an interesting topic. On one hand you have the fear of more support and your users demanding support for things your IT department is not prepared nor staffed for. On the other hand, this is a hidden gem full of potential and users expecting things to work in a certain way. This post will cover that, but mostly on the end of “this is a great idea” rather than “lock that down, we don’t support that!”. I’m not in any way judging someone or saying “your decision is wrong”, more on the hand of giving the point of view from someone who was responsible for 35k clients and what I learned from that and form talking to customers, peers and friends who uses Windows 10 in a corporate setup.

Disclaimer before I start. I will as usually oversimplify stuff (as the naive millennial I am), don’t care about network capacity and things like that. This will target an expected user behaviour and user expectations. Also, I’m aware that I’ve in some way or another discussed this with people who reads this and I’m not calling you out on any things mentioned in this in any shape or form, you inspired me to write this. I might also be neglecting any legal/licensing aspects of this.

Microsoft Store – the difference between private and corporate

But let’s start with the basics. What is Microsoft Store?

Microsoft Store is a marketplace for applications, much like the AppStore/Google Play Store we know from our phone (I know MacOS also have this but I’m leaving that out for now). The store offers users to download applications to their machine from a trusted source (applications are checked by Microsoft before being published) and they can install these without privileged access (admin access). All applications are installed in a user-context and user A will never see user B’s applications. The risk or malicious code is extremely small.

There is however one major thing to point out here, which is easily missed. There IS a distinction between your private sphere and your corporate sphere.

If you download e.g. Spotify or Netflix, this application will be connected to your PERSONAL Microsoft account if you download it from the public part of the store. If you choose to download it without and account, it will still be connected to a “personal sphere”.

BUT if you download an application from the business side of the store, this will be connected to your corporate account. To download things connected to your corporate account, you need to enable Microsoft Store for Business and this will give your users a new tab in the store called e.g. Contoso. Everything downloaded from this tab, will be connected to your organisation and you will have to obtain a license for it (free or paid). This requires your users to either sign in with their Azure AD account, you to enable hybrid join or the machine being only Azure AD joined.

This means that Windows can keep track of what is private and what is corporate which means that you will only need to keep track of what YOU support.

What if your employees are more productive if they listen to music? Should you block that on their computer? And what happens when you block e.g. Spotify on their corporate computer?

Well, most information workers today have corporate issued smartphone… You didn’t restrict that app on those kinds of devices. So, your workers will consume that service, with a privately owned account, anyways on a corporate device…

And to be honest, if you blocked this one their corporate phone, they would use their personal device instead (or even an old fashion radio).

Enter the grey-area between work and personal life

What does your user expect in the form of services, support and how to use their devices?

User behaviour has shifted a lot since the dawn of device management. We are now entering 2020 and most people have some form of knowledge of how to use a computer or a phone. This means that the expectations are shifting and we at IT needs to adapt to this and understand that our users now know their way around a computing device (computer or phone). Concepts as internet, App-stores and browsers are not new, this has been around for about a decade (the Apple AppStore was released 12 years ago, in 2008). The next generation workforce is also entering the market, and now I’m talking about the Gen Z people who doesn’t know about the world without internet and computers. Millennials are entering their 30’s, time to move on and stop being scared of us.

All this, and the fact that >80% of the population in Sweden have access to a smartphone, means that we need to expect more from our users today than we could 10-15 years ago. We can also expect that they know what services they need, e.g. Spotify might not be a corporate app but might be something that your users’ need to stay focused (and paying for them self). Simply put, we have more experienced users today and we need to meet their expectations, not limit them from reaching their full potential. Simply put, using a computer to perform tasks is not a new thing anymore.

The use of such apps leaves a grey-area between what is work and what is personal. E.g. Spotify might be something your user is using to stay focused to do their work better, while paying for it as a personal service, and it’s not accessing any corporate data since its running in an isolated container (I’m intentionally leaving out network from this). Since this is a subscription service, purchased privately and consumed on personal devices, this won’t require any support from you and the user won’t expect it either. They application will also be “owned” by their personal account, not the corporate one.

What do we support?

One thing I’ve heard from several different customers/partners/peers is “What if they call and want support on application X, we must support whatever we allow on the device”.

My usual answer to this is “Do you support Angry Birds on iPhone?”. The most common answer is no.

Why? Well, it’s not a corporate app. Neither is Spotify, Netflix, WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter is a corporate app. UNLESS you make it available in the Microsoft Store for Business.

If you make it available in Microsoft Store for Business, that means that you as a company acquired a license for it and you actively made it available for the user. The same goes for applications from Apple AppStore (using VPP) and Managed Google Play. Any application you mark as a corporate approved application, you should expect your users to expect support on.

What about everything else in the app-stores? Well simply tell your users that this is not an application approved for your company and they need to reach out to the application developer/vendor for support, its simply “not supported” by your organisation. Like I said earlier, you don’t support all +130 million applications in the iOS AppStore, do you?

What does real life users expect?

By talking to network of friends, customers, peers, and former co-workers. What do they say?

Well it was a straightforward, non-statistical secured, answer:

We do not expect IT to help us out with applications we obtain for “personal use”

This means if they have problems with e.g. Spotify or any other applications which is not work relate nor sanctioned by/licensed by their employer, they won’t call IT. This is also something I can confirm as previously being the operations manager for the client platform in a global company, support for app-store apps is not a huge problem. And if you managed the expectations from your users in an effective way, you will be fine.

Let’s face it, the way we use technology today is different from that it was 5-10 years ago. We need to adapt.

The go-do…

What’s the go-do from this? Well, I’m not saying that you should make this available for all users tomorrow but consider piloting this outside the comfort of IT and evaluate the outcome before deciding. This might be an appreciated addition to your offering towards your end-users.

What are your thoughts? Do you see the app-stores on the different platforms as hidden potential or a potential support problem? Let me know in the comments.