The only thing that is likely to be more difficult for many workers than working remotely, is the prospect of returning to the office. While it is not going to happen overnight, there are signs that many organizations are starting to increase the number of people on site, especially as vaccination programs continue.
Before returning to the physical workplace, many organizations have been looking at how the return to the workplace will unfold. Recently, SurveyMonkey and Zoom took at deeper look at this problem, surveying 1,560 employed adults who have worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research aimed to gauge feelings, and hesitations, about the upcoming return to work changes.
The most significant finding, and one which confirms how slow the return to work will be, is that 60% of respondents said the organization they work for has yet to provide an expected return to work date.
Even still, the research confirms what we have seen many times before, notably that many organizations are making strategic plans to create hybrid workplaces with 72% saying that their workplace is likely to have a more flexible work-from-home policy after the COVID-19 pandemic than before it began. Whereas workers were once expected to show up in-person to get face time with their boss, to meet new customers, or to be present for all-hands meetings, the past year has demonstrated that many of those everyday activities can be done remotely.
The figures also show that while many people like remote working, they also miss the physical workplace. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) who have worked from home during this time say they are eager to return to work in person, twice as many who say they are dreading to return to work in the office (31%).
65% say their ideal future of work setup is a hybrid, work both from home and the office, situation. Workers are split with 42% saying they prefer to continue attending large group meetings in person, and 41% saying they would prefer to attend those meetings virtually.
The findings are also industry specific:
- 73% of workers in the education sector are eager to return to work in person.
- 47% Nearly half of government employee respondents said they are dreading the return to working in office (47%).
- 58% of tech workers are eager to return to the office while, 40% are dreading the return to in-person work.
A final figure worth noting is that more than half of workers who have been working from home (53%) say those workplace collaboration tools have made it easier for them to do their jobs over the past year.
It is clear why Zoom is interested in this kind of research. Its traction across the enterprise has deepened considerably over the past year as remote workers turned to the likes of Zoom to get their jobs done. These figures will likely be good news for Zoom as they demonstrate that the even after the pandemic has finished and people get back to normal working, most will still be using unified communications, or at the very least video calling.
Box Deepens Partnership With MS Teams
This week also saw Box and Microsoft announce a series of new integrations between Box, Microsoft’s 365 and the Teams platforms. The integrations are designed to make it easier for Box customers to access and collaborate on content across the Microsoft product portfolio.
The Box for Microsoft Teams integration was launched last March and Redwood City, CA-based Box has continued to make enhancements so that users can streamline their workflow, but also have the peace of mind that all their content is in one secure platform.
This week’s addition will go a long way to helping that. According to a statement form, it has introduced notifications within Microsoft Teams so that joint users will get notified of important updates to their Box files from directly within Teams.
This integration is especially important as it makes it easier to monitor content and productivity as teams around the world continue to work remotely. Box has also said it will be updating this later in the spring so that users can get a more robust, embedded Box experience within Teams. The new enhancement will deliver key Box functionality such as the ability to create, share, and open Box files to edit from Teams. This enables Box users to bring in content from productivity suites like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, and Apple iWork as they can use their app of choice to get work done.
Box is building an integration to import MIP classification labels and enforce classification-based, inline security controls using Box Shield. This will enable joint customers of Redmond, WA-based Microsoft and Box to secure their content across the two platforms. This feature will be available in May 2021.
There is one other release that is worth noting but will not be seen until this summer. Microsoft shared a preview of the Box Connector for Microsoft Graph at Microsoft Ignite last September, which will be generally available in the summer of 2021. With the Box Connector for Microsoft Graph, content in Box can be surfaced across the Microsoft ecosystem, including Office 365, Office Online search, and SharePoint. This makes it easier for Box users to discover, explore, and access content as they are working in various Microsoft apps, reducing friction for users that need to manage Box content across multiple platforms for a truly integrated experience.
All of this keeps feeding into the Microsoft idea of setting up Teams as a single place to work in the enterprise. That will only work if there are enough digital workplace app integrations so the tighter platforms like Box tie themselves in the better it will be for Microsoft and digital workplace employees.
Workplace by Facebooks Looks For More Enterprise Traction
Elsewhere, if Workplace by Facebook has been trailing the likes of Slack and Microsoft Teams in enterprise reach, the San Francisco-based company is stepping up its efforts to build its audience in the enterprise. This is clearly nothing new as it has been building since it was first released in 2016. However, it is focusing on its partner program and has indicated it is on the hunt for more resellers to swell its ranks.
The revamped Workplace One Partner Program aims to sign up more channel players to push its reach beyond the five million paying customers that currently use its online collaboration and communication tools. Partners are already central when it comes to meeting the needs of our customers. The company explained that over 50% of Workplace deals globally include a partner in the pre- or post-deployment phase. Our ambition is to see this number grow even more.
Partners that sign up access to incentives, go-to-market support, training and certification. Developers will also be able to access application programming interfaces (APIs) and beta programs, as well as getting insights into the product roadmap.
In a blog post about the new program, Ernesto Tey, director of Workplace from Facebook explained that as Workplace continues to grow, there is an increased need to have partners who can help build, deploy and support the Workplace platform.
While Workplace has maintained steady growth over the years, it is competing with Teams, Google Workspace and Slack all of whom are well established in the market and all of whom have the money and reach needed to limit the reach of Workplace. However, expanding its partner program could change that by giving it access to area it did not have access to before.
Microsoft’s New Cloud Outage
While much has been said over the past year of the tools and technology we use to make the digital workplace functional, little has been said about the problems that may occur if those tools were suddenly inaccessible.
Microsoft this week, provided some insights into how this might impact enterprises after a major outage of Azure. The result was that customers experienced authentication errors across many Microsoft services, including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, Exchange Online, Forms, Xbox Live, Intune, Outlook.com, Office Web, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Yammer and other apps.
We’re investigating an issue for access to multiple M365 services. Please visit the admin center post M0244568 for more information. We’ll provide additional information here as it becomes available.
— Microsoft 365 Status (@MSFT365Status) March 15, 2021
According to Microsoft, the issue was the result of “a recent change to an authentication system”. A roll back to the change took longer than Microsoft expected the result of which is that many of these apps and tools were down for more than four hours. Nor is this the first time it has happened. In September, Microsoft customers experienced another massive worldwide outage showing “transient” errors that knocked down Office 365 and related services, including Microsoft Teams, Office.com, Power Platform, and Dynamics365.
The scale of the problem can only really be appreciated if you consider that, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a recent earnings call, Microsoft Teams now has 115 million daily active users. That is a more than 50 percent rise from the 75 million that Microsoft reported almost six months ago. And that’s just Teams. There is no getting away from these tools and platforms now and this outage just goes to show that. What organizations need to do, though, is build IT strategies that can compensate for these problems to ensure work continues to get done.
Fuze Protects Teams’ Data
Finally, this week, Boston-based Fuze, which develops cloud-based communications has announced a series of integrations to meet enterprise compliance requirements and ensure the protection of sensitive organizational data. The integrations with Theta Lake, a provider of modern collaboration security and compliance solutions, and 17a-4 LLC’s DataParser, a middleware solution that brings third-party data into any archive, automate the management and regulation of communications data
Fuze has also updated the Fuze for Microsoft Teams and Fuze for Slack integrations to adhere to the current security and compliance guidelines of these applications.