The Environmental impact of the Modern Workplace
At Converge, we view ourselves as stewards of the environment and that factors into everything we do. From stringent waste management processes and IT product recycling initiatives to the packaging we use and how we run our offices, our environmental initiatives extend far beyond minimal compliance.
During the pandemic, many organizations made the move to remote or hybrid workplaces. With this shift, the day-to-day of many people changed drastically. As a result, we have put a lot of consideration into the environmental impact of this change.
How collaboration technologies are making work greener
Making it simpler to connect is not the only way that technology powering the Modern Workplace is reshaping the world. Their environmental impact is undeniable.
Let’s take commuting for example. Before the pandemic, roughly 90% of the population would drive to work. Most of them by themselves. Working remotely has cleared up roads drastically, saving time, money, and gas emissions. In the US alone, this reduction in traffic has saved roads from about 112 billion miles of average wear and tear.[i] This lowers construction, and maintenance needs significantly.
In hybrid and remote work environments, paper and office supplies have become almost obsolete. For example, one no longer needs to print out dozens of copies for meeting attendees. They may now attend from the comfort of their home and have everything at their fingertips on devices configured for their needs.
The energy needs for large office buildings that are not being used at full capacity have also gone down. With fewer people in the office, and less need for heat and air conditioning, this has considerably lowered the energy emissions of the organizations.
Some environmental concerns regarding hybrid and remote workplace
While the remote or hybrid workplace offers many environmental benefits, there are some negative environmental considerations.
For example, with employees spending less time in the office, the energy to power their workstations must be drawn from other places. Now each individual worker’s building needs to be heated or cooled instead of just one office building. Add to that having lights on for more hours of the day and having several devices per user drawing power can end up creating more emissions. Furthermore, many newer office buildings have been built with high sustainability standards.
One UK study found that the average employee who works from home year-round produces 2.5 tonnes of carbon per year, “around 80% more than an office worker.”[ii]
It is not just energy needs that increase with home offices. Recreating the office at home has led to an increase in home deliveries for new equipment, devices, furniture and more. Home office desk sales alone increased by 438% from April to June 2020.[iii] This means pollution from manufacturing, and delivery vehicles.
For those opting for a hybrid work environment where employees work at home some days and at the office on others, communal office space still needs to be maintained which offsets some of the potential energy savings.
A note about electronic waste
One of the downsides of the Modern Workplace is how much electronic waste it can generate. With more devices per worker and the increased potential device damage or loss in a remote, hybrid, and mobile work environment can wreak havoc on landfills.
Electronic waste not only threatens our environment, but it also threatens the health of humans and animals. And, in 2020 alone, e-waste was marked at 53.6 million tonnes worldwide.[iv] That is expected to grow to 74 million tonnes yearly in the next decade.
Procuring quality products that are built to last can help reduce e-waste. This is where best-in-class devices like Microsoft Surface shine. Not only are Surface devices well-built and Energy Star certified, they are also manufactured and packaged in keeping with Microsoft’s stringent environmental standards. The tech giant has been carbon neutral across the world since 2012 and commits to being carbon negative by 2030. [v]
Microsoft takes it even further by requiring that all third-party products be tested and certified by the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) before they can display the Windows logo on their packaging. Criteria being measured includes Power Management features which greatly enhance the longevity of key system components, reduce power requirements, and offer overall improved efficiency and performance to the user and the environment.
All the manufacturers we work with share our commitment to sustainability and ethical resourcing. Intel, for example, has put in place a new program called R.I.S.E. so that by 2030 they will be running on 100% renewable energy and be at a net-zero for water and waste emissions.[vi] IBM has also long valued sustainability. Their first environmental policy was implemented in 1971.[vii]
When devices do need to be decommissioned, disposing of them properly is important not only for sustainability but also to protect data. Converge offers comprehensive decommissioning services and even offers a FREE take-back program for packaging materials and Northern Micro products. This service is available nationwide in Canada and offers both pick-up and mail-back options.
The Modern Workplace is here to stay, and with it we do see a greener horizon. However, that does not negate the fact that we still need to take multiple aspects of sustainability into consideration to meet are environmental commitments.
Want to modernize your workplace and make it more sustainable at the same time?
Contact one of our Modern Work experts.
Learn more about Northern Micro and Converge’s environmental stewardship initiatives.
Accessibility in the workplace
Remote and hybrid work environments make it easier for workers with accessibility needs to participate in the workforce fully. They also allow organizations to tap into an important and highly skilled talent pool.
Key organizations across North America have taken note. The Government of Canada, for example, has publicly committed to becoming a world leader in barrier-free, inclusive workplaces and services. To that end, it has implemented an Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology program (AAACT).[i]
Furthermore, the Accessible Canada Act[ii], which applies to all sectors, requires that organizations create inclusion policies that include the following:
- Reasonable accommodation
- Accessible technology
- Assistive technologies to promote a barrier-free Canada
Those who fail to do so could face a fine of up to $250,000.
Leading Modern Workplace brands like Microsoft are also making a conscious effort to help people overcome barriers and to expanding accessibility to technology. The company has committed to actively promoting the development of accessibility tools, innovating to give everyone the ability to achieve more, and levelling the playing field.[iii]
Here are just some highlights of what Microsoft has to offer to make the workplace accessible to all.
Microsoft Surface adaptive kit
The Microsoft Surface Adaptive Kit, released in Fall 2021, is a simple, low-tech solution created with the help of partners and occupational therapists.
The kit consists of stickers and labels in various shapes to easily identify keycaps, ports, and cables and a lanyard tab to help open and close the device with one hand.
The experience of the individuals receiving and using the Surface Adaptive Kit was also carefully considered. The packaging is engineered to be easy to open, and the kit includes an applicator to make applying keycap labels easier.
Built-in accessibility features
Surface devices also have many built-in accessibility features to address varying ability levels.[iv]
Some features for those who are visually impaired include:
- Colour filters for improving visibility.
- Voice commands using Tell Me to access applications, commands, and shortcuts easily.
- Device functions that can be completed without using touch or a mouse
- Office Screen Reader for Windows to narrate what is written on the screen.
- Innovative audio-based technology, Soundscape, uses 3D audio cues to enrich ambient awareness and provide a new way to relate to the environment and enable people to build a richer awareness of their surroundings.
For those who are hearing impaired, features include:
- Presentations with real-time captions so everyone knows what the meeting is about.
- Autogenerated subtitles for videos
- Visual push notifications so that users do not have to rely on auditory signals
There are also numerous features for those with neurodiversity and mobility issues. They include:
- Focus Assist to block alerts and notifications so the user can focus.
- Text suggestions for sentence construction to help people with dyslexia.
- The ability to type with your voice using Dictate.
- The ability to use a PC with just your eyes using innovative eye-tracking software.
Microsoft is not alone in working to make the workplace more accessible. Dell, VMware and many other brands have committed to making Canada and the rest of the world more accessible.
Many solutions already exist to address a range of accessibility issues, and there is a lot more on the horizon. The transition to the Modern Workplace provides an opportunity to experience how technology removes barriers.
Want to know more about how you can make your workplace more accessible?
Explore all Modern Workplace solutions
Contact a Converge Modern Workplace and Accessible Workplace expert
Why deployments in a Modern Workplace are better
Deployments are critical to any successful digital transformation. They can also be the most costly and time-consuming phase.
When work changed overnight in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations had to rethink their long-established deployment processes. The shift to remote and hybrid work has made ensuring successful deployments through traditional means next to impossible.
For many, this was an opportunity to explore tools explicitly designed to address challenges with deploying to a distributed workforce.
It quickly became apparent that deployments for the Modern Workplace are better. Here is why?
They save time and money
The ‘on-premises’ process for devices in larger organizations typically involves:
- Shipping all the devices to a central location
- Removing devices from their packaging
- Creating an image and copying that image onto each device
- Repackaging the devices
- Shipping or delivering the devices to the end-user
- Providing onsite installation and configuration services
That all takes a lot of time, labour, and packaging.
Innovative deployment and remote management technology have made all this possible without an IT team member touching the end-user device. In a Modern Workplace, the process looks a little more like this:
- The device is shipped directly from the seller to the employee’s home or office
- The employee takes it out of the box and connects to the internet, and authenticates
- Everything else happens in the background
Organizations using Zero Touch solutions like Microsoft Autopilot have stated that they save 4 hours per device on average.[i] Scale over hundreds or thousands of devices, and the cost savings in labour alone are hard to ignore.
Devices can be shipped directly to the employee and are ready to go right out of the box
Because no manual configuration is required, devices can be shipped directly from the seller to the employee. This is effective on many levels.
New devices can make it into the hands of employees faster. The device’s integrity is also better protected because fewer people are handling it. Time and energy spent doing things like taking devices out of boxes and repackaging them can now be redirected towards more innovative pursuits.
Online or phone support may be required to overcome initial connectivity and authentication challenges. However, from the employee’s perspective, devices are ready to go from being taken out of the box.
For example, every Surface device comes equipped with the Microsoft collaboration and productivity tools workers already use. Teams, SharePoint, Outlook, and OneDrive, do not need to be ‘Installed’.
Combine this with responsive tech support and deployment solutions—like Windows Autopilot, VMware Workspace ONE and Ninja One—and the entire process can be seamless.
It is easier to respond to workforce changes
Because technology is so integral to everything workers do, the ability to respond to rapid growth, attrition, and other workforce changes is partly predicated on how quickly deployments could be completed.
It is not just when an employee arrives that modern deployment solutions are practical. Having the same level of control for departures is essential too. For example, it can be imperative to quickly deactivate or disable a device if an employee is fired and poses a security risk.
Not only could devices be deactivated or disabled remotely and instantly, but they can also be redeployed in “business ready” mode to another employee without being touched by a member of your IT team.
Access to unified endpoint management systems
Unified endpoint management systems are crucial to the modern workplace. They allow all devices to be managed and secured remotely from one central location.
- Automating patch management
- Deploying new software in a few clicks
- Troubleshooting systems remotely and securely
- Managing and monitoring mobile devices
- Imaging and deploying operating systems
- Automating endpoint security and control
- Managing endpoints on the go using our mobile app
One of the most popular endpoint management systems is Microsoft Endpoint Manager. It serves as a hub where IT teams can access services like Microsoft Intune and Configuration Manager to deploy, configure, update, secure, and manage devices from a single workstation.
While powerful tools exist to overcome the challenges of deployments in a remote or hybrid environment, there are many logistical, configuration, and delivery to keep in mind.
For example, employees may not all have the same comfort level with technology. Connectivity, especially in more remote regions, continues to be an issue. Procuring thousands of devices at once and ensuring each is delivered to the correct address required extensive logistical support.
These are all matters that our Modern Workplace experts can help your team navigate.
To learn more about the Modern Workplace:
Explore our comprehensive Modern Workplace solutions. (DN: Link to Modern Workplace landing page)
Contact a Converge Modern Workplace expert.
[i] Forrester Total Economic Impact Study: Maximizing your ROI from Microsoft 365 Enterprise with Microsoft Surface
Considerations for the Remote Worker
Why device aesthetics, remote deployments, managed services, and connectivity matter more than ever.
Imagine waking up at the cottage, making a coffee, grabbing a tablet, sitting on the porch to watch the sun over the water, and logging into work for a few hours. Time spent on things like a stressful commute can now be replaced with a sunrise yoga session or whatever pursuit of your choosing.
Stories of freedom and work-life balance like these are the hallmark of what the Modern Workplace promises. However, as many philosophers have pointed out, freedom comes at a cost. So does the ability to collaborate and connect seamlessly and securely from anywhere, at any time.
While the story above may be relatable to some, the move to a hybrid or remote workplace has not been quite as Zen for many, particularly if it took place during a global crisis.
At the start of the pandemic, as millions of workers across North America began working from home, decision-makers, IT teams, and employees had to contend with issues related to setting up their home office, deploying and managing devices remotely, and dealing with connectivity issues.
Let’s explore some of these employee-centred considerations and a few mitigation strategies for a smooth transition to a Modern Workplace.
The “Home Office” and Device Aesthetics
First and foremost, for many, setting up a fully functioning workspace at home has not been an easy feat. Things previously taken for granted, like printers and scanners, were suddenly not as readily accessible. And many do not have the space in their home to put a desk and a chair.
In a survey conducted in October 2020, only 36% of respondents reported having a dedicated workspace in their homes.[i] Furthermore, nearly half said they worked from the kitchen, bedroom, and other areas around the house.
Ensuring employees’ homes are not taken over by cables, plugs, and big clunky devices is now an important consideration. As is limiting light and sound emanating from multiple devices. Suddenly laptops, smartphones, tablets, printers, etc., are no longer just work tools. They have now become part of the home.
According to Microsoft’s Ralf Groene, Creative Director at Surface, the principle of balancing beauty and function is at the core of the brand’s design philosophy. “We are always trying to simulate how someone would feel. Why did it make you feel that way? Is it the materials, the proportions, how you carry it around, how you charge it?” [ii]
Self-reliance for Deployments and Management
In a traditional work environment, when a new employee started or an existing employee moved or upgraded, devices would need to be configured by the IT department and installed in person by an IT team member. Often that was accompanied by a one-on-one tutorial and some pointers for navigating the company infrastructure.
However, in a remote or hybrid environment, some of the responsibility for successful deployments has been passed down to employees with wide-ranging technical abilities. Solutions to these challenges include a combination of ready-to-deploy devices, Zero Touch deployment technology, and managed services. Some OEMs are even building all three elements into each device.
For example, all Microsoft Surface devices are equipped with Autopilot. This allows imaging and enrollment to be done remotely. Equipped with a full suite of productivity applications, like Microsoft Teams, they are ready to use as soon as they are taken out of the box.
Remote deployments are beneficial even if the workforce is not entirely remote. According to some studies, Autopilot reduced the process of configuring devices by an average of 25 minutes per device. Application provisioning time was reduced by 2.6 hours per application request. Device security and customization times were reduced by 2.5 hours per device.[iii]
Coping with Isolation
According to a study on remote work conducted in 2021, 21% of remote workers say that the biggest struggle of working remotely is loneliness. Another 21% said that it was collaborating and communicating.[iv]
The reality is that the office is more than just a place of work for many. It is where lifelong friendships are formed, and high-functioning teams create magic. The ability to recreate the conditions for this virtually is vital to maintaining a thriving and engaged workforce in a remote or hybrid environment.
Applications like Microsoft Teams have, to some extent, filled a big part of this gap. The Teams meeting has replaced the boardroom. Real-time collaboration and communication keep work units moving in harmony. The audio call has replaced the phone call. And the video call has replaced the knock on the office door.
None of these Modern Workplace solutions are possible without workers having access to a stable internet connection. For many households, this is simply not possible.
The Government of Canada has set a target of ensuring that all Canadian homes and businesses have access to broadband Internet speeds of at least 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads by 2026.[v]
Currently, over a third of Canadian households fall below bandwidth targets.[vi] More than 50% have access to speeds of less than 5 Mbps in places like Nunavut.
While increasing internet access falls beyond our scope of work, internet access at home is an important consideration when transitioning to a remote or hybrid environment.
This has been less of an issue for our urban clients. However, it is a challenge that we have helped numerous Government and commercial organizations with operations across the country address.
Despite the challenges and considerations listed above, the Modern Workplace is here to stay, at least as far as employees are concerned.
According to a survey conducted earlier this year (2022), 97% of remote workers would like to continue working remotely. 56% say they prefer a fully remote environment, and 30% say they would prefer a remote-first environment.[vii]
Making the Modern Workplace Work
A look at collaborative solutions to deal with the IT complexities of the Modern Workplace.
Our tried and tested workplace models have been tested over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has pressed organizations around the globe to reconsider their approach to managing people, spaces, and technology.
For knowledge workers, hybrid working is now the norm. This newfound ability to work remotely seems to have helped boost productivity, improved work-life balance, and given employees more control over how they work.
Nearly 3 out of 4 businesses in Canada have seen a 20% or more increase in productivity. 1 Employees love it so much that 75% say that maintaining flexibility in work location and work hours will directly influence whether they will stay at their job.2
While it has removed some barriers to collaboration, like all change, the transition to the Modern Workplace has not been without its challenges.
The influx of information and new technology and a distributed workforce has made everything from modernizing infrastructure, security, management, configuration and delivery of devices, and deployments more complex.
Luckily, these problems can be easily solved with the right collaborative solutions.
Something as simple as employees using apps to collaborate with coworkers that IT has not approved can be problematic. These apps are not always built with security in mind and can present an enormous risk to your organization.
Add to that the complexities of a distributed workforce that connects to your network from airports and coffee shops, multiple devices per worker to secure, and technology that seems to evolve faster than enterprise can keep up.
Products like Azure Active Directory, a security and access management solution, make it possible to protect end-users from 99.9 percent of cybersecurity attacks with the ability to remotely control single sign-on, multifactor authentication, and conditional access.3
A thorough evaluation of your security posture using Zero Trust assessments is highly recommended for those transitioning to a remote or hybrid work environment.
IT teams now have far less visibility into people’s tech issues when working remotely, making it harder to troubleshoot and solve them. Needless to say, the Modern Workplace needs modern management tools.
Cloud-based solutions like Microsoft Endpoint Manager combine a whole range of tools like Microsoft Intune, Configuration Manager, Desktop Analytics, co-management, and Windows Autopilot to manage and monitor all your end-user devices.
Windows 11 and Windows 365 also help solve some of these challenges by providing an innovative and efficient operating system, mission-critical enterprise-grade security tools, and seamlessly integrated workplace productivity apps.
They provide IT professionals with greater control to customize features and apps, manage and secure devices remotely, and deliver virtual desktops. They also make it easier to roll out updates, so you save time and money.
This is important as 50% of IT managers say they spend too much time managing devices, with 14% of IT personnel’s time going to device management.4
For even more support, next-generation managed IT services providers like ExactlyIT, a Converge Company, offer a white-glove experience through total operational transparency, flexible agreements, and a focus on driving business value through IT services.
These services can provide more capability to your end-users, and free up your IT team to focus on more innovative ventures.
Traditionally, deploying business devices required that an image be created and copied onto each device, one by one. For this to happen, the device had to be in the hands of IT employees before being delivered to each employee and installed for them.
This time-consuming process becomes even more complex when employees work remotely and are spread out across a city, a country, or even the world.
To address this, brands like Microsoft and VMware have pioneered zero-touch deployments. Equipped with a combined Microsoft software and hardware solution, including Autopilot, imaging, and enrollment can all be done remotely on Surface devices and any device with a Windows operating system. This makes them ready to use as soon as it is taken out of the box.
Some of the many benefits include the ability for employees to get set up faster and a lower total cost of device and software ownership.
According to some studies, Autopilot reduced the process of configuring devices by an average of 25 minutes per device. Application provisioning time was reduced by 2.6 hours per application request. Device security and customization times were reduced by 2.5 hours per device.5
Before worrying about the deployment, management, and security, all those devices must be procured and delivered to the end-user. If options for Microsoft Surface Zero-Touch deployments are not available, they also must be configured.
Purchasing a PC, tablet, or phone may seem easy. However, buying thousands of devices and delivering them to as many remote workers requires a little logistical know-how. It can also be very labour intensive and put a significant burden on your in-house IT team.
That is where companies like ours shine. Millions of devices have already been configured at our state-of-the-art assembly facility in Ottawa. We have also navigated complex deliveries, ranging from mass deliveries to busy downtown locations to hand-delivering devices to the homes of tens of thousands of workers.
Also, devices break ALL THE TIME! Being able to replace them quickly is key to keeping productivity up. That’s why we offer device replacements in under 24-hours.
Organizations that have resisted and still have policies in place against remote work, now have to accept that the transition to the Modern Workplace is inevitable.
A hybrid-cloud strategy is more important than ever for many reasons. Managing on-premises infrastructure continues to be a costly activity. Workers increasingly expect to have a seamless experience with the ability to collaborate in a rich and responsive way. Also, data security demands are growing exponentially.
Infrastructure is a key factor in any organization and many things can be overlooked, which could lead to costing more money and more time if not done well.
With extensive knowledge of related OEM products such as Microsoft Azure Hybrid Cloud and VMware Horizon, Converge offers solutions that can bridge the on-premises-to-cloud gap and provide organizations with the flexibility to scale up or down quickly.
How Converge Can Help
Making the switch to a remote or hybrid workplace model can be complicated. We have the expertise and solution model to make your migration easy.
Contact us for access to:
- Comprehensive cybersecurity solutions, including Zero-trust assessments
- Support with IT management, including managed solutions
- Deployment services, including Zero Touch deployments
- Logistical support for the large-scale purchase, configuration, and delivery of devices, including the full range of Microsoft Surface products
- Digital workplace solutions that span the whole of your IT infrastructure
Want to learn more? Sign up for a Modern Workplace Workshop, by Converge and Microsoft experts, at the Northern Micro offices in Ottawa.
Learn more about Converge Modern Workplace solutions.
Digital Workplace: What is the Modern Workplace?
Defining the modern workplace, what it means for workers and the IT implications.
Remember when going to work meant braving traffic to congregate with dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of people under one roof for 8 hours, five days a week.
It can still mean that nowadays. However, for many going to work looks more like sitting at the dining room table wearing a clean shirt and pajama bottoms, firing up the laptop, and shooting a quick “Hello!” to coworkers via Teams to signal that you are on the clock.
Welcome to the Modern Workplace, a concept for which we began hearing the benefits long before the start of the pandemic.
So, what is the Modern Workplace? What does it mean for workers? What are the IT implications?
Here is some of what we learned over the past two years as Converge helped millions of workers across North America make the transition while we made it too.
What the Modern Workplace Is
We view the Modern Workplace as a thoughtfully planned IT ecosystem that allows employees to connect, collaborate, create, and contribute safely and seamlessly from anywhere, at any time.
It is a vision that we have been developing for many years as we heard about how remote or hybrid environments can transform how we work.
Here is what the top OEMs in this space were saying before 2020:
- Microsoft Surface described it as an “intuitive approach” that simplifies “device lifecycle management, software upgrades, and IT needs.” 1
- According to Lenovo, it promises a “significant reduction in the portion of an organization’s technology budgets used to maintain legacy IT systems.” 2
- Dell emphasizes the impact on productivity and how it can provide “a crucial competitive edge when multiplied across an entire workforce.” 3
What It Means for Workers
Working remotely can represent freedom, flexibility, security, and better work-life balance. So much so that 56% of employees have reported an increase in their levels of happiness. 4
At the same time, it has forced workers to take on more responsibility than ever regarding cybersecurity, connectivity, and setting up their devices. Not all are tech-savvy.
Even with these additional responsibilities, employees still prefer a hybrid or remote work environment. In fact, 80% said that when faced with two similar employment offers, they would turn down the one that didn’t offer flexible work. 5
Plus, new technological advances are helping make the Modern Workplace anything but an isolating experience.
The IT implications
As with all digital transformation, transitioning to the Modern Workplace fast has kept many in the IT industry up at night.
- How do you secure thousands of devices connecting to your network from who knows where?
- Is your existing digital infrastructure built to support the modern workplace?
- How do you manage software, apps, data, and devices remotely?
- What are the logistical considerations involved with purchasing, configuring, and delivering devices to a distributed workforce?
- How do you manage deployments to all those devices without the need to physically touch them?
Each day we help hundreds of clients work through these concerns and others across the IT framework that makes up the Modern Workplace.
Whether planned or not, the transition to remote and hybrid work environments has proven beneficial for so many. The Modern Workplace is here to stay.
Tales of spending hours in traffic to get to work may be our generation’s version of “walking a kilometer, uphill in the snow, to and from school.” Our children may have a hard time imagining what that could have been like.
So, what’s keeping you up at night?
Get started on the next phase of your digital transformation.
Register for a Converge Modern Workplace Workshop and visit the Converge Innovation Centre in Ottawa.