The Post-Pandemic Workplace Is Here to Stay
I’m bemused, and thinking of a garbled restatement of the famous line from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre — namely, "Offices. We don’t need no stinkin’ offices!" The global workplace does, in fact, still need offices, but probably not as many as it needed before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And maybe we don't them for the same purposes.
That’s the gist of a great story in the Sept. 22 edition of the Washington Post that accords pretty strongly with my own observations and beliefs, based on my consulting and legal work in 2022. The title of the story is long but accurate: "More workers are back in offices. It’s still nothing like before."
IT Does Remoting, as it "Works Remotely"
In fact, nobody gets remote work like IT does. Before the wholesale trend to remote work whenever and wherever possible got going — in tandem with the pandemic — many IT folks had already been working remotely for a long, long time.
Why? Because they had to support in-office infrastructure after- and off-hours (evenings, weekends, holdiays, and so forth). And because they had to support traditionally (and intentionally) remote workers as they took technology into the field (salespeople, field staff such as technicians, installers, engineers, deliverypersons, and so forth).
Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that technology workers have been working remotely for almost as long as they’ve been working, period. As a graduate computer science student in 1979, for example, one of my first-ever technology purchases was an ADM-3A acoustic coupler/modem.
That's the kind with the rubber cups into which you plugged a telephone handset to connect to a mainframe. That, along with a monochrome DEC VT-100 terminal and keyboard, is what let me connect to University of Texas at Austin’s various mainframes and minicomputers (a CDC Cyber 6600, a DEC-10, and numerous PDP-11 models then in use).
In 1988, I went to work for Excelan (acquired by Novell in 1989) and worked there until 1994. On at least a half-time basis, across my entire tenure, I worked remotely in various jobs as a networking consultant, a training content developer, a national customer briefing resource, and as a technical marketing director.
Since I took up self-employment in May 1994 (now 28 years ago), I’ve been working full-time at home for nearly the entire interim. I commuted to NetQoS in 2005 and 2006 for about 10 months. Thus, I’ve been doing what many others have done in IT over the years, and what most IT pros have been doing since March of 2020.
The Remote IT Skills Toolbox
Here’s a kind of laundry list of topics and technologies that anybody who works remotely (or who supports others who do likewise) needs to understand. It’s a set of basics that are partially addressed in certs like CompTIA Network+.
That said, there’s a lot of stuff under this umbrella that one must pick up through trial and error, experience, and "by guess and by gosh:"
LAN Basics: This includes TCP/IP addressing and client configuration, firewalls, and basic router set-up and configuration (including DNS, DHCP, and so forth). Basic network naming (e.g. Microsoft machine names) and LAN names and addresses are an important sub-topic worth learning and understanding in this vein.
Remote Access Concepts, Tools, and Technologies: This includes Remote Desktop (e.g. Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol, apps and applications, and so forth). You'll also need to know about working with multiple remote clients, such as those from MS (Remote Assistance, Remote Desktop and Remote Desktop Connection), TeamViewer, and more.
Basic Network and Internet Security: This includes secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs, including OpenVPN and PureVPN, among others), use of secure authentication and encryption tools and protocols, access controls, and more.
Many applications and services nowadays include remote interfaces of their own, or support various means of remote access. This means the preceding set of skills and knowledge will come in doubly handy, not only to work remotely and support other remote workers but also to monitor and mange infrastructure and cloud components in similar fashion.
In short, it seems more than safe to say that, "Remotely is now how the world works." I don’t see that going away, ever.