The on-demand office: How entertainment is signalling the future of work

Article by Thawipong Anotaisinthawee, Country Manager, Nutanix (Thailand)

Over the years we have seen drastic shifts in the gaming and media space, including the transition from clunky hardware and game consoles to software and content via the cloud. In fact, more than 400 million people now use video and other streaming services such as Netflix across Asia-Pacific and Japan.

Instead of going to a specific location such as a movie theatre or arcade to indulge in entertainment, a digital, on-demand ecosystem provides the experience when and where people want to enjoy it. This has led to major shifts in behavior. The ubiquitous ability to consume content has made obsolete older distribution systems, like hotel in-room movies, and fundamentally changed our expectations. This in turn has impacted long-standing upstream distribution models, forcing an entire industry to adapt or face tremendous impact.

In the corporate world, we are finally seeing a similar evolution in thinking about where and how we work. Though long-touted as a breakthrough technology, remote work, formerly known as telecommuting, never gained mainstream adoption. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a curiosity reserved for executives, mobile employees, and a few forward-thinking companies. However, after the mad rush to enable work from home for entire industries, business and technology leaders are now considering the long-term impact on what the future of work will be.

We could call this shift to more flexible working arrangements the ‘on-demand office’ — a model that repositions work from a fixed-location to a consumable activity; accessible anywhere at any time. While companies have in the past half-heartedly tried to gamify their processes to increase productivity, the entertainment sector is now inspiring more meaningful change and providing other industries with a framework for improvement.

With no more than a screen and an internet connection, videos can be streamed anywhere at any time. We now see similarly flexible and virtual arrangements of working, collaborating, and operating becoming standard, with the models established in the entertainment industry providing a clear signpost of what is to come with the future of work. Just as in the entertainment sector, we can also expect the impact of this shift to extend beyond the rethinking of office space and working hours.

The desire for convenience, immediacy, and flexibility has changed our expectations. We have become accustomed to a world where things come to us rather than vice versa. It was only a matter of time before this applied to the world of work and employees began to expect virtual arrangements in their ways of working. For the generation born into this digital world, the idea of having to go to a specific place at a specific time to see a movie seems hopelessly antiquated. And as the digital generation becomes prevalent in the workplace, their expectations of corporate IT are necessitating a marked change in thinking.

Whatever the industry, technology will be central to this new way of working. Companies which are able to capitalize on the true promise of work-from-anywhere and cloud computing will reap the rewards of faster innovation and growth. It’s not hard to imagine that the next generation of talent will appraise future employers based on their technical savvy and ability to adapt working systems to modern expectations.

Even the most conservative industries, including the automotive and financial services sectors, revamped their working models in the last year to enable their team members to work remotely, an unprecedented arrangement.

Fears around security and the performance of applications used remotely have historically prevented companies such as Toyota from allowing staff to work from outside the office. The events of last year forced a dramatic change in mindset and a reassessment of technology-enabled flexibility. Ultimately, Toyota decided to use the Nutanix cloud platform as a base to build a virtual desktop environment to support high-performance applications and design software, and ultimately realize a new way of working. This virtual-first approach helped simplify IT management and empowered employees to work from anywhere without compromising on security. It also resulted in the phasing out of paper drawings and concurrent viewing of 3D design models, making discussions more fruitful and raising efficiency.

In financial services, Suncorp New Zealand, one of the country’s largest financial services groups, doubled down on developing a technology-enabled workforce and successfully adapted to fully remote work during the lockdowns in 2020. As an industry predicated on privacy, having insurers working from home was similarly unheard of. VDI helped break down this barrier, its built-in security enabling flexibility with peace of mind. Moreover, it supported the insurer’s long-term strategy of digital-first customer engagement.

There’s no doubt employees will reap the benefits of VDI or other solutions including Desktop as a Service (DaaS). But what’s in it for companies? Solutions enabling remote work will be key to attracting and retaining the best talent. The appetite among younger talent for digital nomad working models is on the uptick. In fact, a study by LinkedIn Talent Solutions found that job seekers are not interested in working for a company that will not continue to offer remote work post-pandemic. Globally, the volume of job searches using the “remote” filter on LinkedIn has increased by approximately 60 percent since the start of March 2020. In Asia-Pacific, applications for remote jobs are growing as well. With fewer geographic restrictions, companies have access to an even wider talent pool.

A work-from-anywhere model will be central to the way teams and companies operate in the ‘on-demand office’ era. With remote work here to stay, be it VDI, DaaS or another remote-work solution, companies that do not go all-in on using one of these models will operate with less flexibility than more progressive competitors, and they will not be able to hire the best talent. Shifting to the ‘on-demand office’ will be key to achieving the competitive edge needed for future success, in everything from talent recruitment to improving company efficiency.