In Contrast to 'Permanent Remote Work,' VMware Messaging Touts 'Return-to-Office'

Virtualization kingpin VMware was quick to tout its wares for the remote work explosion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but its recent messaging has shifted to a "return-to-office" theme in a sign that the company may be looking forward to a recovery period soon.

That messaging centers around the company's Workspace ONE product, which is described as a digital workspace solution delivering and managing apps on any device by bundling together identity, application, and enterprise mobility management.

Cases in point (with italics emphasis added):

  • A news release last week included the teaser: "VMware announces new workplace solutions to help companies return employees to offices safely as economies reopen and enable enhanced office experiences."
  • A blog post last week said: "The initial rollout of VMware's workplace solutions, beginning with Workspace ONE Proximity and features available today in Workspace ONE Intelligent Hub, are designed to help customers support a safer return to office for employees during the pandemic."
  • A blog post just published this week, titled "5 Strategies for Return-to-Office," said: "Now, as regions around the globe begin reopening and relaxing stay-at-home orders, organizations are contemplating and rethinking their strategies for returning to the physical office."

That messaging seems to be in contrast to other vendors who are still touting their solutions to suit a "new normal" of permanent remote work. For examples, see the articles "Twitter Announcement Heralds 'New Normal' of Permanent Remote Work" and "SD-WAN Said Key to 'New Normal' of Coronavirus-Driven Digital Transformation and Remote Work."

The company's new messaging also comes at a time when news reports are citing rising positive coronavirus cases and death tolls in many areas and debate rages about reopening schools and directives to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Amid all that, VMware this week said: "However, a recent CNBC study surveying executives at firms across sectors of the economy found that many large corporations expect to return more than half of their employees back to offices as soon as September."

VMware did, however, acknowledge that office work environments won't be the same, even if employees do come back. "Employees left their tight-knit cubicles back at the office in March, and it's likely that they won't be working in close quarters with their coworkers for quite some time," the company said.

VMware indicated what it views as the "new normal" with this statement: "A remote-everything, work-from-anywhere environment is now the new normal."

To serve organizations that are bringing employees back to the office in different environments and conditions, VMware introduced two new privacy-centric mobile applications:

  • VMware Workspace ONE Proximity: "With Workspace ONE Proximity, customers can help return employees to the office by utilizing Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to give employees insight into potential exposure, notify colleagues of changing conditions, and help recount whereabouts and interactions within an office."
  • VMware Workspace ONE Campus: "As organizations re-design their workplaces, Workspace ONE Campus will be designed to leverage the same beacon infrastructure to support desk and meeting room booking, and wayfinding, further elevating the future workplace experience."
[Click on image for larger view.] Workspace ONE Proximity (source: VMware).

VMware said organizations implementing these new workplace solutions can leverage the infrastructure they already have in place in order to support vital reopening tasks and future workplace initiatives, including:

  • Self-reporting and automatic proximity notifications
  • Tools to help employees recall their whereabouts
  • Admin visibility into areas that require deep cleaning
  • Occupancy limits and physical distancing
  • Omnichannel communication strategies
  • Digital badge for entry, kiosks, printing, and more
  • Desk and conference room booking
  • Office navigation

The company also publicized its new Horizon 8 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution for organizations "increasingly working from anywhere due to the pandemic." (For Tom Fenton's take on that, see "Working from Home Via VMware Horizon in the Age of COVID-19".)

New capabilities in Horizon 8, the company said, include:

  • Expanded Hybrid and Multi-cloud Deployment Options: Customers can leverage the cloud or clouds of their choice to cost-effectively deliver VDI and application capabilities on managed infrastructure, quickly scaling and provisioning workloads with the feature-rich VMware Horizon platform. Support for VMware Horizon on Google Cloud VMware Engine and VMware Horizon on VMware Cloud on Dell EMC is now available. Support for VMware Horizon on Azure VMware Solution (AVS) is expected to be available upon general availability of that service.
  • New Instant Clone Capabilities: Instant Clone Smart Provisioning helps IT directly provision instant clones without requiring a parent VM, freeing up greater memory resources and increasing desktops per host, reducing VDI and published application costs. Further Instant Clone innovations include dynamic pool expansion and elastic DRS to quickly scale demand up and down across public and private clouds hosting VMware Horizon, for example with VMware Cloud on AWS, to meet urgent needs to support their distributed workforces
  • VMware Horizon REST APIs: New RESTful APIs help automate rich capabilities available in VMware Horizon 8, including monitoring, entitlements, and user and machine management. IT can easily interact with VMware Horizon 8 for added flexibility, distributing and accessing information, and modernizing services with speed.
  • Unified Communicationsand Collaboration Support: With growing demand for collaboration tools to support distributed workforces, VMware Horizon now offers an optimized experience for Microsoft Teams video and audio, in addition to Zoom and Cisco Webex, that enables improved productivity and a better user experience from virtual desktops.
  • Linux-Hosted Applications: Linux applications can now be published directly from a Linux server in the VMware Horizon platform, helping reduce costs associated with licenses from other operating system platforms.

The company also published a return-to-office checklist of considerations for organizations bringing remote workers back to the central fold:

  1. Keep Health and Safety Measures Top-of-Mind: As the logistics of the pandemic continue to develop daily, it's important that business leaders across all departments keep health and safety measures top-of-mind at all times. This includes the continuous deep cleaning and sanitation of all surfaces, adhering to the changing government mandates that vary widely by location, employing the help of contact tracing solutions and thermal detection, stocking up on PPE inventory and daily health check surveys.
  2. Build Physical Distancing: These measures can include occupancy limitations in large spaces like breakrooms and conference rooms, meeting and desk reorganization, staggering schedules so fewer people are in the office at once and making visitor regulations.
  3. Define Compliance Guidelines: A key area that employers must ensure that they are clearly communicating to their returning staff are new health and safety guidelines. Safety and health programs can substantially reduce risks and costs to employers. Businesses should seek out the help of compliance assistance specialists and resources such as OSHA.
  4. Prepare for New Ways of Working: It's likely that many employees have grown accustomed to their work-from-home environment by now. And while some might be itching to get back into the corporate office, others might prefer to continue working from home. Business leaders should ensure their infrastructure is prepared to support an increased number of employees and new hires working remote-first or partially remote long-term. Providing digital-distance flexibility to employees will empower your workforce, facilitating a greater employee experience and productivity.
  5. Prioritize Communication with Employees: Business leaders understand that employees have likely experienced a lot of changes in the past few months, both in their work lives and their personal lives. As employees continue to cope with the changing tides, employers can help to provide at least one constant – open, transparent communication with their staff. Beyond the expected communication around return dates and office safety protocols, remind employees to return borrowed technology and save all work on the corporate network.

Of course, even if many organizations do bring employees back on-premises en masse, VMware sees remote work as maintaining a presence in the "new normal," whatever that turns out to be.

"Remote work may no longer be considered a luxury, but a necessity, in this new working environment," said exec Shankar Iyer. "In fact, remote work has essentially redrawn the lines where personal connections have improved, recruitment is easier, and companies can adapt faster. And technology has allowed us to adjust the way we work in a seamless way.

"Our announcements on solutions for the re-imagined workplace with Workspace ONE Proximity and Workspace ONE Campus, together with the launch of the first, truly modern platform for virtual desktops and apps are strategic and mission-critical to the distributed workforce. Strong adoption of our solutions validates our commitment to meet customers' needs as they adapt to the new normal."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.


Subscribe on YouTube