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Office Decentralization: the global trend every IT leader needs to know about

Business dynamics have changed. More people than ever work remotely, offices are smaller, meetings are online, and investment in cyber security is on the rise as technology helps facilitate new ways of working. The challenge for IT leaders now is how to adapt and thrive, in this new decentralized world.

We have seen many changes during our working lives, but none quite as significant as this.

Decentralization is now a global business trend, as the shift of power moves away from central locations, individuals, and infrastructure. 

This is reflected in the popularity of co-working spaces, migration to cloud services, improved office technology and the ability to work effectively separate from your colleagues.   

To give context, Arman Eshraghi, CEO of business analytics platform Qrvey writes in Forbes1: “Long-term decentralization is key to scale and stability. 

“What may be hard to imagine is that the world has arguably made more progress towards decentralization in this decade than it has in the last 10,000 years.” 

What has caused business decentralization?

The most obvious reason is the way that businesses have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Eurostat2, the number of employed EU workers ‘usually working from home’ rose by 8% between 2019 and 2021.  

While Square talk3 found that 90% of employees felt ‘as productive’ working remotely and 84% believe working remotely post-pandemic makes them happier, with many willing to take a pay cut.

Put simply, it is what workers want and have come to expect – so businesses need to adapt. 

This is happening but perhaps not at the same rate, as a disconnect exists between businesses expecting four days minimum in the office on average, and employees willing to do three or less. 

With the jobs markets working in favour of the employee right now, it is likely businesses will need to make concessions to retain talent.  

However, the pandemic is not the only driving force behind decentralization. 

A younger, more tech-savvy, workforce has been pushing the boundaries here for at least ten years. 

For example, co-working giant WeWork opened to New York entrepreneurs in 2011 before expanding across the globe to popular tech cities in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK. 

Many corporate businesses also make use of their facilities with staff enjoying a more collaborative workspace, better catering facilities and the latest technology – moving away from the traditional siloed office approach. 

How are businesses responding to decentralization?

Businesses are having to accommodate remote working, which has several knock-on effects such as a reduction in the size of their offices, as people use them less.  

There is also a trend for growing and mid-sized businesses to lease office space rather than investing in commercial property. 

With decentralization in mind, it shows that business leaders are realising how important it is to stay agile and adapt to flexible working practices without the burden of a long-term asset.  

Jim Coleman, Head of Economics at WSP UK said: “I don’t think any business will want to go back to the way things were done, so that has an immediate implication for space.”

Also, as more and more staff work remotely, the security risks associated with decentralisation become clear. As more and more employees work away from the office, the risks increase. As a result, businesses are prioritising online security more than ever before, especially improving network and device security for remote workers. 

According to Red Hat’s 2023 Tech Outlook4 report, IT leaders will invest more in cyber security than innovation in 2023.  

The survey of 1,703 IT leaders found that security was ‘by far’ the overall funding priority in the next 12 months, with 44% placing it in their top three priorities, alongside cloud infrastructure (36%) and IT/cloud management (35%). 

Measures being taken to improve network security include using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), and introducing two-factor authentication (2FA) or Media Access Control (MAC) address filtering. 

While device security is now being bolstered through single sign-on (SSO) and biometric verification, such as facial recognition.    

In fact, by 2024, 30% of global organisations5 will select devices with fewer features as they become more selective about specifications.  

However, physical infrastructure is still just as important. 

Two colleagues sitting in a co-working space talking to each other, holding a laptop and files

The move towards smaller, smarter technology 

A quick and simple way to reduce space is to rethink your technology needs. 
For example with print, small multifunction A4 devices are available which can print in A3 and A4, integrating business needs into a single, smaller more capable device. As such, many businesses are moving away from large A3 copier machines altogether and opting for a more streamlined approach. 
Not only does this save on space and costs, but smarter, more efficient devices also help to support your Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials - another key consideration for forward-thinking businesses in 2023.
The best approach here is to decide whether your businesses needs large, centralised equipment  and undertake an infrastructure audit, or seek specialist consultation, to re-assess the needs of users in this new decentralised world.  
It’s important that the right equipment is available to the right user regardless of remote working. 

How can decentralization benefit my business? 

It is clear to see that decentralization is here to stay, so the best thing to do is fully embrace it; stay competitive and retain staff. 
In fact, there are many benefits of decentralization for businesses.
Improving technology means more efficient processes, a cost reduction and happier staff leading to a better user experience for end customers. 
For example, by introducing Intelligent Automation into IT operations, it supports remote working – as staff no longer require on-site access to legacy systems. 
Cloud-based software solutions also reduce the amount of time employees spend on repetitive, manual data tasks freeing them up to focus on customer satisfaction instead. 
Something like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can also lead to large cost savings, which is why many financial institutions were early adopters.  
“Post-financial crisis and COVID-19, firms continue to strive for greater efficiency and better productivity” explains Steve Perkins, global leader for technology at Grant Thornton6
“In this digital age, businesses increasingly look to technology for the answers.” 
Elsewhere, decentralization empowers your employees to be more focused and fulfilled. 
They can cut out expensive commutes to and from a central office and, with the right measures in place, safely access business systems from anywhere in the world.    
In turn, this leads to a more positive business culture, built on trust and freedom rather than office attendance.
Senior stakeholders are no longer required to sit in business headquarters five-days-a-week and physically lead a team from the front. 
Instead, they now need to empower a disparate workforce by investing in the right technology, safe remote access, and a better work/life balance.
IT leaders are often at the forefront of this decentralization, from optimising office hardware to ensuring that their business invests in the right Cloud Computing services and security measures.
From an operational point of view, it is now the responsibility of IT leaders to ensure productivity remains high and cost effective whether staff work from the main office or remotely – which can be a daunting task.
However, if done correctly we see this as a positive opportunity for all businesses. By embracing decentralization, they can prioritise staff wellbeing by investing in the right technology and adapting to working practices which are right for them.       
Get in touch with us to learn more about how Brother can help you with business decentralization

1 - https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/05/10/why-business-leaders-should-prepare-for-the-shift-to-decentralization/?sh=5e80a4f2d601

2 - https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/en/web/products-eurostat-news/-/ddn-20221108-1

3 - https://squaretalk.com/remote-work-statistics/

4 - https://www.zdnet.com/article/when-it-comes-to-tech-spending-in-2023-theres-one-top-priority/

5 - https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=US49751022&pageType=PRINTFRIENDLY

6 - https://www.grantthornton.global/en/insights/growthiq/automation/

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