One of the most significant changes the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its wake has been a transformation of the concept of going to work. Some observers assume the “new normal” is merely a temporary bump in the road, but it’s clear to our team that what’s happening represents a profound, fundamental shift in the way America and the world will do business long after the pandemic becomes history.

When COVID-19 arrived, companies that had invested millions in building, furnishing, and equipping first-rate offices suddenly found themselves doing business from employees’ kitchen tables and walk-in closets. The weekly progress meeting across the mahogany conference room table was suddenly supplanted with the tiny screen images of Zoom and Teams meetings.

Post-pandemic, it’s likely many companies will continue to operate lavish offices, and their employees may continue to dutifully arrive just after eight a.m. However, the prospect of future pandemics, power outages, terror threats, and even a February blizzard are inspiring companies to stop from thinking of the office as a physical space and envision it more in terms of a virtual concept.

Even companies that prefer to do business in cubicles and corner offices can never afford to lose sight of the fact that they may need to return to remote arrangements on a moment’s notice. The marketplace may have tolerated the bumps and delays of adapting the first time it happened, but any company that’s unprepared for the next time and the time after that isn’t likely to survive for long.

We’ve coined a term for this new normal: Digital by Default. It’s a simple phrase underscoring a powerful change in how businesses will approach their future operations. They will continue to have a physical presence, but instead of emphasizing those locations, they’ll concentrate their assets in digital technology, moving operations into the cloud.

Employees may still come to work most days, but their laptops and other devices will become their constant companions. Some Tuesday morning, they’ll awaken to a text from HR announcing that the headquarters office is closed for some reason, and everyone will instantly shift to working in place, whether that place is their living room, a coffee shop, or a folding chair on a Caribbean beach. Instead of thinking of a downtown office tower as the company’s default, the “real” company will be housed in data centers and be accessible from anywhere.

This isn’t the stuff of science fiction. It’s already happening, and savvy companies were making the shift long before Wuhan became a familiar name. Over the past several years, Brightworks has paid close attention to the IT industry’s visionaries and cultivated relationships with companies we believe will be household names in the coming years. Our goal hasn’t been to outguess the next disaster, but to find more effective ways to serve our clients’ everyday needs. We’ve deployed innovative, practical solutions like CompleteCloud, Exigence, and because they’ve provided better ways to do what our clients wanted to accomplish.

So as we watched the business world turn upside down in reaction to a medical virus, we were ready. When clients called and asked us to facilitate the changes that made working from home possible, we were already using the platforms and systems they needed.

And while Digital by Default might sound futuristic to some company leaders, it’s not. The technology is proven and already supporting the needs of many companies — maybe even your competitors. We’ve been helping companies make the transition to becoming completely digital, no matter what the specific motivation may be. Some company leaders see digital as the future of their operations. Others just want to ability to switch back and forth between the traditional office environment and the digital realm whenever they need to. No matter the reason or the need, the platforms we’ve deployed make those changes possible and far less disruptive than the companies imagine.

The concept of Digital by Default is inherently flexible and adaptable. It’s not Windows- or Mac-centric. It doesn’t require everyone to agree upon a single device. It doesn’t mean companies have to ramp up massive server farms or spend weeks training employees. In essence, it’s a technology concept that gets out of their way so companies can focus on their business. Company leaders and employees don’t have to understand how it all works — they just have to know that it does.

The history of business is littered with once-impressive companies that became memories because they were too slow to embrace change. The sooner you embrace this “new normal,” the less likely yours will become one of them.

Doug Miller is CEO/CTO of Brightworks Group, a best in class Technology Success Provider (TSP) primarily serving Midwest-based companies in industries such as manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, financial services, and engineering.

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