Businesses around the world have been forced to embrace remote work in light of COVID-19. Yet this shift towards telecommuting and flexible schedules was already happening. By embracing this evolution now, you'll be well-placed to continue supporting it in the future.

Lost revenue aside, one of the most significant problems COVID-19 has created for businesses involves distributed work. Businesses must now support remote staff on a greater scale than ever before, straining both their IT departments and their IT infrastructure. Employees, meanwhile, must adjust to working almost exclusively from a home office, potentially lacking many of the in-office tools they've grown used to.

It's a shift that's proved challenging even for massive, fully-distributed companies like WordPress founder Automattic.

"This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold," muses founder Matt Mullenweg in a blog post written in early March. "It's not ideal on any level. Even at a remote-friendly company like Automattic, we rely on in-person team meetups and conferences to strengthen our connections and get work done." 

Mullenweg is correct. This isn't ideal. But as he also notes, a shift towards distributed work is also something that has been a long time coming.

We have seen the writing on the wall for years. In a 2018 survey by unified communications company Blueface, for instance, 55 percent of respondents indicated that they worked exclusively from home. Based on its findings, the firm concluded that remote staff will rival in-house staff by 2025.

Coronavirus has simply moved the timeline forward. And while it may currently represent a significant strain on your IT infrastructure, for the most part, remote work can prove highly beneficial to your organization. The stress of isolation during a pandemic aside, employees who are allowed to work flexible schedules from home are generally more satisfied than those who aren't given that freedom. 

Per the 2019 State of Remote Work Report by videoconferencing specialist Owl labs, remote employees tend to be more productive and more focused, while also displaying more loyalty to their employer.  

Your business has a great deal to gain from distributed work, as well. Less office space means lower overhead, and less money spent on equipment and supplies. Meanwhile, putting in place the necessary framework for geographically-distributed employees means your organization can draw on a larger talent pool than ever before when hiring.

These benefits are all well and good, but they likely offer little comfort to a business struggling to support a wholesale shift towards a digital workplace. They are likely of little help to an organization whose infrastructure is buckling under a constant tide of connection requests. Here's the good news.

To help keep your infrastructure operational and support remote staff, you simply need to select the right software.

There are many digital workplace solutions currently on the market. There are many file-centric security tools to help protect corporate assets as they're shared on personal devices. And there are many scheduling, calendar, and collaboration apps your company can turn to in lieu of relying solely on internal infrastructure.

Whether these are permanent solutions for supporting remote work or tools to span the time between now and when you can deploy something in-house, they will prove invaluable in the coming months and can give you a leg up in building a foundation for a distributed future.