Cloud and the future of remote work in China

It has been a complicated period for companies in China. Massive remote working, enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, saw employers empowering employees to work from home (WFH) in massive numbers, practically overnight. Cloud has given companies the flexibility and enhanced connectivity they needed. But what comes next?

Working from home was a massive exercise in China, and it happened very quickly. Around 200 million people were working remotely by the end of the 2020 Chinese New Year holiday in direct response to lockdowns. While most Chinese workers have returned to their offices or workplaces, the economy and the working environment remains unpredictable and complex.

Flexibility and agility in your business operations have become even more crucial than before. Employers now need to focus their HR thinking on how to make workforces more resilient and future proofed. They must address how quickly they can either reskill employees or reassign them to new roles. This places increased attention on continuous employee development initiatives as well as running flexible organizational structures.

What emerged during the lockdown and subsequent return to work was a realization that there are benefits to working online and remotely. Meetings are quick and easy to schedule, no matter where participants might be located. Business leaders and team leaders are able to communicate to teams quickly, effectively and more broadly. When it is done correctly and with the right tools and processes, remote working can boost productivity and morale.

Teams need to be able to collaborate and communicate on demand, and they need real-time access to the tools that enable them to be productive at their jobs. Employees working remotely need a user experience (UX) similar to the experience they have in the office. And that means cloud.

How has cloud enhanced remote work?

Cloud enables companies to support remote workforces better than ever before, no matter where they are working from. Orange has been able to empower customers with access to unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) platforms such as Microsoft Teams. They have proved invaluable for keeping end users in touch with each other and collaborating as close to normal as they would in the physical workplace.

Cloud gives remote workers access to seamless information from the corporate network and shared by colleagues, whenever they want it. And it can be done securely, as your company’s IT teams can customize authentication and permissions to make sure only the right people have access to specific data and information. Security has proved to be an increased risk in the shift to remote working in China, with the country reporting more than 42 million malware attacks in 2020.

New ways of working here to stay?

Security and scalability are both set to be vital if the hybrid work model is to be deployed on a wide basis in China. The hybrid work model, in which employees who can do their jobs remotely split their time between the corporate office and home, looks like it’s gaining traction. According to Gensler’s China Workplace Survey, almost 90% of office workers in China are already working in a hybrid model, and 78% say they want the hybrid work model to be their future way of working as we move on past the pandemic. If this is the case, then cloud will be essential.

Cloud has been growing healthily in China, with cloud infrastructure services spending growing by 54% year on year in Q2 2021, to a value of US$6.6 billion. This came on the back of a big year in 2020, when China’s public cloud infrastructure services market – comprising infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and cloud-management platforms – grew over 50% year on year to a value of US$14.8 billion.

Choosing the right cloud

During the pandemic, Orange Business Services helped many companies set up remote working quickly and with minimal disruption to daily business operations. In some cases, that meant helping them make the right choice about which cloud is right for them. Implemented correctly, cloud can help companies rapidly establish marketing, sales and implementation functions and empower workers with a great UX that enables productivity. This in turn can help companies manage unexpected situations and disruptive events more effectively.

Thanks to our experience in cloud, we are able to advise customers about the best cloud for their needs and the approach that best suits their businesses and industries.

Orange advocates a multicloud approach, which combines several public or private cloud offerings in an optimized IT infrastructure that helps you keep control of your main public cloud providers. It avoids vendor lock-in, increases agility, brings better cost management and lets you take advantage of the most innovative offers in AI or IoT. We partner with the leading hyperscalers in the marketplace to give you the best choices possible.

Remote work will be part of the future

As we move forward, cloud will give companies the necessary flexibility, scalability, accessibility to corporate apps, enhanced security and robust regulatory compliance needed to enable remote working effectively. Research from Gartner predicts that by the end of 2021, there could be as many as 28% of workers in China working remotely, while Chinese employment expert Alicia Tung has predicted that in 10 years’ time, there will be a 60/40 split of onsite/remote work. There is going to be a mix of remote and on-site working in China in the future, and cloud will be essential to enabling and powering that shift.

Read more about the next generation of cloud and how it can help you accelerate innovation and increase resilience on the road to business transformation in our ebook: A cloud strategy for the future.

Jack Zhang
Jack Zhang
Jack Zhang is Country Manager, China for Orange Business Services and is responsible for leading the business and managing operations country-wide. He supports the Orange digital transformation vision for enterprises by developing opportunities in key growth areas including hybrid networks, IT services and cloud. Jack has over 15 years of experience in the dynamic IT and telecommunications market in China and has a deep understanding of the market and the communications industry.