Are You Ready for the Deskless Workplace?

Posted by Steve Holly, Product Manager, Chrome & Devices

Jun 11, 2020


A couple of years ago, the concept of work from anywhere was something most organizations discussed but few actually used. Things have changed...rapidly. Today most organizations have moved into a work from anywhere mode, at least temporarily.

For some, such as Twitter and Square, the workplace has become permanently remote, leaving employees to work from home offices, coffee shops, public libraries and even parks or poolside going forward. 

What kind of technology will help organizations build a deskless workplace? Let’s take a look.

What is a Cloud Worker?

chrome logo on tablet-1A February 2018, Google-commissioned study from Forrester Consulting, “Rethink Technology In The Age of The Cloud Worker,” defines a “cloud worker” as one who…

  • Uses a laptop and/or tablet for work purposes
  • Uses cloud apps daily
  • Spends three or more hours per workday using a web browser 

It used to be that you’d most frequently find these workers in IT, product development, engineering and marketing, but in 2020, the scope has expanded to encompass all industries. Now, business environments have quickly become mobile out of necessity and will continue to do so into the future as far-flung teams connect with one another effortlessly and virtually. 

With this unprecedented rapid change, Cloud computing has gained a starring role in this evolution toward the office of the future and a completely different way in which we will “go to work," including how to effectively manage a remote team.

A Look at the Emerging Deskless Workplace

woman working near her couchThe 2018 Forrester-Google study focused in part on 468 information workers who used cloud apps at least weekly. It also included responses from 1,060 enterprise tech decision-makers that oversee workforce devices.

Of the information workers surveyed at the time, it appeared that one in four could be considered a true cloud worker. And 79% of the 1,060 decision-makers interviewed were interested in “adopting, planning to implement or currently using cloud-based computers” for their workforce.

Two years later, that number has skyrocketed with shelter-in-place mandates, forcing all organizations, even those that never planned to focus on remote work policies, to rethink technology strategies. After the initial rush to get some sort of quick environment in place, they are now re-examining the way they have worked in the past and putting a greater focus on if/how they should make a deskless workplace a permanent model.

This includes assessing the kind of devices workers use, the types of computing architecture in place, and even looking increasingly toward the browser over an on-premise server as the key to building a more connected, collaborative and productive workplace. The future of the deskless workplace is here, and transformation will continue across all sectors.

Technology that Supports a Deskless Environment

Within the enterprise, cloud computing infrastructure lays the crucial foundation needed to support cloud workers and the deskless workplace. 

It all comes down to how your team members are able to do their work. In the case of the cloud, the answer is simple: the browser. As the Forrester/Google report says, “the browser has become a strategic asset in the age of the cloud worker.”

chromebookBrowsers such as Google Chrome are the access points to everything workers need to do their job. The familiar web browser interface helps them access a variety of business applications, including cloud-native collaboration tools like Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) Essentials and the more powerful full-featured Google Workspace solution. Both feature such tools as Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive and Google Meet.

The easiest, most secure way to do this is by using devices and an operating system that are designed with the cloud in mind. This technology is rapidly evolving to support a cloud-first workplace and those who make up its employee base.

The devices that support browser-based work, such as Google Chromebooks, are cloud-native, which means they run on dedicated cloud-based operating systems. In the case of Chromebooks, this means Google Chrome Enterprise

With a cloud-native OS and devices like Google Chrome...

  • Most applications and files live in the cloud, not on local drives.
  • The browser is the main interface to access these files, apps and other information.
  • Employees can share a device and log into a seamless computing environment with their individual identities. Grab and Go loaner programs are a cinch.
  • IT can avoid device downtime since it isn’t necessary to wipe and re-provision laptops between each user, thanks to separate sign-ins and cloud-based file storage.

The 2018 Forrester/Google survey noted 28% of executives reported they used cloud-based computers. An additional 52% indicated they were interested in learning more about these devices — or planned to integrate them into their workforce where it would make sense. With the growing post-COVID-19 focus on remote work, these figures should only continue to grow.

Why are Cloud-Native Solutions Ideal for a Deskless Workplace?

Cloud-native devices deliver benefits beyond efficiency and collaboration. Many of these devices feature a lower price point than traditional PCs. 

Also, less work is centered around security updates, as cloud-native devices have operating systems that automatically update with little or no user or IT team intervention. For example, Chromebooks can be easily personalized through user logins — and deliver a secure continuity of work experiences across devices.

Today, choosing the right browser, devices and OS is even more critical to driving these decisions as the world moves from traditional bricks-and-mortar offices to an increased focus on the deskless workplace and cloud workers. 

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Steve Holly, Product Manager, Chrome & Devices

Since 2008, Steve has been on the forefront of the transition to cloud-based services. He has helped companies like Whirlpool, Lexmark, Fujifilm America, Celestica, The New York Times, and the Canadian Broadcast Corporation make the transition to Google’s cloud-based services. Steve spent six years in the Navy, where he got his start in computers. During his service, he visited Japan, Thailand, Bali, Austrailia, Hong Kong, and more.

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