The future of work is hybrid: Why IT decision-makers are embracing UCaaS and SD-WAN

May 17, 2021 Michael Flannery 4 min
The future of work will expect employees to collaborate as freely and efficiently from home as they do in the office. A Windstream Enterprise study looks at UCaaS adoption, and the challenges and opportunities facing IT decision-makers mandated to enable employee productivity with the rise of hybrid work.

In spite of a long year of virtual meetings, non-traditional work hours and worrying levels of social isolation, surveys suggest that many workers are reluctant to contemplate a full return to the office in the post-pandemic world. Despite missing out on office culture and face-to-face collaboration with colleagues, many professionals performed well, developed new habits and were able to grow in their careers1. A nod to human resilience, the world full of remote workers somehow rose to the occasion and made it work.

Woman working remotely on her laptop

While fully remote models do not offer a realistic and sustainable vision for the future of work for most contexts, only 13% of business leaders predict that their workforce will return to existing offices fulltime by the end of 20212. Instead, many realize that an entirely new normal of hybrid work will be desired—expected even—to accommodate flexible work-from-home policies as permanent options.

With no sign of employees mass-commuting back into offices anytime soon, IT professionals are leaning on Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) with Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) and network security to remove communications hindrances and enhance productivity between employees, partners and customers.

The world needs virtual collaboration

Even before the current conditions necessitated the colossal shift to remote work, technology was designed to support effective communications in today’s digital landscape, and it has become a core component of helping employees excel at their jobs. Now it’s absolutely table stakes in keeping teams performing and businesses running.

The biggest part of any work-from-home strategy is to make it easier for people to collaborate from their remote locations. Yet, IT professionals have faced connectivity, security and management challenges resulting from the pandemic while attempting to provide secure, high quality service to a disparate workforce. For example, videoconferencing has played a huge role in supporting effective communications, as seen by many organizations scrambling over the last year to get up to speed to deploy a collective platform.

Harvard Business School Pull Quote

Keeping teams connected

A survey commissioned by Windstream Enterprise and conducted by Forrester Consulting, Agility And Efficiency: Keys To Future-Proof Communications Technology, evaluated UCaaS adoptions, challenges and opportunities tied to the surge in remote work last year. It collected feedback from US-based IT and business decision-makers to understand how and why UCaaS plays a vital role in modern day remote and hybrid work models.

The results of the study were both convincing and expected. It found that firms with UCaaS are more productive and 2.6 times as likely to have shorter decision-making cycles compared to other firms. And 40% of respondents stated that they expect UCaaS to lead a faster digital transformation, which is the race all organizations are competing in.

The study also found that the shift to a distributed workforce caused IT to rely even more on their network to perform critical daily business operations with an organization’s dependence on communications tools. Network security and uptime are increasingly important for organizations to succeed in any work environment.

With the network as the central nervous system, downtime or even lags and jitter will disrupt normal business operations—with impacts on both employees and customers. That can slow revenue, increase costs and, ultimately, remove potential profit from the bottom line.

Preparing for a new kind of work

It is not a new phenomenon for IT decision-makers to prioritize virtual communications, but there is no doubt that hybrid work models will be responsible for the rapid adoption of UCaaS and SD-WAN technologies, and for the growing expectation that information and collaboration can be accessed everywhere in real time. New ways of working will not have to result in compromised productivity—or profitability—for businesses that equip their teams for success.

The unified communications and collaboration market is set to further grow over the next few years to almost 50 billion U.S. dollars3, while the SD-WAN market will reach $43 billion by 20304. These technologies are gaining ground in the enterprise market; many businesses have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with them.

As an industry leader, Windstream Enterprise offers UCaaS and SD-WAN solutions for remote and hybrid work to meet customers’ communications, collaboration and connectivity demands. These innovative solutions provide the tools to stay safely connected, all while enabling users to monitor and make changes all in one place, from anywhere, on any device, with the WE Connect portal.

Unearth more findings about the technology needed to support a virtual work environment by reading the Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Windstream Enterprise and by visiting our website. In doing so, you’ll uncover top recommendations from other business leaders to apply to your organization and make it easier to adopt the right technology to support a hybrid workforce model.


  1. “HBS Online Survey Shows Most Professionals Have Excelled While Working from Home.” Harvard Business School Online. March 25, 2021.
  2. “Hybrid working to become norm for FTSE 250 companies: Study.” Financial Express. April 16, 2021.
  3. “Unified communications & collaboration market size worldwide 2018-2023.” Statista. March 30, 2021.
  4. “SD-WAN Market Research Report.” P&S Intelligence. August 2020.
Key Takeaway
UCaaS is a critical tool supporting the demands of a remote and hybrid workforce. Investing in this tech today will lead to better employee engagement and user adoption tomorrow.

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