New ways of working is a term that was coined in the 80s by Professor Frithof Bergmann. It was designed to give employees more freedom than the standard 9-5 structure of the 20th Century. It included things like flexible workplaces and videoconferencing. Now, in the 21st Century, we’ve been forced by global lockdowns to quickly adapt to a sudden change in our working patterns.
The pandemic has had a huge effect on our lives. Most workplaces were hugely affected by the entirely unexpected and sudden need for employees to work from home. That was two years ago. Only 30% of businesses expect to have all workers return to the office full time in 2023.
Employees now expect, at the very least to be allowed to work in a hybrid model. Businesses have had to adapt quickly to the challenges that come with that and ensure their offering remains competitive. Be it security, productivity or support, companies have had to think out of the box to provide the means and control needed for staff in the new working world.
Remote working has changed so much in the workplace, not just for employees but for employers and all departments within the business. Support and security systems were designed to have all workers and assets under one roof. This way they are connected to a single secure network, which is easy to control and monitor.
For those working at home, there are a lot of unknowns, notably the issue of network quality. Some people have better connections than others. A slow connection can lead to interruptions, freezing of video calls and disrupted productivity. And then there is the impact of going from a social environment to a solitary one. People can get into negative mindsets, and leadership must also manage that.
Put plainly, the expectations of employees for their work lives have changed dramatically. Businesses must be more flexible in the roles they offer, not limiting location to office-based work only. Employees now expect to be offered at the very least hybrid work. Virtual interviews are also the norm. If you’re advertising for remote work, it’s unreasonable to expect a candidate to travel a long distance to interview. Post-pandemic employees are also prioritising a work/life balance and are looking for employers who will also prioritise it.
Most employees need some level of collaboration to carry out their jobs. But with the prevalence of hybrid and remote work, that has become harder to do. Businesses have relied increasingly on technology to allow them to collaborate online.
Videoconferencing tools like Teams, Zoom and Webex have allowed people to have online meetings and use instant messaging. The Cloud has meant that work and information is available to everyone who needs it in one place. SharePoint allows people to collaborate on a piece of work at the same time and share links to it. Tools like Microsoft planner allow you to manage projects and your calendar, making them visible to others and allowing you to assign tasks.
There are major cyber security concerns in the post-pandemic workplace. The shift from office to home-based has meant that cyber security tools that were built for internal networks were less or even totally ineffective. Businesses became more reliant on Cloud and SaaS. Along with this came the increase in cyberattacks and ransomware with 2021’s UK Cyber Review reporting the highest amount of Ransomware attacks ever on record. To defend themselves against attacks businesses are strengthening on three fronts;
Technologically, there are several steps that can be taken. One of these is to scale up the use of multi-factor authentication This can help to ensure only those who are supposed to have access to your data. Connected to that is using VPN and MFA together for access to sensitive data that had been solely office based and has now migrated to remote access.
For people, it’s important that they understand the risks associated with cyber-attacks as well as what to look out for. Training and frequent testing can help with this.
With that comes the setting of processes – staff should know what to do in the event of a breach. Whom should they contact and what information do they need? We’ve written a blog on who is responsible for cyber security in the workplace that may help you understand more. There is also the need to ensure antivirus is kept up to date on all devices.
Without a doubt, support has become much more difficult in the new way of working. Support teams have gone from supporting a customer with staff all in one place using one network to supporting staff all in their own homes. This has had a significant impact on both the volume of support incidents being raised, but also the complexity in resolving them as for remote workings there are several unknowns within their environment. As mentioned, the quality of the network in everyone’s home is different and may not be able to handle the sudden increase in traffic. VPN issues can also affect your network speed, particularly at high-traffic times. This could lead to the IT support team having to make special configurations for the VPN. There is also the increased risk of cyber security threats as mentioned above.
Furthermore, it is the business’s responsibility to make sure that everyone’s equipment and software is up to date and fit for purpose. A remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution will allow you to roll out updates, patches, and applications individually or to the whole organisation at the push of a button – without needing to physically touch the devices or get them back into the office.
In addition, the introduction of ‘BYD’ or ‘Bringing Your own Device’ has also added to the above support complexities. When accessing corporate information all BYDs need to be secure, as such, it is imperative there are policies in place ensuring employees’ devices adhere to the security requirements and protocols. Your RMM will also enable you to keep track of the devices being used, their location, login times and usage.
All the above of course feeds into productivity. You can’t be productive if your network is lagging or if your device has been compromised. So, making sure your company is on top of all the above is a priority.
There’s also the matter of productivity perception. There is a disconnect between management and employees on the benefits of remote working. While there is widespread evidence to suggest that working from home has huge benefits to productivity and wellbeing, many bosses want their staff back in the office. About 72% of managers in the US want their staff back in the office. According to a study by Microsoft, 85% of managers feel that the new hybrid way of working makes it hard to know how productive staff are being. In contrast, several studies have shown that productivity while working from home is better than in the office. For some their productivity increased by 77%.
It’s now highly unlikely the workforce will ever go back to solely office-based working. Demands of employees for flexible working seem to have overwritten employers’ wishes for a return to the office.
While employers have been somewhat reluctant to embrace the new way of working the stats have shown that the results are positive overall. Technology also continues to adapt to allow us to work from home with more ease and efficiency. For example, the growth of AI (Artificial Intelligence) has allowed employees to automate the more time consuming and mundane tasks like data entry.
The business landscape is constantly evolving. Adaptation, flexibility, and commitment are key factors that will determine whether or not your business keeps up. If you would like to talk to us about ways to safely and securely manage your IT in the post-pandemic world, please get in touch.