After briefly being encouraged to return to the office, workers across the country are following the Government’s advices and settling into a second wave of working from home. Mike Osborne, Managing Director of Managed Services at communications and technology company, Intercity Technology, reflects on the learnings from lockdown and provides five practical tips for businesses looking to ensure employees work productively and effectively.
At the start of the pandemic, many companies had to adapt quickly and were forced to implement short-term continuity plans and processes to ensure a continuation of services to customers. Not knowing what we know now, these plans were often rushed with little consideration for the long term.
According to the British Council for Offices (BCO), Covid-19 is set to permanently change our working patterns. A recent survey from the BCO suggests almost two thirds of the UK workforce plan to divide the working week between their homes and company offices, once the Covid-19 crisis is over, as they see remote working as a long-term solution.
These societal changes will force companies to review their current IT set-up to ensure it can meet this hybrid ‘work from anywhere’ model. New tools will need to be adopted and existing policies and security measures must be enhanced and managed effectively. To help future proof your business, here are five practical tips from Intercity Technology to allow your employees to work productively and effectively from anywhere.
1. Ensure you have adequate VPN and bandwidth capacity
Effective and secure remote working involves employees connecting to corporate content and applications via a virtual private network, or VPN, which is designed to protect against the security risks of working via a residential broadband link. However, the increase in the number of employees working from home has put a strain on bandwidth capacity, VPN hardware and licenses, which has significantly impacted the ability for teams to work securely. As a result, some organisations have opted for a simpler option which is to use a third-party data centre to work around the issues, enabling their employees to connect to business-critical applications and services remotely and securely through the cloud.
2. Decide whether your business requires managed services
Even before Covid-19, demands on the IT infrastructure for SMEs had been growing for many years. Working from home has added to the workload for internal IT teams with large amounts of devices, users and applications needing to be managed 24/7.
Moving to a managed services provision, where a specialist oversees the maintenance, monitoring and network management of your IT systems, can provide invaluable support and help free up your IT team to focus more of their attention on more valuable business development projects.
3. Perform a cloud audit of your current infrastructure
Alongside assessing your physical capabilities, you should consider carrying out a cloud audit to determine whether your business is in a good position to start transitioning over to the cloud. An audit would also identify the necessary services available in the cloud based on your organisation’s specific needs, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Backup and Disaster Recovery, and Software as a Service (SaaS). An audit is an important step for businesses transitioning to the cloud as well as those already using cloud-based services. Ultimately, it ensures you have the correct tools in place to enable teams to work productively and effectively from anywhere.
4. Remain secure
Cyber-attacks have become more prevalent during the pandemic as employees left the security bubble of their office environments to work from home. For millions of remote workers to receive the same level of IT security found in an office environment whilst working remotely, software security on user devices must evolve. A cloud IT platform is a good solution which offers multi-layered protection to help minimise the impact that a security breach or attack can have on its IT infrastructure.
Furthermore, to close the security and control gaps in remote working set-ups, businesses should consider:
- Using a VPN to provide employees protection and to encrypt the data from an organisation’s network to its remote users
- Adding a multi-factor authentication (MFA) to company systems for additional security, such as one-time passwords or security questions
- Training employees on best practices and educating them about the dangers
- Ensuring organisations meet compliance and data privacy requirements
5. Ensure you have the essential remote working tools
Communication and connectivity should be a top priority for any team of remote workers. Software tools like video conferencing, instant messaging and cloud phones empower your team to work productively, making collaboration regardless of location.
While Microsoft Teams and Zoom have become ubiquitous, here are some other essential tools you need to continue communicating with your workforce from anywhere in the long-term:
- VoIP phone systems give you access to your phone system from anywhere with a consistent internet connection
- Virtual desktops give you access to work computers’ data
- Management portals allow managers to keep track of employee communications including inbound and outbound calls
After rushing to implement processes and fulfil the demands of remote working at the start of the pandemic, many businesses were forced into short-term solutions where the security of their IT systems could be compromised. Companies now need to think more carefully and plan for a long-term future which involves people working from home as well as the office while staying productive, connected and secure.