How to give home workers the office IT experienceBy Steve Coakley,
Businesses had to respond quickly to the need for many people to work from home. Delivering corporate network levels of performance, reliability and security to remote workforces is an ongoing challenge. This issue isn’t going away. Companies will most likely need people to work from home for months to come.
Employees are largely welcoming the change. A remote working survey in October found 94% of employees were in favour of working remotely for some or all of the time1. Half of the survey respondents hadn’t worked from home before the pandemic – but most of these people (92%) wanted to carry on working remotely even when things are back to normal.
Bosses, too, are expecting home working to carry on long after the pandemic. A Gartner study showed that 74% of CFOs expect employees will remain homeworkers post-Coronavirus2.
Across the world, companies have been happy to learn that employees newly working at home are just as productive as they were in the office. But there have been teething problems. And people struggling with their IT set-up at home can’t just walk down the corridor and speak to the IT guys. Most people’s homes don’t have the bandwidth for multiple Zoom and Teams meetings, possibly conflicting with the latest Disney movie or Netflix boxset.
At the same time, businesses want to keep control over their remote workforce – and to secure networks, applications and data. Networks have become increasingly hybrid. There’s a mixture of traditional on-premise networking technologies and cloud and software-defined networks. The boundary of corporate IT networks has broken down. Not surprisingly, some IT leaders feel they’re losing their grip.
Businesses with lots of new home workers need colleagues to continue to communicate and collaborate with each other, partners and customers all over the globe as effectively as before. There are three steps to doing that successfully:
- Steady the ship. There are many useful options to support homeworking in a hurry. These include short-term upgrades to network capacity, increased VPN connectivity to allow for more remote working, extra conferencing and collaboration tools – and remote user support to ensure continued access and use of the tools.
- Plot a course to long-term success. Software-defined homeworking solutions are crucial to this next stage. SD-WAN can scale to accommodate the increase in network endpoints and to run more applications. Budget priorities may need to change. With more people home working, it might be possible to grab budget originally intended for office-based IT to create a virtualised network that will give the business more resilience in future.
- See and be seen. Network visibility is vital to keep it running well. Centralised policy control and management should extend to security and access policies for home workers. Application behaviours need to be clearly visible too. That way, IT leaders can check that rules relating to routing behaviour and priority are working. Better visibility allows you to be more flexible with your network mix. You can scale up and down usage of apps in the cloud. It allows you to respond better to users who are complaining that their applications are slow.
How are companies going to pay for all this? A strong business case comes from reinvesting money that would have been spent on physical office space, which can be up to €1,700 per month for employees in certain cities around the globe.
This year, the priority has been keeping the network running and keeping the lights on for the business. The next step is to become more strategic about this. When you know what is going on with your network, it’s easier to make smarter decisions. IT leaders have led a revolution in home working that has happened in a matter of months. Now it’s time to embed that change with stable, flexible, location-independent remote working that works for people and the business.
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