Meeting between office and home workers

This is an edited version of an article originally published on: Forbes:Three Tips For Managing Technology In The Hybrid Workspace

Al Kingsley is CEO of NetSupport, chair of a multi-academy trust in the UK, tech writer, speaker and author of “My Secret #EdTech Diary.”

The future of work has arrived. With working from home once seen as a privilege reserved for the most senior employees, the move to allow others to do so had been sluggish at best. However, the enforced shift to remote working in 2020 largely proved a surprise for business leaders, many of whom found that, contrary to their expectations, productivity did not plummet. In fact, most employees were just as productive as being in the office—some even more so.

Mindsets have also changed. Employees have collectively proven that they can work autonomously—and with 74% saying that post-pandemic work from home is better for their mental health, this is a seismic transformation that simply will not be rolled back.

Many employers now recognize that improved mental health and hybrid work make for enhanced employee engagement, with 55% of employees reporting, on average, working more hours than they would at set times in the office.

Flexible work in some form or another certainly looks set to last, and Upwork estimates that around 36.2 million U.S. workers will be working remotely by 2025; a figure that would have been unthinkable even two short years ago.

Solid Foundations

Of course, this transformation would not be possible without technology—and for employees to be at their most productive, a frictionless work experience is essential. Whether working in the office or at home, technology that operates seamlessly is something we all take for granted, with most of us not giving it a second thought until something goes wrong. When it does, it’s certainly an inconvenience, but for businesses, lost employee productivity costs money.

That is why it is critical to get all aspects of IT support right. By their very nature, hybrid work environments demand that organizations have a better awareness of risk and an even tighter grip on their data, devices and processes to remain operational.

However, it is not just about devices; it’s also about being aware of the risks as technology practices change. For example, more and more companies are implementing third-party, cloud-based solutions and services—but how many check their providers’ security protocols?

Here are three areas businesses can focus on to operate securely and drive technological change.

1. Look After Security

According to the 2021 Global Risks Report, cybersecurity failures are among the top risks to organizations today. The cyber-attack rate increased considerably in 2021 and, as we saw with violations of systems at SolarWindsOldsmar water treatment plant and Colonial Pipeline, cybercriminals are becoming increasingly audacious with the potential to cause large-scale disruption.

Many businesses recognized this elevated risk during the pandemic and worked proactively to ramp up employee cybersecurity education while simultaneously ensuring they had comprehensive endpoint security tools and strict protocols in place.

Extra layers of encryption and multi-factor authentication are essential features to keep the bad guys out, but let’s not forget internal security as well. Putting measures in place to ensure that only authorized users with the highest security clearance can connect to certain devices while restricting the level of access of more junior team members adds up to greater security to keep businesses protected.

Then there’s data security. Establishing a strict practice of sensitive data encryption on every device is a great start, as is backing it up to different locations. But one that many companies miss is securely archiving data that does not need to be within everyday reach. Removing it from your regular data pool guarantees its security—and it can always be un-archived if required.

2. Stay Informed

Tech moves fast. Even a typical PC desktop is now significantly different than it was five years ago, with the move toward cloud-based and browser-based solutions with continuous automatic updates from vendors.

As solutions get updated more regularly, there are more chances for things to come undone. Technicians need clever solutions that inform them of the real-time status of updates on devices, enabling them to drill down more quickly into issues, track the potential cause down to a recent update and avoid company downtime and lost revenue.

There are many ways technicians can gain a better overview of their organization’s IT assets, from support solutions that deliver automated alerts to detailed reports. Even simple initiatives can increase visibility, such as installing ‘find my device’ apps on company tablets and laptops that inform technicians of their location if they are lost or stolen out in the field.

3. Consider Smart IT Support

With staff now working both in and outside of the office LAN, this is the time organizations will want to ensure their IT management solutions are as capable as possible, as technicians will not always be able to visit users in person.

Determining whether your support software is helping to accomplish an ideal user experience is vital. For example, if a technician is delivering remote support to a staff member, using a solution that allows them to talk directly to each other while doing so makes life easier and saves them both from having to open, for example, Teams or Zoom.

And what if they could use that same support solution to record their session as an exemplar for other employees to refer to as part of a self-service knowledge bank? In this way, smarter support solutions help advance the company’s digital transformation and contribute to the frictionless work experience employees are looking for.

A Foundation For The Future

If today’s new flexible working practices are to continue to deliver results, then efficient technology management becomes increasingly significant.

So much has already shifted. Supporting workers remotely and in-office, and implementing solutions that enable them to learn, communicate and work collaboratively regardless of location, has resulted in an enhanced employee experience that delivers increased engagement and motivation. And the next trend in working practices—asynchronous working—will cement the change to flexible work forever. In this way, effective IT support in all of its forms is a major contributor to this transformation.