From reaction to proaction: The advantage of enabling “anywhere work”
When the first wave of COVID-19 hit, enterprises had to turn on a dime to enable employees to work from home. Even companies that had enabled some employees to work from home suddenly had to spend lots of money and time to expand connectivity and capacity. Virtual private networks (VPNs) that may have been designed to support only a small proportion of remote employees at any one time had to be quickly scaled to support nearly 100 percent of employees all the time. IT scrambled to find business laptops for employees, then quickly image their desktops and ship them out to homes.
A short-term fix for a long-term problem
This was OK for the short term, but as the pandemic wore on it became clear this was not a viable long-term solution. Not only was the approach expensive, but on-premise management tools and archaic imaging processes placed a heavy burden on IT. When employees worked in the office, IT could image, secure, update and manage computers via the corporate network. Remotely, it had to be done over the limited-capacity VPN. Software programs could take hours to download. The situation frustrated both IT and end-user employees, as devices were not kept updated, applications ran sluggishly, and passwords failed to sync across applications.
Meanwhile, employees unaccustomed to working from home faced challenging scenarios. Typical home networks have old routers and low-cost internet connections, so they couldn’t support an entire family when with both spouses and children had to connect to work and school remotely, not to mention the increased demand for streamed entertainment – such as movies, TV shows and video games – when everyone was stuck at home.
The “work anywhere” future
Most companies are still not sure when, or even if, employees will return to their offices full time. A February survey of 2,200 U.S. workers by the Conference Board, a research group, found that 44 percent didn’t know whether their company had any plans for employees to come back. Many tech companies have announced permanent work-from-home policies.
But even if companies bring employees back to the office, COVID has made it crystal clear: Organizations need to shift from the reactive tactic of enabling occasional work from home to a proactive strategy enabling “anywhere work” all the time. Such a strategy not only gives companies the ability to adapt to whatever the future holds, maintaining productivity and minimizing disruption, but ensures a better experience for employees, no matter where they are. Over the long term, enabling your employees to continue working productively and creatively – no matter when or where - will help you attract and retain the best talent.
Building on the cloud
Cloud computing is the bedrock of “anywhere work.” In today’s workplace, most organizations don’t need the expense of building and maintaining a lot of on-premise infrastructure. By using internal secure cloud gateways and cloud-based unified endpoint management features that are now built in to many devices, companies can enable zero-touch enrollment of endpoints. This allows organizations to move away from corporate networks and VPNs, and frees IT from so much imaging and maintenance work. All Microsoft Windows 10 devices today, for example, are “enrollment ready.” Rather than having to image a phone, tablet or laptop according to a specific make and model configuration, IT can deploy and manage these devices through the cloud. Companies can configure specific policies and access to specific applications. If employees are using their own personal device, IT can make sure company data stays separate and secure from personal data. Machines can be updated, patched and maintained over any internet connection.
This approach relieves stress on your infrastructure and IT department, simplifies network connection and device management, and reduces cost while also allowing employees to use a wide range of cloud-based productivity applications, such as MS365. They can truly work from anywhere, staying productive, and the company can be confident that data and applications are secure. Many Atos customers have started to replace their on-premise internal networks with simple, low-cost internet connections that employees use even when they come to the offices. In fact, I haven’t connected to the Atos corporate network in years - literally. Even in the office, I connect to my apps over the internet.
Less risk, happier employees
In addition to saving money and simplifying infrastructure, this strategy mitigates the risks related to depending on your on-premise infrastructure. Crises like pandemics, floods and fires are less likely to interrupt operations. Even more important, it improves the employee experience. If people struggle to connect to your network, if sluggish applications slow them down and sap their efficiency and creativity, they may seek an employer that better supports them. As we all adjust to the new world of working anywhere, organizations that provide a smooth experience for their employees will attract and keep the best talent.