There’s a buzz in the air.

 

With warmer weather and reduced restrictions on the horizon, the budding shoots of a return to the office are also emerging. But the return will not mean simply rewinding to 2019.

The future isn’t being in the office 9-5. The future is hybrid.

According to a McKinsey survey, more than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as if working from an office location. There are even suggestions that the percentage of workers who will move to a permanent work from home arrangement in 2021 will increase by as much as 50%.

 

Whatever the exact numbers the consensus appears to be that remote working will feature far more prominently in many of our lives than ever before.

Time to take stock

Having a clear technology strategy is the route to business success in this hybrid working future. Planning using a combination of hard evidence and calculated hunches whilst being proactive and working off the front-foot is the way forward – and now is the time to take stock.

 

Some of the decisions taken a year ago to enable business continuity may not be the decisions a business would have taken in a more considered, less time pressured environment. Reports suggested that three-quarters of business decision makers in the UK were not prepared to support extensive remote work at the beginning of the outbreak. Is your business ready for the next stage?

 

Now is the time to analyse the successes (and failures) of those decisions and make the necessary adjustments to develop a more strategic plan. Now is the time to ask those serious technology questions to begin to future proof the business for the hybrid working model.

1.   Does your business have everything it needs for the model to succeed?

Is what you have sufficient? And is it fit for purpose to support the new way we’re all used to working? The way in which employees access the corporate network will be very different to the days of old, so revisiting your strategy to make sure it meets the changing needs of the business is a wise move. Review everything – do your people have what they need, are they using the right platforms, and are your processes robust and efficient?

2.   Will you need to revisit your current network?

Thanks to a significant increase in the number of staff working remotely at some point in the working week, the size of your Internet connection becomes more important than ever. Your network infrastructure is likely to be under much more significant stress than the ‘old days’.

 

Why?

 

There are a number of factors that make a difference. Simply put, when working from home, most people connect back to the office via a VPN. This means that all the apps and documents you’re accessing while working are being done so via your corporate internet connection via that VPN. Is this still the right strategy? Should you be deploying more cloud based applications?

 

Then there’s the question of bandwidth. In our experience, many businesses have historically worked with 100mb data circuits, which used to be sufficient. But hybrid working will see the load significantly increasing as everyone accesses what they need remotely. So will that 100mb data circuit be enough for people in the hybrid working model? Most likely not.

 

This is the time to review your cloud strategy.

3.   Do you have the right connectivity infrastructure?

Can your existing routers handle more connections, more total bandwidth, and more users? We’re finding that those businesses who are more agile and leading-edge and have moved applications into the cloud are already making the necessary changes and upgrades to ensure the transition to long term hybrid working is as seamless as possible.

4.   Is your security strategy adequate to cope with a distributed mobile workforce with multiple devices connecting remotely?

With people accessing the corporate network remotely, the appropriate security measures for a distributed workforce are essential to ensure system and data integrity. And with corporate vs BYOD use muddying the waters, there needs to be a very clear security strategy to maximse protection.

 

This isn’t just about the protection of sensitive client and financial data. This is about the protection of your business against cyber threats that could have serious implications not just financially and operationally, but threats to your reputation too.

 

Should you be considering SD WAN? Software-defined networking offers the ability to control applications, users, and traffic on a distributed corporate network — all from a single pane of glass.

5.   Do you have the right collaboration tools?

The workplace has evolved. Everyone has collaboration tools and apps on their phones that they’ve become used to using on a daily basis, for example, dialling up a colleague via Teams. This is likely to continue rather than going back to the old ways of dialling someone’s DDI.

 

Diversions of DDIs to mobile phones en masse when the office is entirely closed has worked because everybody is off site. But when we return to the office none of us are anticipating returning on a 5 days a week basis so simply turning all the diversions off doesn’t work. UC tools offer the best solution, enabling an employee to set working times and days to reflect their hybrid schedule.

6.   Do you have the right analytics tools to monitor the performance across your IT infrastructure?

Understanding the activity and needs of a distributed workforce to create a sustainable hybrid working environment will likely require a greater reliance on analytics. Using data and analytics to gain actionable insights for the business that will also benefit employees is key.

 

The new dynamics of the workplace are better understood with data that shows what is actually happening ‘out there’ so that decision making is based on hard data, and not just a hunch.

The next step

Staying one step ahead begins with factoring in the demands of and challenges of the hybrid workplace, and making sure that technology being deployed tackles the challenges head on.

 

Charterhouse is helping a number of customers take a strategic approach to the future of working. To find out how we can help you to ensure that you are ready for the new working model, please do get in touch today.