The Next Norm: Prepare to Work-from-Anywhere (Part 1)

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With the onset of the recent pandemic, countries across the globe reacted in unprecedented fashion to ‘flatten the curve’ by implementing shelter-in-place guidelines. Businesses responded almost immediately with new or expanded policies to protect their workforces and society at large. Remote workers, mobile workers and traditional office workers all became work-from-home employees – effectively overnight. With nearly 30 million employees in just the Fortune 500 alone, the impact and scale of this movement are quickly evident.

While it was bumpy at first, many organizations quickly realized that their teams could remain highly productive provided they had the right tools and technology in place to connect their teams and business workflows. And, along the way there were many benefits recognized for both employees and the business by having a larger remote workforce.

As regulations have begun to ease in certain countries and regions, organizations across the globe are coming to grips with what the new norm looks like for them. Most are still working through the details, but it’s clear that they won’t be returning to business as usual. In fact, 74% of companies plan to increase the number of remote workers and nearly a quarter will move 20% of their workforce to permanent remote work.[i] As individuals become more comfortable in the post-pandemic world and begin to move about, work-from-home will undoubtedly become work-from-anywhere (WFA). And, many leading brands, including Twitter, Facebook, Square and Nationwide, are already paving the way by expanding their remote work policies and/or extending them “forever.”

But unlike flipping the switch to work-from-home, the shift to WFA is being made with more time, planning and consideration regarding the technology and processes to empower the new norm workforce. Three focal areas you should be considering as you prepare your work-from-anywhere future are your technology, security and people.

What investments are needed to support the work-from-anywhere model?

Connecting people and business workflows is always a challenge, but even more so when teams are geographically dispersed. In fact, 54% of HR leaders say poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to effect remote working.

As a result, many of them are increasingly looking to SaaS and cloud offerings to provide quick, cost-effective services to keep their teams productive. Investing in collaboration tools that connect team members and business workflows are clearly a top priority as can be seen by the growth in popular services like Microsoft Office 365, which has grown to over 258M daily users and Microsoft Teams (for video collaboration) ballooning from 32M daily users to 75M active users daily since March, 2019.

To provide the best end-user experience and ensure high productivity despite the extended challenges of serving work-from-anywhere teams, IT leaders are investing in innovative acceleration technologies that are proven to overcome latency and increase network capacity. Ensuring these investments are paying off and that business-critical applications and networks perform as expected is also driving increased organizations to deploy network performance management solutions that provide the visibility, analysis and insights needed across geographically-dispersed teams and hybrid networks. As the old adage goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure!”

Increased vigilance to manage increased security threats

As the surge to work-from-home took shape, IT teams were faced with massive overnight challenges: get teams the gear they need, get them onto the network with access to services from home, and get them secure.

Of course, bad actors didn’t wait while IT worked feverishly to put new systems in place. In fact, they went into overtime mode as well, resulting in a 667% increase in phishing attacks in just the first month of work-from-home. While 34% were brand impersonation attacks, thousands were financial scams and business email compromise (BEC). Organizations need to stay wary of this and put the right safeguards in place to protect customer data, corporate data and brand reputation.

Collaboration between network and security teams to reduce time from breach to detection and mitigate data exfiltration is critical to a speedy response. Investing in the right visibility solutions allows you to transform network data into cybersecurity intelligence, providing essential visibility and the forensics needed for broad threat detection, investigation, and mitigation.

New approaches to manage work-from-anywhere teams

Just as there are many technology concerns to address in support of the new norm, the changes that impact our work-from-anywhere team members and managers need to be considered as well.

Organizations should be identifying best practices, benchmarking and putting processes in place to measure and optimize work-from-anywhere engagement. To keep your best team members – and keep them engaged and productive – managers will need to be flexible and share their discretion for remote work with team members. Mutual trust is the foundation of distance relationships and a requirement for work-from-home success between employees and employers.

Policies must be developed regarding who is needed in the office (or specifically not), when and why, and who should work remotely. Similarly, there will likely be policy changes for compensation (often impacted by geography), work-related expenses, expected hours of operation, flexibility for external environmental situations, etc.

Shelter-in-place and work-from-home came in a flash and was empowered by best effort heroics from IT. Hopefully these constraints will soon be gone. Work-from-anywhere is right on the horizon and it is expected to last. Riverbed can provide you with industry-leading application and network visibility and performance to ensure work-from-anywhere success. Learn more about our remote work solutions.

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