“A long, long time ago, dear children, people used to have to go into the office every single day.”
“Wow, really Grandad? How long are we talking?”
“Ah, somewhere around three years ago, but nobody really knows anymore.”
It does actually feel like a long time ago that working from home was a special privilege, granted sparingly, and considered a huge perk by employees. Nowadays, where a hybrid or remote work set-up is standard, that feels a bit like the Stone Age. Covid lockdown silver linings aside, it’s also brought a number of headaches: workforce productivity, and IT security.
Are people more or less productive at home?
This is debatable.
There’s research that says yes, people are more productive at home. And then there’s research that says: not so much. (In both cases, weirdly, people are either 13% more, or less productive. 13% was not part of the Google search.)
Maybe this is because productivity is generally more complex to measure than the number of words written, or entries into a database. How does the option to work remotely affect general wellbeing, which would then knock on to job satisfaction?
It’s far more difficult to quantify things like job satisfaction, or work-life balance, and how those then affect levels of enthusiasm and mental health. Those influence our sense of responsibility, and willingness to take on extras. Those effects become clear only in the longer term and they’re less measurable.
It’s also perhaps worth noting that issues like mental health have been affected across the board by a global pandemic and resulting lockdowns, adding complexity into the mix.
What’s security got to do with it?
Lockdowns brought network security glaringly into the spotlight as everyone was suddenly accessing networks through a range of devices (secured and unsecured), from a range of locations.
It was also easy pickings for opportunistic hackers to access data or cause damage. Change was rapid, and the general awareness of cybersecurity grew too. We’re all referring to ‘apps’ and ‘the cloud’ as commonplace terminology now, while scams and identity theft are also top of mind – hopefully.
Productive and secure
Ensuring employees are both productive and secure is key to any operation. Here are a few strategies to ensure both.
- CASB: A cloud access security broker (CASB) is software that sits between the user of a cloud service and its provider. It’s able to enforce security policies through identifying risks and regulating compliance when data in the cloud is accessed. This tool provides insight into users’ needs, and the flow of data, acting as a watchdog for data theft and malware threats, while also allowing visibility and control.
- Focus on user experience: Users will use the software they prefer, software that is user-friendly and efficient, to get their jobs done. Rather than having employees embracing unauthorised software, ensure they’re using apps that make their jobs easier. It’s a bit like weeds in the garden: if the plants you want to grow aren’t well tended, they’ll wither and weeds will take over. Make sure users get the best experience on the tools they need to get their jobs done, otherwise you run the risk of unsecure systems getting user preference – not a good idea.
Enabling and empowering employees to collaborate and communicate remotely will help decrease risk and improve user experience, leading to greater productivity.
- Ditch the downtime: This seems obvious. Productivity cannot happen if systems are down, so what’s the best way to avoid it? Legacy systems, old security software, and archaic hardware can all affect performance speeds. A system doesn’t need to be down to cause frustration. Slow systems are enough to cause poor user experience. Performance must be a priority and one way to prevent speed issues can be to migrate systems to the cloud. This allows users to connect directly to apps in the cloud through necessary security measures.
- Adhere to a broader security strategy: Particularly in a large organisation, it’s easy for disparate systems to creep in over time and as requirements change. It’s a good idea to review the entire IT architecture if this is the case, and start moving towards standardised security platforms and policies within the organisation’s security strategy. Application portfolios can be inconsistent, creating a nightmare for system administration, particularly in the SaaS (software as a service) space.
Access control policies should maintain consistent standards for the mobile and distributed workforce. On the other hand, if access is made difficult or cumbersome, this will affect user experience and productivity. It can be a fine line, but it’s helpful to have a single view over user behaviour as they access multi-cloud environments on a range of mobile devices. So on one hand, CASB technology observes user behaviour, but it also flags up unmanaged devices accessing the network.
There is no argument that information security should be a priority.
But a positive user experience will not only enhance efficiency and productivity, it will prevent the temptation of users to sidestep sanctioned systems and cause security risks.
But user experience also has a solid business case backing it.
Author bio: Shane O’Neill is the Principal EUC Architect at Enterprise Solutions with over 15 years’ experience in the IT industry. Shane holds a status of Citrix Technology Professionals (CTP) and is one of sixty CTPs worldwide.