How to Create an Effective, Secure and Productive Workspace In and Out of the Office

Over the past two years, organizations around the globe were unexpectedly forced to move their employees to a fully remote work environment. Many teams were unprepared for the transition, either from lack of tools, proper communication, or both.

Now, it seems the new normal involves implementing a hybrid work model that consists of employees working both remotely and in the office. The transition between going from full-time office work in a physical space to working part-time from home can be overwhelming, and dips in employee productivity seem almost inevitable. In many cases, the tools implemented in a rapid shift to “work from home,” while a necessary band-aid at the beginning of the pandemic, aren’t the right solutions for a long-term hybrid work environment.

Bluewave is working with our customers to help them navigate the multitude of options in the market and develop a cohesive solution that meets the demands of their unique business situation. Through our unique approach to technology lifecycle management, our experts work to integrate contracts, finance, inventory, and vendors at every stage.

With the proper strategies in place, employees can have the same level of productivity and the same quality work experience, regardless of where they happen to be working on any given day.

Here are six strategies to ensure your team members don’t feel overwhelmed or disconnected during the transition:

1. Supply Proper Equipment

Ensuring that your hybrid workforce members are prepared at all times is crucial for employees to work efficiently both inside and outside of the office.

Make sure employees have a unified core of computing equipment, such as a laptop, docking station, and monitor if necessary. Understand what subsets of this equipment will be used in the various location profiles, and how this can impact their work experience; no one wants to have to carry a 24” monitor back and forth from the office to their home if they’re working out of both locations.

Collaborative work tools such as softphones or mobile cell-phones are also important considerations that will help employees stay in touch so they never feel disconnected from the corporate office. Deciding which to use ultimately depends on your existing communication infrastructure and the way your user groups prefer to communicate.

Finally, leveraging a virtual desktop interface, or VDI, in conjunction with a tablet or BYOD computer provides a secure computing environment that is accessible from anywhere.

2. Evaluate Connectivity

Allowing remote workers to use consumer internet access, anyway they can get it, could be a huge risk to your organization. While most everyone has home internet these days, the fact that it’s so readily available suggests a multitude of problems for an organization’s corporate IT department.

When a remote worker is connecting a company asset to an unsecured network, they are potentially exposing the information on their device to possible viruses or bad actors. This risk is exponentially higher for a hybrid work environment once the worker brings the potentially compromised device back into the corporate office, either physically or via remote access tools.

There are two primary ways to combat this risk as an IT department while still giving your employees robust connectivity while remote. The first is to provide managed connectivity through a cellular connection so all remote traffic is routed through a connection that you know and trust.

This method can be expensive and might require specific equipment such as LTE-enabled laptops or the addition of mobile hotspots, but it isolates corporate equipment from ever connecting to other networks.

The most common solution to help your hybrid workforce avoid this risk, without the larger costs of managed cellular, is by implementing and enforcing security policies and either physical or software gateways so your IT department can ensure that company data and user information is not compromised when using untrusted networks.

It’s also important to understand what obligations you have under employment law in your state. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, most states have passed laws that lay out the requirements businesses have for providing or reimbursing for home internet access.

Need some help getting your hybrid infrastructure secured, optimized, and productive? Learn more about Bluewave’s technology evaluation services here.

3. Manage Employee Access

Now that you’ve got your connectivity in place, the next step is figuring out how to safely allow your employees to access corporate data resources while keeping them secured. IPSEC VPN is the traditional route when it comes to remote access, but this is sub-optimal technology in the age of Cloud SaaS; it puts extra strain on corporate networks, and provides a poor user experience for the employee.

Businesses that have traffic profiles that include a large amount of Internet usage should consider using intelligent remote access clients to allow for application specific VPN tunneling and enable internet traffic tunnel splitting via cloud gateway. In high remote work environments, this can reduce the burden on edge equipment by as much as 60 percent and improve web application performance for remote users by as much as 30 percent.

By adopting a SASE architecture that includes a secure web gateway (SWG) and cloud-access security broker (CASB) for your remote workers, you can improve their experience, simplify your network, and improve your security posture end-to-end.

4. Implement “as-a-service” Tools & Platforms

Extending the connectivity and security necessary to make a hybrid work environment a success is only one piece of the hybrid worker empowerment puzzle. To fully undergo this transition, you will need to make sure you are providing the proper tools at the application layer as well.

For some companies, that means providing a full Unified Communication stack; for those that already do, it means extending that UC solution into the mobile environment. This can be accomplished through implementing four main tools and platforms: instant messaging, mobile or softphone communication, virtual meetings/video communication, and through data-sharing and real-time collaboration.

Unified Communications isn’t the only software toolset that you need to evaluate through the lens of hybrid work, but it is the one you need to address first.

5. Extend IT Support

Of course, implementing new tools and platforms that affect how an employee works will always require support from IT. In a corporate environment, questions are answered by walking over to the nearest IT tech or just asking a coworker. In a fully remote work environment, employees are left to figure an issue out on their own or undertake the arduous task of calling into the IT help desk. As the location of productivity changes, so does the way IT supports the work; distributed teams need an omni-channel support model that includes both asynchronous and real-time models.

When implementing new support solutions, it’s important to consider looking at Managed Service Providers as a backstop to your existing IT team. An MSP can be an extension of your staff, bolstering your ability to support routine management and freeing your internal IT resources up for more strategic projects.

6. Determine Cost & ROI

Naturally, one of the most important factors that your organization considers when implementing new strategies is what the financial aspect will look like. While it does ultimately depend on the unique situation, Bluewave will help you evaluate not only the technical aspects, but also the business outcomes and ROI of choosing which path works best for you.

In order to get a true understanding of what the costs will be, Bluewave works closely with our customers to obtain a full understanding of their existing costs for voice, data, conferencing, mobility, collaboration, and security. Once these expenses are fully understood, we can work together to save your organization both time and money.

Conclusion

Although implementing a new work model in this time of uncertainty can be daunting, it doesn’t have to be detrimental to your organization’s success.

By supplying the right equipment, evaluating connectivity, and extending proper support, employees can be just as, if not more, productive when acting in a hybrid work environment.

The first step is to hold a strategy session to determine where you should invest to get the most productivity out of this change and Bluewave can help you navigate your options, apply them to your unique business environment, and procure solutions at the most cost-efficient rate.