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Work-from-home no longer temporary

By IVANIZA ARAUJO, BDM Cisco small business at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa



Work is no longer something that happens in an office environment. Instead, the workplace has moved away from the office to be anywhere where an employee has reliable connectivity. Even though some organisations have welcomed back a limited number of employees at their offices, the focus is still very much on the enablement of a distributed workforce. Invariably, this has resulted in the need to create a hybrid office setup that is convenient for the employee to use at their home while still complying with security requirements.

The initial focus on just keeping operations running as smoothly as possible during the first few months of lockdown has given way to the better management and even optimisation of a remote working environment. So even though remote working was considered the exception rather than the rule not too long ago, it is here to stay and people now want to work in their own way.

One of the biggest mistakes many businesses made last year was to treat these home setups as secondary to the more robust corporate ones. But in truth, every home office environment must have the same connectivity support as a head office or branch office.

Yet, relying purely on a traditional virtual private network (VPN) set up to help manage this is no longer effective, especially when considering how technology has evolved in recent years. With digital transformation driving significant innovations in cloud technology, more must be done to enable remote workers to access and use data and applications the same way they would if they were in the office.

This emergence of the hybrid environment that delivers the best of both worlds is becoming a crucial piece of the business puzzle in the ‘new normal’ companies have found themselves in.

Wi-Fi enhanced

However, to do this and create a more consumer-friendly environment introduces new challenges. The remote worker does not always have the same high-quality bandwidth required for business applications. They also may not always have the correct understanding of what constitutes cybersecurity best practice. Logging onto untrusted networks, clicking on phishing links, using personal devices, and downloading their own unapproved applications, are all dangers in this hybrid mix of consumer and work devices at home. And even if a VPN is employed to address some of the safety concerns, few home users may realise how much traffic they are creating on the enterprise network by running non-business apps like YouTube, Netflix, Facetime, and the like.

For employees for whom best-effort connectivity is not enough, home wireless access points can be replaced with a Wi-Fi router that acts as an extension of the corporate network. A home wireless access point configured by the IT department before the employee installs it can provide advanced security and monitoring and prioritise bandwidth for applications that need it.

As a side benefit for users, corporate access points can make an in-home network appear just like the at-the-office network. If their devices automatically connect at the office, they will do the same at home. Even home workers who need to get non-PC devices, like IP phones, on the corporate network, dedicated corporate access points are also an easy solution.

A consistent experience

It is therefore critical to ensure a team that is working from different geographic locations get an integrated experience. Collaboration must consequently be fast and accessible regardless of the connectivity used in the WFH environment.

It boils down to the success of the organisation and its remote employees being reliant on receiving a consistently good experience. Delivering this while providing unified communication requirements – think video conferences, screen sharing, and other online collaboration tools – is vital to ensure the longevity of the remote environment.

In fact, the ideal setup can help remote employees manage their time better, ensure meetings are productive with less time spent setting up hardware and software, and create a streamlined workspace. Let us look at an example of a solution designed to address the demands of hybrid work, Cisco Work Your Way is a complete small business solution that includes Webex, a security bundle designed to stop attacks before they happen, and affordable networking solutions that connect employees and customers, with robust security built-in. Solutions like these are making the link easier for companies to make but offering an all-in-one approach – rather than having to source all these components from different places.

Work from home is set to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Companies must ensure they provide the right technical environment that helps their remote employees optimise their daily responsibilities.

This means it has therefore become the top priority for business leaders to put in place a unified work environment. This helps ensure employees can access the data, applications, and people they need to be productive from anywhere regardless of the device used.