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7 steps that will ensure your new distributed workforce stays connected, productive, and secure.

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While there has been a great deal of talk about the new normal in a post-COVID-19 world, no-one can say for sure exactly what that may entail. 

Having said that, as a direct result of the lockdown and the ensuing social distancing, all the signs are that the ‘old’ normal that was built on and ultimately dependent upon centralisation is no longer fit for purpose. 

The fact is that the change, disruption, and uncertainty that has followed in the wake of the pandemic has put centralisation under the spotlight and made many people realise that it’s an extremely fragile model.

The permanent move to more resilient decentralised working models is driven as much by the desire of employees to have more autonomy, as it is by organisations who wish to capitalise on the potential cost savings. This is borne out by a recent survey, in which 50 of the biggest UK employers stated that they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time. 

As a result, the rise of the digital workspace that delivers the ability for employees to work from any location is set to become an integral part of every organisations’ working practices and operations. 

The question remains, how do you go about ensuring that your organisation is ready, willing, and able to operate a digital workspace that can meet the growing and ever-changing needs of your distributed workforce? 

  1. Start by talking to all stakeholders. 

It doesn’t matter if you have your entire payroll working remotely or just a small percentage, you still face the same challenges – it’s only the scale of the problem that changes.  

As a result, directors, employees, customers should all be involved in the consultation process about how best to empower a distributed workforce.  

An all-inclusive process also offers up the prospect of valuable feedback and by including everyone in the decision-making process any changes to existing working practices are more likely to succeed. 

  1. Ensure that everyone is properly equipped and can do their job safely. 

The requirements of individuals may differ greatly depending on their role and responsibilities, as a result there should be no blanket solution as to the what equipment should be provided to remote workers. 

The specifications of any and all equipment must be tailored to meet the individual needs of each employee. For example, while many people will be happy to work on a laptop people who are required to work on financial spreadsheets will require a large screen monitor. 

Of course, there is far more to meeting the needs of employees than just a monitor. There are docking stations, ergonomic keyboards, laptop risers and a wide range of additional peripherals that can greatly improve working practices. 

Most importantly, as an employer you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers, so you need to ensure that you are complying fully with existing legislation

  1. Collaboration and communication. 

One of the biggest challenges for any decentralised workforce is replicating the ability to collaborate effectively even when people are located across different geographical locations. 

People need to be able to chat, message, call, hold videoconferences, share files and content, work collectively on projects – everything that would normally be carried out in the conventional office environment. 

There are numerous solutions with perhaps the most widespread and notable example being Microsoft Teams – the hub for teamwork in Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). This chat-based workspace offers a truly flexible environment that makes everything visible, integrated, and accessible. It’s a messaging application where everyone can access conversations, meetings, and documents, and a hub where people can collaborate securely and in real time. 

Regardless of what type of work you do, a digital hub will allow you to customise its functionality to meet the specific needs of your organisation and quickly become an indispensable business tool. 

  1. Consistent connectivity.

While you have to admire the ingenuity and speed at which many organisations dealt with the challenges presented by the need for remote working, one area that caused considerable problems was internet access. 

This was especially noticeable in the drive to implement VoIP and videoconferencing, an essential element in the absence of face-to-face meetings and events. While the internet held up quite admirably in the face of the vastly increased traffic, users experienced the frustration of choppy video and audio, missed words and calls being dropped in the middle of a conversation. 

The cause can be attributed directly to poor internet access and the resultant network latency/delay, packet loss and inconsistency, and network congestion due to bandwidth overuse. Unfortunately, the speed and reliability of internet connections is often dependent on where people live – making the ability to communicate and collaborate with colleagues subject to a postcode lottery. 

Thankfully there are solutions to the problem of poor internet access such as improving users’ home broadband by augmenting it using future-focused software defined solutions

  1. Security, security, security.

One of the biggest problems confronting every organisation is that remote working has led to the disappearance of the physical perimeter and fundamentally altered the threat landscape. 

The push to keep employees connected has led to a rapid increase in the use of enterprise applications such as Office 365 and Salesforce. And while they greatly helped organisations and their employees to maintain a semblance of normality, the use of personal devices, unsecured internet access, and a lack of support for remote workers has resulted in a catalogue of potential security issues. 

In a recent survey 95% of security professionals stated that they are facing added IT security challenges: the provision of secure remote access for employees, the need for remote access scalable solutions, and employees using untested software, tools and services. 

The move to a decentralised workforce means that enterprises now need to focus on a multi-dimensional security model that takes into account data loss prevention, information barriers, retention policies, in order to keep any sensitive data safe against unauthorised access. 

Any future-facing model should ensure that: everyone receives regular security updates; software packages are deployed centrally; anti-virus software is always switched on and up to date; all software and applications are regularly updated; OS and software security patches are regularly implemented in order to address vulnerabilities and fix bugs; internet browsers are protected and secured; and central security policies are applied to devices to protect users from compromised USB devices. 

  1. Training and management.

From the first day of induction, to ongoing assessments, to training people on how to use the new tools necessary for remote working – every organisation is now facing a whole new set of issues when it comes to training and managing a decentralised workforce. 

When it comes to training and ongoing management, videoconferencing and team collaboration applications are now a fundamental part of keeping the whole workforce informed and connected.  

Daily or weekly management meetings should still take place in order to plan out the forthcoming operations and help coordinate the overseeing of business units, applications, or deal with specific organisational issues. 

Beyond day-to-day management, leaders must train their staff on how to address worker problems, provide advice on home office setups, while all the time keeping projects on schedule. 

At the end of the day, given that teams are now more likely to be dispersed across different geographical areas, videoconferencing and team collaboration applications are set to become essential business tools. With this in mind, it’s no longer just a matter of providing employees with access, to make the very most of collaboration hubs such as Microsoft 365 requires very specialised professional training. 

  1. Provide 24/7/365 support wherever people are located.

The days of getting someone from the IT department to drop by your desk to help solve an issue are all but over. The centralised support that employees have previously relied upon now needs to transform into a support service that is just as at home in the office, as it is in the home. 

The problem is that the majority of IT personnel are accustomed to being on site and as a result, must now be trained on remote troubleshooting to ensure the same high standards of support can be delivered to remote workers. 

Furthermore, IT personnel who aren’t involved with end-user support also need the tools and guidance to remotely manage systems and applications that they were previously managing locally. 

The fact remains that without the proper equipment, the right tools, and sufficient personnel to deal with the issues that come with remote working, the problems will keep mounting. No matter how big your organisation or what sector it operates in, end point management and end user management will become two of the most critical points of focus across the entire organisation. 

The problem is that many organisations simply don’t have the skills and resources to deliver the service that the future demands. As a result, the solution often lies in outsourcing IT support to a dedicated service provider or service desk. 

How Quadris Managed Digital Workspace can support you every step of the way.

All the signs point toward the majority of forward-thinking organisations will increasingly move away from the centralised model of old and toward the decentralised model we have seen emerging over the last 6 months in the wake of the pandemic. 

The pandemic has caused monumental shifts in the way that organisations operate and it’s a brave (or reckless) organisation that isn’t making contingencies for the possibility that this won’t be the last pandemic we encounter. 

The fact is that work will no longer be a place, but an organised set of tasks and activities that can be securely carried out using any device and tailored to deliver a personalised and relevant employee experience. Digital workplaces are set to become the backbone of modern business and analysts estimate the market will expand to a staggering £30 billion by 2025. 

Our Managed Digital Workspace will free you up from the vast majority of work involved in supplying, maintaining, and supporting computer equipment, phones, and peripherals.  

As a direct result, this comprehensive solution greatly simplifies your IT management, reduces internal costs, and most importantly leaves you with more time to concentrate on higher value work. 

To find out more about Quadris Managed Digital Workspace and how it can benefit your organisation, contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk 

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