Integrating the long-term home office into your hybrid workplace

Person using laptop - working from home
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In the first article of this series, we looked at defining your hybrid workplace strategy. But, what about the technical aspects? How exactly do you integrate the home office into this strategy?

About the author

Simon Wilson is Chief Technology Officer at HPE Aruba UK&I.

We’ve seen that, for the majority of us, we can be just as productive if not more so while working from home – as such, it is well and firmly here to stay. In all likelihood, we may well see a renewed focus on the home office as it evolves from a temporary solution to a fundamental part of an organizations' long-term hybrid workplace strategy.

However, this new approach will require changes – in mindset as well as network infrastructure. If organizations want to succeed with a hybrid working approach, they must make sure their network foundations are as strong as possible. Here are three things they must consider.

Connectivity and access at the Edge

As our home offices are set to become a permanent fixture of working life, organizations can’t afford to ignore the limitations of home broadband and the obligatory ‘free’ WIFi router that comes with it. These often have a very real impact on the productivity of employees and business continuity due to the user experience problems they often cause.

In the wake of the pandemic, expectation levels have risen yet patience has fallen. Words like Zooming have become part of the lexicon and when can’t see or hear people clearly our frustration shows – as such, it is essential that employees working remotely can connect and collaborate at the same level and access the same network functionality and applications as they do when in the office.

However, to achieve this, organizations must first find ways to extend the edge of their infrastructure into the home of the employee. This will involve looking for remote access solutions that are plug and play to set up, can supply home workers with fast, reliable enterprise-level network performance and security is done in exactly the same way as in the office.

Plug-and-play devices that work as they are connected, such as remote wireless access points, should not only make installation effortless for employees, they cure a headache for IT teams.

Network security will be more complex than ever

IT teams no longer have complete control over which devices employees are using – as a result, they also have limited ability to identify the potential risks that employees are taking. The explosion of these personal unmanaged devices means that organizations are faced with multiple vulnerable entry points – and no clear view of when a device is breached.

To combat this, they must find ways to increase visibility, security and control – without adding to their workload and preferably without making it cumbersome for the employee. As it currently stands, perhaps the best models to effectively streamline security operations are automation and zero-trust security models. Combined with real-time monitoring, IT teams will be able to detect, isolate, and close network breaches, alongside this, solutions like automatic device categorization (based on network fingerprint and dynamic segmentation) will provide the reliable, effortless control needed.

Businesses should be aware that frustrating remote access solutions lead to security implications and can compound threats. If employers fail to provide adequate remote working solutions, employees will find a way. Many will find digital workarounds, potentially downloading and installing tools and apps from questionable sources. Security must lead from the front foot.

Organizations must take full responsibility for the experience of at-home employees

Fundamentally, the only way a hybrid workplace model can truly succeed is if the work-from-home experience is on par with the in-office experience.

What other benefits are employees missing when they work from home? What tools and equipment do they not have access to? What aspects of the employee experience would discourage them from seeing the home office as a viable alternative – and can we address them?

These are all questions that organizations must ask if they want to successfully integrate the home office into their long-term strategy. This means considering factors such as physical workspaces, comfort, and ergonomics, as well as additional equipment like headsets and monitors – which have largely been left to employees to source.

It is this part of the employee experience that is fast becoming a new performance metric for IT teams and employers must take a more holistic approach to any hybrid working strategy.

What does the future hold?

In short, no one really knows. As we saw last year, circumstances can change at any moment and organizations must be ready to respond accordingly. This is where flexible network technology such as remote access points (RAPs) offer a low-risk solution to support home workers at the Edge, as and when needed. It offers simpler provisioning and can be easily turned off and mailed back to the vendor – providing control and visibility while ensuring a consistent, safe experience.

Moving forwards in this period of uncertainty won’t be as easy but focusing on building an agile network that can scale when required, will be the most resourceful way of ensuring that your business is set for success.

In the next instalment, we take a look at how organizations can create a hybrid workplace that delivers longer-term business value - make sure you don’t miss it.

Simon Wilson is the CTO of HPE Aruba.