At the moment it feels like we’re all living in limbo, doesn’t it?
Confined to our houses – and gardens if we’re lucky enough. During 2020, our homes have turned into offices, nurseries, schools… probably very exclusive pubs too! All under one roof. It’s an uncertain time to say the least. But while we wait on the government to roll out the vaccines, many businesses are starting to make a plan for what work will look like in 2021 including an eventual? possible? return to the workplace.
Business who had already embraced working from anywhere either by accident or on purpose through the adoption of cloud technologies and other remote working practices found the transition to working from home relatively pain free, at least from a technology perspective. However, many left it until the last minute or even later and found their productivity significantly impacted. That was then, this is now. Two lockdowns and various tiers later, it is clear that restrictions are going to continue for at least the next 6-12 months and businesses are adapting to the new environment.
In 2021, we see a wider acknowledgement of the need to work from anywhere as having a server or NAS in an office doesn’t support working flexibly. Businesses reliant on VPNs for access to line of business applications and file shares are also thinking about ways to improve this access as many staff have relatively poor domestic Internet connections which are fine for Netflix and light use, but aren’t able to support anything near the sorts of speeds office local networks for the past 20 years have enjoyed.
We will see video conferencing, cloud telephony and other solutions which allow you to work from the office, home, a shared workspace, customer site… flexibility being key to empowering productivity in 2021 and beyond. aFinite, as a forward thinking IT consultancy and service provider is able to help transform the IT provision for our customers so that they are fit for the future and are enabled rather than encumbered.
As 2020 draws to a close, as ever, we have our eyes on the future, a positive future for all. It is clear to most that a returning to the office will not mean a return to the old ways. Large numbers of businesses are downsizing their office space, moving to flexible working or mixing both of these, but what is clear is that returning to the office as it was is going to be a relatively rare thing. With that in mind, we think that businesses should be planning how they will enable their staff to be both happy and productive in 2021 and beyond.
When you start to put together a plan, look at how the lockdown has affected your business. What’s worked well? What would you do differently if you’d had more time to plan
Make a list. This will help you along these next steps.
We think that there are three main elements to look at.
First, look at your people
Returning to the office is likely to be happen on a phased basis, if it happens at all for some. That might mean that not all of your people will come back to your workplace at the same time. You may have people working for you that are at higher risk (or live with someone who is high risk), so they may have to stay home for longer. You may also have had to lose some of your team due to the impact on your business. Basically, things are not going to click straight back to the “old normal”. And honestly, they may never be the same again for many of us. You’ve probably found that having your people work remotely hasn’t been so bad. Perhaps before this you didn’t think it was possible to have remote workers? Will this help you to become more flexible with the way you work, and expect your team to work? In the case of a phased return to your workplace, look at how well your team have coped over the last few months. Those who have thrived should perhaps be among the last to return. Those who’ve struggled (and are not in a risk category) should be first back. Would you consider making working from home a regular option for your team?
Look at your equipment and technology
While everyone has been working from home, they’ve needed devices to work on, and a setup that allows them to access your network, files, applications, etc. How has the at home setup worked for you? Is your VPN slow? Can only John in the office answer the phone? Is Jenny going to continue to use some headphones for the Teams & Zoom calls which are now happening more than once a day rather than once a month or even less?
If you planned ahead of time for a lockdown, you’ve probably had an almost seamless switch to home working. At least as far as your IT is concerned, anyway. If you didn’t, what are the changes that you would make once the restrictions are loosened? What changes would you need to make to allow home working for any of your team on a regular basis? How will you manage the safekeeping and return of any company equipment during this process?
Did you or your IT service provider keep a list of what was handed out? Will your IT service provider need to spend a lot of time with you setting everything back up in the workplace? Again, if you plan to keep some staff working from home permanently or regularly, do they have everything they need to make the switch? Do you need to purchase extra devices or licenses for apps? This is the part of your plan where you’ll need to liaise with your IT service provider. What can they do to help the move back be as easy as possible for you?
What about your data?
Access to your data has been moved across devices from your workplace, to homes, and now needs to come back to the workplace again. Are you taking the right steps to protect your company data and your customer data? Has your data security been compromised in any way during this process? Strictly speaking, if you’ve managed the switch well and your people have followed protocol, your data security should be watertight. All the additional checks and measures should mean that your anti-virus software is up-to-date and the most recent versions of everything should be installed and that through data labelling, rights management and loss prevention policies you need not worry that somebody has copied some data to an unecrypted USB stick which is now in a family member’s laptop which was used to copy some homework or other files.
However, if you managed the move in a rush, perhaps you could have been a little more thorough? Whatever the case, when people and devices start coming back to your workplace, it’s a great opportunity to update everything, check the strength of passwords, explore the idea of zero trust, and ensure all data is regularly backed up. Making sure data is safe – and keeping it that way – must be a very high priority for all businesses now, more than ever before.
Now look at cost savings
We have all read that there is a recession coming and there’s no doubt that times are going to be hard for a while. The economy has been impacted in a big way, and we’re all going to have to tighten our belts in some way. IT has never been something to underinvest in. Because that will have a direct impact on how productive your team will be, and how safe your data is. If your business found that the move to working from home was actually quite easy, how can you use this to your advantage and save money in the process? For example, if you plan to allow some of your people to work from home on a permanent or regular basis, what would that mean for your premises? Could you make savings by downsizing your office footprint and look at co-working spaces to provide a regular meeting location or other business environment? Are there any other things that you’ve found yourself less reliant on than usual? Maybe your future business meetings could be held online rather than face to face, saving travel time and cost? The changes will differ from business to business. But there are most likely some areas that you can review, or already have been reviewing to make savings.
The time to take action is NOW
Whether you can’t wait to get back to your workplace, or you’re secretly enjoying working from home, hopefully now you’ll see that a little planning can go a long way. This isn’t something that should be left for a few weeks. Please don’t put it off. The more work you do now on planning your technology and implementing it, the easier it will be for you and your team when things get back to normal. If you could use some help planning and implementing the technical side of the return to your workplace, please get in touch. We’d love to help you make it a smooth transition, and be fit for the future in 2021 and beyond.