Written by Lee Wade, CEO, Exponential-e
Connecting individual employees and their homes to office networks has become business critical in the last year. Why? So businesses can protect their bottom line.
According to The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020, most business leaders believe their employees are less productive when out of the office. In fact, it says that 78% of business leaders think hybrid and home-working will have a negative impact on employees’ productivity.
Understandably it’s difficult to determine exactly how productive or efficient staff are at completing tasks when working from home. It’s something that varies massively from one business to another, with the quality of technology provision a key determining factor. Whether business leaders like it or not, one thing that is clear is that hybrid working is here to stay.
Making home working work
And it can’t be all bad. If home working wasn’t conducive to people doing their jobs, some of the world’s most recognisable firms, including Spotify, Twitter and Microsoft wouldn’t have committed to letting their employees work from home permanently should they choose to.
Companies all around the world are considering following their lead, or at least guaranteeing the right to work from home for large portions of the week in employment contracts and workplace policies. But it’s one thing to promise staff the benefit. It’s another thing entirely to provide them with a set-up that ensures they are equally productive when working from home.
That’s where the need for constant connectivity comes in. Home networks need to provide an equal performance to that of company offices to make the current trend a consolidated reality. It’s an achievable vision, and one that major firms such as Spotify begun to realise, thanks to their investment in best-in-class tech infrastructure.
But for many firms, this vision remains a pipe dream. Most of them still have network architecture, capacity and security policies in place that were designed and implemented to only serve a small number of remote workers on a ‘management approval’ basis, and prioritise the needs and demands travelling for business, rather than facilitate genuinely ‘flexible’ working.
These inadequate policies are either creating or exacerbating three common obstacles that are affecting staff’s ability to work effectively when logging in from home:
- Bandwidth barriers
With so many people at home all at the same time, competing over Wi-Fi bandwidth, lots of connections are crumbling under the heavy load. How many times have you been on a call where your camera has frozen or a bad connection has kicked you out?
It’s up to employers, not employees, to remedy this issue. Various software-defined networking solutions are available that automatically divide up, prioritise and distribute the bandwidth coming into homes and direct it to where it’s needed, so employees’ meetings run smoothly and aren’t interrupted by their kids watching Disney+, or other family members listening in to the latest tunes via Alexa.
- Security concerns:
Home networks are inherently insecure, and often unprotected by firewalls. Cyber attackers can break into home networks easily – even through IP-enabled devices, like your fridge or your kettle – and once inside, tunnel and break into their employer’s corporate network. Who knew making a cup of tea could be so damaging?
Businesses need a solution that automatically extends corporate-level security into each employee’s home, making all offices – whether at home or on-site – equally secure, and truly delivering peace of mind as a service. Tools like SD-WAN help deliver this by integrating on-premise level security, and zero-trust access control, so employees’ homes – and all connected items within them – become a secure extension of the corporate or office networks. And yes, that does even include the games consoles that kids have been using when meant to be doing school-work.
- The constant connectivity conundrum:
Most companies’ HR policies are closely linked with pastoral staff care, and health and wellbeing. And for good reason. Staff need to be given the tools and support needed to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. No one should complain about being occasional free drinks, yoga sessions, or subscriptions to mindfulness apps.
But looking after employees is now about more than wellbeing perks. HR policies need to evolve to based on our new reality of home working, and incorporate constant connectivity as a key pillar. Having a productive home working environment is now critical to the wellbeing of every member of staff, as well as their livelihood. Because without it, not only might their client relationships, performance and the company’s revenues be affected, but their home life could also suffer. Poor connectivity could even threaten employees’ own sources of income if they can’t do their work properly. Employers therefore need to make sure connectivity is a key HR priority, and their networks allow staff to not only fulfil, but surpass the expectations of their roles.
It’s a no brainer to invest in a network that takes the office to your employees, and gives them the ingredients to succeed, in order to make a long-term success of home working. Regardless of when restrictions end, employees now expect and demand that their employers provide them with tech infrastructure that ensures they’re productive, wherever they are working from. Employers need to wake up and prepare for it. Now. Otherwise, they might find they no longer have a workforce to return to the office, when the time is right.