By Lee Wade, CEO, Exponential-e
There was a time not too long ago when home connectivity was of little interest to most business leaders. That might seem forever ago, but in the space of barely 18 months, business’ ability to connect individual employees back to office networks, wherever they are working from, has become integral to their success.
It wasn’t always this way. As we all know, most business decisions are undertaken with the bottom line in mind. And prior to the pandemic, a perception existed that investing in technology to make it easier for employees to work from home made little business sense.
In fact, it’s a perception that still exists amongst many business leaders. According to The World Economic Forum, most believe their employees are less productive when out of the office. Its studies indicate that over three quarters (78%) of business leaders believe hybrid and home-working negative impacts employees’ productivity.
Employees understandably think differently, with research from the likes of finder.com indicating that almost two thirds (65%) feel more productive in a home office than at work.
It’s clearly a nuanced topic. How productive or efficient staff are at completing tasks when working from home varies massively from one business to another, with the quality of technology provision a key determining factor. But whatever the outcome, business leaders are waking up to the realisation that hybrid working is here to stay.
Making the most of remote work
It’s here to stay because realistically, many of their concerns have been dispelled. If home working wasn’t conducive to people doing their jobs, some of the world’s most recognisable firms, including Reddit, Twitter and Slack wouldn’t have committed to letting their employees work from home permanently, should they choose to.
All around the world, other businesses are considering following their lead, or at least guaranteeing the right to work from home for large portions of the week in terms of both employment contracts and workplace policies. But it’s one thing to promise staff these benefits. 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 performance equal 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 Twitter begun to realise, thanks to their investment in best-in-class tech infrastructure.
Sadly, it’s a watershed that feels a long way off for many firms. 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:
- Fighting constant bandwidth battles
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 tuning into cartoons on the iPad, or other family members listening in to the latest tunes via their Sonos.
- Security threats that need sidestepping:
Almost every cybersecurity company will tell you that 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 schoolwork.
- HR policy creating productivity puzzles:
The HR policies of most companies 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 offered 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 be 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.
A network that takes the office to your employees, and gives them the tools they need to succeed, should be a no-brainer for businesses seeking to make home working a success in the long term. Even as restrictions ease, employees are now well within their rights to expect and demand tech infrastructure from their employers that ensures they’re productive, wherever they are working from. Businesses need to wake up to this reality, or face an uphill battle to retain their best talent in the near future.