The IT challenges of hybrid working

For years, cyber security experts have predicted a shift towards hybrid working – but they weren’t expecting it to come so suddenly and as a result of a global crisis.

Nonetheless, they have been proven right, with millions of organisations deciding to keep their remote set-up even as the pandemic subsides.

To make hybrid work a success, though, organisations must regularly evaluate their IT processes. According to a UKG study, 87% of UK employers accelerated their digital transformation project during the pandemic, and 76% said they had used one new technology or app during the crisis.

Commenting on the report, Steve Joyner, the managing director for UK and Ireland at Avaya, said:

Today’s home office is a mishmash of various technologies, and employees are trying to do the best they can with the communication tools available to them – but bear in mind that often these aren’t as efficient as what they had in the office.

I would encourage employers to move towards what we call a more ‘composable’ technology architecture, delivering a set of communication components that can be easily leveraged and combined to deliver a more effective employee experience, even when working outside the business office.

But what does that look like, and what challenges will organisations’ IT teams face as they implement and maintain a hybrid work model? We provide our top three tips in this blog.

1. New technology isn’t always necessary

For hybrid workers, technology has become more important than ever. They need it to share documents with colleagues, attend meetings and communicate with team members.

But a study from Unisys has warned that organisations with a hybrid workforce must look beyond simply providing access to the latest technology.

It found that although 55% of business leaders said adopting the latest technology was key to an ideal employee experience, only 43% of employees agreed.

Likewise, business leaders showed a greater concern around the practicalities of remote working than employees.

These findings suggest that employers should strongly consider whether new technology really is necessary before purchasing it. The investment might seem like a commitment to making work as manageable as possible for employees, but it could have the opposite effect.

Learning new technologies can be time-consuming and stressful, particularly if there were no problems with existing ones.

Where possible, you should adapt existing technology and processes to your requirements before you invest in new systems.

This will become increasingly important as employees go back into the office, as the goal should be compatibility. The office-based environment should be as close as possible to the home set-up to ensure employees can switch from one to the other with minimal disruption.

2. Provide appropriate training

When new technologies are required, the IT team must ensure that employees understand how they work.

In most organisations, IT only provides support when there is a problem – which is certainly understandable given how overworked teams often are. But in a hybrid set-up, that approach could cause problems, given that a member of staff won’t be on hand to help remote employees.

This is a problem all organisations will face. According to the Velocity Smart Technology Market Research Report 2021, 70% of remote workers said they had experienced IT problems during the pandemic, and 54% had to wait up to three hours for the issue to be resolved.

To minimise delays, organisations must evaluate the way they support employees. For example, this might include extending helpdesk hours beyond 9am–5pm to account for employees working more flexible hours at home.

Organisations might also invest in monitoring software to detect vulnerabilities in employees’ systems and fix the issue before it’s too late.

3. Avoid elevating employee privileges

If you’re worried about employees having to wait for IT to fix technical issues, you may be tempted to elevate their privileges and enable them to address the issue themselves.

However, doing so creates significant vulnerabilities and should therefore be avoided wherever possible.

The problem with elevating privileges is that employees are given the ability to fix not only that specific issue but to perform actions that should only be possible for people with admin rights.

Those admin rights are assigned on a need-to-know basis, because you want as few people as possible to have the power to make major changes.

If that’s not the case, you run the risk of an employee acting maliciously to compromise systems or steal sensitive data. Equally, an attacker who compromises an account won’t have to perform more complex attacks to elevate their privilege.

Organisations should instead use a remote desktop service. This hands control to a member of your incident response or IT team. Although it will still cause delays when fixing IT issues, it’s a much safer option and mitigates the risk of a breach occurring.

Looking for more advice?

You can learn more about the compliance risks of hybrid working by downloading How to Keep your Hybrid Workforce Secure – In Six Steps.

This infographic outlines our top six tips you should take to protect your employees in the office and at home.