As the country begins to cautiously return to some pre-pandemic functions due to more and more people being vaccinated, organizations are beginning to return to work in their office buildings rather than telecommuting.
There are many factors to consider as employees come back to the office. This includes employee health and safety, as well as productivity and efficiency. Technology is another important asset to consider when planning for employees to come back into the office.
Here are 6 things to consider as you prepare your technology for your business’ return to work.
Review IT Infrastructure
Remote Work vs Hybrid Work vs In-Office Work
Many businesses are phasing the reopening of their offices, and alternating small groups of employees between working in the office and working from home. Some are opting for a hybrid work arrangement long-term, where employees will come into the office some days and work remotely on others. Basically, it’s important for business leaders to prepare for a work from anywhere mindset.
As such, it is very important to make sure that your VPN connection, software, applications, and networks are functional so that employees can be productive no matter their location. Furthermore, be sure your business continuity solution includes data protection for remote work, and have functionalities that back up all data while employees work from home to protect company information. This may be the perfect time to evaluate your storage infrastructure and increase your cloud-based storage solutions.
Collaboration tools are also especially important for return to work, as they continue to ease communication efforts throughout the organization. If you do not have a collaboration tool set up, contact a technical expert to consult and review options such as Microsoft Teams, WebEx, or other tools that meet your organization’s needs.
Read our most recent blog about Microsoft Teams Frequently Asked Questions
Collaboration applications make documents easy to share and allow quick and seamless communication among the organization. This is useful for both productivity, company-wide communication (including specific details related to going back to the office), as well as maintaining communication between employees whether they are remote or in-office. These tools are excellent for productivity in the long term as well – consider the operational and budgetary implications of long-term usage in your future plans.
Strengthen IT Security Upon Return to Work
Bringing devices back to the office when you return to work, and therefore back on to the company network, means opportunity for security risks. There are actions you should take to mitigate potential breaches.
Scan Devices when Returning to Work
Your IT team should scan any device before it is brought back on the network. If the devices returning to work are company supplied, then they are likely already hardened (i.e. have security stopgaps in place). However, due to the longevity of the work from home setup, necessary updates may not have been made to these devices, and they could be carrying malicious actors, so they should be assessed before re-joining the network.
If the device is not company supplied, it should always be checked over by IT before being connected to the network.
Utilize Network Access Control
If your business has Network Access Control, then you should utilize that feature to lock out all systems on the network. Only allow systems to connect that have been cleared by IT for re-connection.
If your company does not have Network Access Control, then you must have a very diligent process in place to allow systems to reconnect to the business network. It will be harder to manage, but the goal is to make sure no cyber threats are added to the network. Wireless access to the private network should be turned off until all systems have been verified. Guest wireless access is acceptable.
Uninstall or Block Unnecessary Applications
Every employee has a device they can take back-and-forth between work and home. And employees will likely use the device for professional and personal reasons. Those personal interests may include downloading non-business-related applications, such as a streaming applications. It’s best practice to make sure those non-critical business applications are uninstalled before the device is returned to the office and reconnected to the network. These have potential for vulnerabilities to your company network. Additionally, employees may have found applications for certain tasks without consulting your IT team for approved apps or systems. It is important to ensure those are not used and are blocked as employees return to work.
Cyberattacks have increased during the pandemic. Employee cybersecurity training is your first line of defense for corporate cybersecurity. However, during this time of remote work, they may have become more lax in their cybersecurity awareness. It is important to reinforce good social awareness practices and education (even if you are not returning to the office, this should be done).
Arming employees with the education they need to prevent a breach is an important aspect of your cyber defense plan. Continual communication with your entire organization around phishing attacks via phone, email, or text will aid in protecting your organization from an attack. Ongoing cybersecurity training and testing for employees was a best practice prior to the pandemic, although if you are not doing it already it’s time to invest.
The return to work, as we begin to move past the pandemic, takes careful planning and consideration, and your organization’s technology is no exception. The most important elements to consider are all technological tools you have utilized and will continue to utilize moving forward, and ensure that your business is as prepared as possible for cyber threats. However, depending on your corporate structure, as well as your IT environment, you may have other items to assess as you put your return to in-person work plan together.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May of 2020 and has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.