Due to some unprecedented circumstances, the work world was recently catapulted a decade into the future. Until now, the "workplace of the future” where employees work beyond their office desk was often discussed in detail but wasn’t actually implemented nearly as frequently. That was until these external circumstances arose, finally making the flexible workplace a reality.
As a result of mandated quarantines, companies were forced to send a large number of staff to work from home. And if their legacy infrastructure wasn’t equipped to handle this sudden increase, companies looked to solutions to quickly and securely accommodate these employees. If companies were not yet reliant on the agility of the cloud, they had to contend with various different bottlenecks, including an often-overwhelmed VPN.
After all, the volume of data that now had to travel from homes, first through the existing security and MPLS infrastructure then to applications and data in the data centre, had suddenly changed enormously. This meant that access from home offices to the required working environment sometimes did not work well. IT departments were inventive and ready to make exceptions with regard to security, for example, by switching off firewalls to grant employees the connectivity they required.
An extensive retrospective review of the situation in many different departments is now beginning. IT, HR and operations divisions are now required to use the analysis to draw conclusions concerning future workplace models. Employees are now voicing their preferences, many stating that they don't want to miss out on the flexibility of their home offices. Even though the balancing act between daily working life and family life, which was temporarily handled in confined circumstances at home, caused unprecedented strain for all those concerned, some employees have shown a preference to work at home. This means that companies have to rethink their stance and policies around working from home. Hybrid models, with the flexibility to relocate the workplace to home offices on a day-by-day basis, are at the top of the agenda.
Because when all is said and done, the performance delivered by employees when working from home was, in fact, impressive. Even before the pandemic, studies demonstrated that productivity when working remotely did not necessarily suffer compared with working in the office. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Lack of commutes, interruptions by colleagues, high noise levels in open-plan offices and the associated social controls – these are just some of the many factors that sometimes negatively influence employee productivity.
The pandemic forced employees to make a considered allocation of labour resources at home. They needed phases of undisturbed concentration on work, alternating with a focus on family duties. If unrestricted access to the work environment was possible, meaning that a good user experience was a given, the experience of working from home was positive.
Polish Agency – ARMA, The Agency for Restructuring and Modernisation of Agriculture, updated its remote access for employees to a cloud-based solution within the first few weeks of the pandemic. Although it was originally only planned as remote access for its 300 IT employees, that was quickly changed to support a total of 6,000 employees who suddenly found themselves working from home. It was a resounding success. As a result of secure, high-performance access to the internal infrastructure via Zscaler Private Access, employee efficiency increased by an estimated 10 to 30 percent (depending on the type and scope of tasks) during the first few weeks. Thanks to the unrestricted rapid access, employees could handle their usual workload within a shorter period of time and could therefore also meet the needs of their families during the lockdown phase.
Ultimately, home office workers must have unrestricted access to the data and applications they need to do their jobs, whether they are located in the data centre or in multicloud environments. The IT department does not want to accept any compromises with regard to security and also wants to protect the data streams of mobile and remote employees from malware. And all of this must be accomplished while not impacting the user experience. The solution that benefitted ARMA is one based on zero trust, which no longer opens up the entire company network to remote workers. Instead, it only connects the employees with the specific applications and data they need without putting them on the entire network and putting your entire organization at risk.
In this digital era, employees should be able to work remotely wherever they are and a cloud-based solution makes this a possibility. Just ask ARMA IT.
You can read more about ARMA’s work-from-anywhere journey here.
Florian Baeuml is Senior Regional Vice President CEER at Zscaler.