Zscaler Cloud Platform

Here Comes the Hybrid Office—and It’s Going to Be a Nightmare for IT Leaders

Over the shoulder shot of woman in a virtual meeting

As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, many companies are grappling with how to bring their employees back after more than two years of being untethered from the office. Survey after survey shows that most people want hybrid work arrangements—in-person and remote—and are quitting if not given the freedom to decide where they work. 

So, how do you successfully transition the business to hybrid work? IT leaders are no longer just enablers of technology but a fundamental part of business decisions that reflect directly on employees' productivity. Tech leaders are preparing for the next phase to not only ensure that the right technology is in place but also that they are creating a flexible, productive, and secure environment for in-office and remote workers alike.

While IT leaders took immediate steps to enable remote work during the turn of the pandemic, they have now had the opportunity to pause and think about the long-term strategy to empower their businesses supporting remote as well as in-office employees and employees that want to explore hybrid work. While allowing this flexibility to work, leadership teams have security and productivity as their top priorities. While many organizations have embraced hybrid work, there are organizations still strategizing their move toward this flexible environment to be able to attract and retain talent and boost productivity.

HMG Strategy conducted a survey focusing on CIOs and CISOs priorities for a productive workforce. The C-level leaders revealed their workforce strategy and security solutions that will help them successfully enable hybrid work.

In the survey, 56% of leaders said they are far along in their transition to a hybrid workplace—both in terms of setting remote work policies and deploying supporting technologies.

 

56%

are far along in their transition to a hybrid workplace

19%

had frustrated users due to a legacy tech stack for remote work and inconsistent access policies

31%

said overprivileged access for employees and third-party vendors is the highest risk to hybrid work

 

Bryan Green, CISO at Zscaler, says organizations have to focus on people, process, and technology to successfully make the transition to hybrid work. As someone who has lived through transitioning technology for better productivity, Bryan discussed why zero trust is pivotal in making the shift to hybrid work.

The uncertainty of hybrid work inevitably has consequences for the productivity of an organization. IT leaders are worried the hybrid model may end up being more frustrating than flexible for workers. The key elements for the successful execution of hybrid work are below:

A focus on people with employee experience 

As the shift from the pandemic becomes evident, organizations are having people back to the office to increase collaboration. With this, employees want to move freely—from home, to office, to wherever—without any interruptions to their work. To support this remote and in-office experience, IT teams have implemented patchwork solutions throughout the years. Employees are overwhelmed by the number of tools required to do their jobs. Part of digital transformation includes tech leaders pushing users to connect directly to cloud apps rather than the corporate network. In addition, solutions for employees, contractors, and third parties vary adding to the complexity and difference in employee experience. It’s imperative that IT leaders focus on providing a consistent experience, wherever the user is connecting from, and a similar experience irrespective of the devices they use,- managed and unmanaged. 

An improved process for increased productivity

IT leaders do not feel prepared to support hybrid work and are already under immense pressure to keep up with digital transformation projects and new cyberthreats. According to the survey, IT leaders say the top three barriers to adopting hybrid work are related to BYOD, third-party access, and slow internet connection due to VPNs for their remote employees. Executives intend to invest in zero trust technologies that can provide a foundation for hybrid work models. To add to this lack of visibility into user activity and the inability to quantify employee experience and productivity leaves IT teams blindsided. An improvement in process and education—not only for the IT and security teams, but also the users—can lead to fewer tickets and faster troubleshooting and resolution in case of an incident. 

Cybersecurity to minimize risk 

Security chiefs say outdated tech is a non-starter for the hybrid model. Cloud-based security technologies such as ZTNA play an integral role in the transition to hybrid working. IT leaders say security flaws found in corporate VPNs put their corporate data at risk and have prompted a shift to zero trust-based access. IT leaders are concerned about increased IT team effort to address security issues for hybrid work without guaranteed access visibility. Top of mind are device security concerns as users bring their devices back to the office: what precautions do they need to take, and what are the network implications? Workers are stashing highly sensitive corporate data on personal devices and unauthorized apps as they struggle to find ways to access, work with, and share data. Organizations are leaning toward a zero trust architecture to provide a robust security solution for hybrid workers while ensuring a flawless user experience.

 

Several organizations have flocked to zero trust to address the security and access needs of hybrid work. Understandably zero trust is a journey and this journey needs to start somewhere. Secure Service Edge (SSE) provides full protection to access any application from anywhere. Gartner recommends Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) as the first step of SSE adoption. While several organizations have taken to that philosophy, the HMG survey has found there is a variety of zero trust solutions that can securely enable hybrid work.

Conclusion

IT and security leaders are considering this time as an opportunity to take stock of the tech stack and take a refreshed approach to empower their hybrid workforce. Many organizations are leaning toward a zero trust architecture that provides security against the most sophisticated cyberthreats while also providing a great experience for both the users and the admins.

Learn more about what IT leaders are considering for a secure hybrid workforce and get the full report here.

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