13th Oct 2020
3 Min Read

Risk revisited: What six months of remote working reveals about our vulnerabilities

Kate Went
Kate Went
Digital Transformation

As remote working became commonplace and kitchen tables were transformed into offices, organisations quickly learned the strengths and weaknesses of their systems and security.

The hypothetical scenarios laid out in business continuity plans were happening for real and businesses scrambled to get to grips with the new digital world of work.

Six months on from our first conversation, I caught up with Matt Fooks, Modern Workplace Architect at technology company boxxe, to see what’s changed. Has the digital playing field levelled? Is spyware really the answer to productivity? And where should companies be investing in 2021?

It’s been six months since we last spoke. What changes have you seen in terms of cyber security and attitudes towards risk?

There was a big relaxation of policies at first. Organisations had to open themselves up to new systems and ways of working they just wouldn’t have embraced before.

Platforms such as WhatsApp helped bridge the gap and kept people updated with critical Covid-19 news. But security concerns meant they were never going to be a long-term fix. A lot of businesses were able to take advantage of free six-month licences of products such as Teams and Slack.

But as these licences end and businesses realise they’re in the remote working slog for the long haul, there’s a lot of internal reflection happening around reintroducing boundaries, governance and tightening up what was previously relaxed.

"That door has been kicked wide open now. There isn’t a need to convince organisations of the benefits of digital platforms anymore."

What are the conversations you're having with clients now compared to the start of lockdown?

There’s been a shift away from immediate quick fixes to longer term solutions. There are still companies behind the curve on that journey though. For example, some who furloughed large numbers of employees are only now looking into whether they have enough devices for their people.

In a lot of organisations, senior leadership teams are having difficult discussions about their physical workplaces. As priorities have shifted, so have our tech needs. With platforms like Teams providing so much in one package, a lot of clients are asking whether they even need traditional telephony systemsanymore. It’s a huge shakeup.

Pre-Covid, my role always involved laying a fair amount of groundwork to explain what a modern workplace was; what platforms like Teams did and why they were useful.

That door has been kicked wide open now. There isn’t a need to convince organisations of the benefits of digital platforms anymore.

Is the digital playing field across different industries levelling?

To a certain extent, yes. There were always organisations that were way ahead in their attitudes to technology and digital collaboration, and those who were slower to adapt. That gap has started to close this year.

Sectors such as retail and hospitality have had to be incredibly agile and what they’ve learned in this time will likely spill over into other industries. But for large government organisations, where it’s traditionally always more complicated to roll out new technologies, innovation has still moved at a slower pace.

"I’m horrified when I read articles about organisations installing spyware to monitor their employees’ productivity."

Have attitudes towards enterprise social networks (ESNs) changed?

Uncertainty always held people back from investing in ESNs. Were people really going to use them? In the digital experiment of 2020, we’ve seen an ESN go from something that’s nice to have, to an essential line of communication.

I’m horrified when I read articles about organisations installing spyware to monitor their employees’ productivity. These businesses would be better off building environments that facilitate collaboration, create a sense of community and fuel belonging and participation.

As we continue to lean on technology more, we need to make it a little more human. If we’re going to carry on working remotely, there needs to be a balance. I’m pleased to see new tools rolling out that build breaks into people’s working day to combat the back-to-back working pattern a lot of us have fallen into.

What should organisations should be investing in over the next 12 months?

The platforms we’re using are broadening their reporting. The data we capture now, such as Workplace analytics, can tell us a lot about how these tools are being used, including the what might still be needed to help our people thrive in a digital space. These insights are important to factor into the decisions organisations make in the coming months.

Organisations need to put security at the heart of everything they do. We’ll still need the freedom to work from any place, at any time. Whatever solutions you use to achieve that, there must be procedures in place to protect data and users.

Cyber threats are only going to increase as we continue to work in ways that expose us to risk. It’s a collective effort between IT and the wider business to choose the right systems, roll them out robustly and help everyone play their part in staying safe.

Our thanks to Matt Fooks for sharing his insights. IT in the shadowlands and nine other key workplace topics for leaders and employers, can be found in our 2020 World Changers report.

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