We’re heading back to the office!!
It won’t happen overnight – but the signs are increasingly positive that we are on our way back. Some companies, like Cisco and Google, have begun encouraging a phased return to the office, once the situation permits. Personally, I can’t wait to be in the same physical space as my colleagues, as well as meeting our customers face-to-face.
Like most of you, I desire the flexibility to choose where I work. Based on our recent global workforce survey, only 9% expect to be in the office 100% of the time. That means IT will need to deliver a consistently secure and engaging experience across both in-office and remote work environments.
Networking teams need to prepare for the hybrid workplace.
Some people tend to be more prepared than others. Personally, I like to err on the side of being over-prepared. Most network professionals I know are of a similar mindset. So, what does that mean when it comes to the return to the office?
- Employee concerns: From our global workplace survey we learned that 95% of workers are uncomfortable about that return due to fears of contracting COVID-19. Leading the concerns at 64% is not wanting to touch shared office devices, closely followed by concerns over riding in a crowded elevator (62%), and sharing a desk (61%).
- Business concerns: While businesses need to provide safe and secure work environments, requiring new efforts and solutions, they must also try to mitigate costs and capture savings. One primary approach is by using office space more efficiently. Our survey results show that 53% are already looking at options to reduce office space, while 96% indicate they need intelligent workplace technology to improve work environments
Where to start your return to the office
So, what’s on your mind as we head back to the office? According to IDC, the biggest permanent networking changes you are making resulting from COVID are the integration of networking and security management (32%); improved support for remote workers (30%); and improved network automation, visibility, and analytics (28%). So how can you address these priorities as we head back to the office?
Trusted Workplace Networking:
If your car had been sitting unused in the driveway for a year, the first thing you’d do is get it serviced. Likewise, your campus and branch networks need to be put through their paces. Utilization is minimal right now, so it is a great time to see what improvements can be made.
- Reimagine Connections: Digital business begins with connectivity, so you can’t take it for granted. You can start by making sure your wired and wireless network can support an imminent return to work. With hybrid work, everyone will have video to the desktop. Will your network performance deliver the experience users love? And make sure it is set up to enhance your employees’ safety and work experience with social density and proximity monitoring, workspace efficiency, and smart building IoT requirements.
- Reinforce Security: This is the time to automate security policy management, micro-segmentation, and zero-trust access so that any device or user is automatically authenticated and authorized access only to those resources it’s approved for.
- Redefine IT Experience: Make it easy on your team and your business. With automation and AI-enabled analytics technologies, AIOps is now a reality for network operations too. All the tools are available to achieve pre-emptive troubleshooting and remediation from “user/device-to-application” – wherever either is located.
Here are some valuable tips from our Cisco networking team that are making the necessary preparations for our own Cisco campuses.
Secure Remote Workforce Networking:
According to our survey, 58% of workers will continue to work from home at least 8 days a month. That means that you need to continue investing efforts in optimizing the experience for those workers. Many of them are still complaining that their work experience is not optimal. According to IDC, 55% of work from home users complain of multiple problems a week, while 50% complain of problems with audio on video conferences.
- Work from Home: Deliver plug-and-play provisioning and policy automation that allows your remote employees to easily and securely connect to the corporate network without setting up a VPN.
- Home Office: For those that want to turn their home network into a “branch of one” you can create a zero-trust fabric with end-to-end segmentation and always-on network connectivity that provides an enhanced multicloud application experience.
Secure Access to Cloud and SaaS Applications:
The evolution to a hybrid workforce, together with the accelerated move to the cloud and edge applications, has led to the perfect storm that demands a new approach for IT to deliver a secure user experience regardless of where users and applications are located. This new approach is being offered by a combination of SD-WAN and cloud security technologies that have been termed Secure Access Service Edge or SASE. It’s estimated that 40% of enterprises will have explicit strategies to adopt SASE by 2024
- SD-WAN: Out of the multiple ways to get started with adopting a full SASE architecture – I would propose that SD-WAN is a wise choice. It offers a secure, mature and efficient way to access both SaaS and IaaS environments, with multiple deployment and security options.
- SASE: Evolving to a full SASE architecture combines networking and security functions in the cloud to deliver secure access to applications, anywhere users work. In addition to SD-WAN, SASE includes security services like firewall as a service, secure web gateways (SWG), cloud access security brokers (CASB), ad zero trust network access (ZTNA).
So, here’s wishing us all a safe and successful return to the office – supported by a network that is designed to take into consideration the new realities. I look forward to learning about your experiences in preparing your network for the return to the office, store, clinic, or whatever else you call your second home.
 IDC: Enterprise Networking New Normal Survey, Dec 2020
 Gartner, The Future of Network Security Is in the Cloud, August 2019
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