As we hopefully continue to head towards some form of normality there is much talk about people returning to the office and what the future will look like in terms of working practices. The media is scattered with many conflicting stories with some commentators predicting a full return to the office and some saying that virtual working is here to stay.
Somewhere in the middle of the extremes seems to be where the consensus is. Most organisations and the people who work for them have embraced virtual working and what seems to be the way of the future is what is being defined as ‘hybrid working.’
Hybrid Working is where people have the flexibility to work from both home or the office. Many organisations are saying that their people have the choice and they will place trust in them to come to the office when there is value in doing so and to work from home when this makes sense.
Whatever the route taken, the only certainty is that your office environment will change. With few people in the office, there is an opportunity to reduce office space, however, with flexible working there is also a need to create a flexible workspace. This raises many questions about the impact on the wired and wireless local area network and this is causing a whole new set of anxieties about returning to work. Here are just some of things you need to consider:
We Will Become More Dependent on Wireless
As we adapt our workplace to cater for hybrid working, it will be less about fixed desks for employees and more about flexible workspaces and hot desks. This will drive a greater dependency on the wireless network with less static workstations wired into our network and more laptops connecting wirelessly from flexible locations. It is essential that organisations ensure that their wireless network has the capacity to support this.
Redesigned Workspaces Require Realigned Access Points
It is a common oversight that organisations reconfigure their office space but forget about their network. Turning work areas into meeting rooms or meeting rooms into banks of hot desks can have a significant impact on both the coverage and the performance of your wireless network. When reconfiguring the office space, it is essential that organisations assess their wireless coverage and where necessary, reposition access points to take into account new locations and requirements.
Understanding The Demands of New Ways of Working
During our periods in lockdown there has been an exponential rise in the use of video calls. It is now commonplace to spend a high proportion of our day on Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams. This is unlikely to change as virtual working will mean even when people are in the office, there will be people they need to collaborate with that are not.
Not only will this drive the new office layout with more huddle rooms or specific pods for video meetings, it is also set to increase the workload of the LAN. As people return to work, organisations need to fully assess the ‘new’ demands on their network and take the appropriate action to ensure that requirements are met.
More BYOD, Increased Security Risk
Home working has created an increase in the number of end-user owned devices being used for work purposes. Workers have turned to the tablet devices and smartphones to attend meetings and access email and this is unlikely to change when they return to the office. What this means is more devices connecting to your network and an increased attack surface that you need to address.
It will be key that you monitor your network usage as people return to the office, identify any areas of potential vulnerability and address these through secure gateways and access management.
Different Demands On Your WAN
It is likely that the move to hybrid working will accelerate your migration to cloud. It is also likely that you will be making changes in the number of locations you support, whether that means closing locations or decentralising into more regional locations. All of these factors combined with the need to support home workers is changing the demand and requirements of your wide area network.
You are likely to be paying for bandwidth to some locations that is no longer required, where other locations are struggling to cope. You may be still backhauling all traffic to a central location, when the majority of this traffic is destined for the cloud. Assessing your WAN usage and planning future requirements is essential to ensure that moving forward this is not only fit for purpose but is appropriately optimised.At NAK, we specialise in secure networking and are helping our clients to reassess their LAN and WAN infrastructures to ensure these are aligned to the needs of hybrid working.
If you would like to discuss any of the challenges raised in this blog, we would be more than happy to connect you with one of our specialists. You can contact the team on 0300 456 0471 or email us at email@example.com.