With Corona, a hybrid working world is emerging that poses far-reaching challenges for companies. How can communication technology be adapted to digitalised workplaces? What security aspects need to be taken into account?
Productive work, independent of space and time - what sounded like dreams of the future in many companies before the pandemic has now become reality in many places in a relatively short time. And it turns out that thanks to various digital tools, mobile working - whether in the home office or elsewhere - works better than many would have imagined a few years ago.
Nevertheless, the majority of employees do not want to completely miss out on being present in the office, especially because otherwise social contacts with colleagues would come up short, as 74 per cent of those surveyed stated according to a study by the health insurance company DAK. So what is often desired is not "remote only", but rather a mixture of office work and home office.
"New normal" means: flexibility and autonomy
According to a recent survey by the ZEW economic research institute, many companies are planning hybrid working concepts. According to the survey, companies are particularly looking at models in which one to three days of home office per week is the norm. The course is also currently being set anew with regard to the working rhythm - driven in particular by the wishes of young talents.
As a result of the developments described above, conversion work in many office buildings is currently in full swing. Spaces are increasingly being planned as meeting places that promote personal exchange within the workforce. Individual offices or workstations are being reduced, open spaces and desk sharing are the new reality. There is a need for places for creative collaboration and team meetings, while at the same time there must be retreats for concentrated work.
The future of work is hybrid
The current challenge for companies is not only to set up new company regulations for their employees and to create the necessary premises. The technological work tools such as laptops, tablet computers, desktop and mobile phones as well as the associated software must also meet the new framework conditions. Because if the users are permanently on the move with their work equipment and thus turn formerly pure office workers into so-called "roaming users", employers must make the arrangements so that they can decide for themselves at any time, depending on situational preferences, which work location and which tools they want to use at what time. In order for flexible and autonomous working in the "New Normal" to be a success, in addition to the functional aspects of the work tools, it is crucial that sensitivity to aspects of IT security is high at all times. Because the number of points of attack for cyber criminals is growing enormously due to decentralised working. This means that in addition to the IT systems within the company headquarters, it is also important to secure the solutions used in the home office as well as the connections between the systems. The German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) recently pointed out that only 38 per cent of companies centrally manage the security of mobile devices connected to the company network.
Modern communication technology: What is important?
Here it offers a significant advantage if employees are equipped with devices that are used exclusively for business purposes. At the very least, however, private devices should be registered and subjected to regular security checks. It is also important to realise that in times of IP telephony, the PBX is also a central element of IT. After all, employees today expect more than ever to be able to communicate anytime and anywhere. In addition to desktop phones and smartphones, this increasingly involves softphone solutions that can be used on different devices.
Roaming user concepts are needed
Nowadays, using different workplaces and devices should no longer mean that user profiles or telephone numbers have to be changed at the drop of a hat. Employees should be available under the same number regardless of location. And not only that: personal configurations, call and contact lists follow the roaming user, no matter which device he or she uses for work. Reliable and fast synchronisation of the different channels is the prerequisite for efficient and smooth implementation of hybrid workplace concepts.
ICT solutions that make it possible to assign extensions to a device-independent user profile, which is stored on the server and secured via specific log-in data, can help here. The individual features of the connection are available on various devices - including the saved settings and contact lists.
Security and convenience must go hand in hand
In view of the generally growing threat of cyber attacks and the simultaneously increased attack surface in the context of hybrid working environments, the security of the technologies used is an essential success factor. For example, telephone calls should be encrypted on the basis of the TLS and SRTP protocols.
Likewise, it significantly increases the security standard if the telephone system and the end devices mutually identify themselves by certificate and exchange encrypted configuration parameters. In the new world of work, it must be a matter of course that data carriers are encrypted and that work is done in secure VPN networks. Likewise, multi-factor authentication and the segmentation and protection of networks should be carried out.
In the past years of the pandemic, many employers have learned to trust their employees more and to give them more control over work locations and hours. The initial fear that productivity would suffer from decentralised working has turned out to be unfounded in most cases. At the same time, it has been shown that it is possible to securely integrate virtual users who frequently change work locations and devices into the company's workflows, as long as the right tools are used. Now it is up to employers to anchor the new normal organisationally and to ensure that their own workforce enjoys the new flexibility and autonomy on a permanent basis. This can create a win-win situation of improved work-life balance and increased productivity that benefits both sides. (mb)