Many weeks have passed since organizations around the globe closed their physical doors and transitioned to full-scale remote work. This ‘new normal,’ as many are calling it now, has brought upon countless changes for IT teams, from managing fully disparate teams to providing all employees with access to the tools they need to perform their jobs remotely – all while ensuring the company’s assets remain protected.
When this global shift took place, many organizations weren’t ready for such an impactful event and had to face increasing challenges that most never thought possible. After several weeks of navigating these unprecedented times, several key lessons have emerged.
Remote Work: The Challenges and Learnings
As the transition to remote work commenced, one big question arose - how to keep business running smoothly? This question demonstrated the need for a business continuity plan, the first and most important lesson of all. There are critical steps to keep operations running when a crisis hits an organization – whether a natural disaster or a temporary disruption in a specific region. However, given the size of the disruption faced with COVID-19, many businesses realized they weren’t ready to execute these changes easily.
Many struggled to equip employees with the technology they need to do their jobs from afar and had to quickly develop a ‘zero-touch device delivery’ plan. IT teams had to revisit their compliance and security policies reacting to the new challenges, threats and simply to respond to a whole new way of working. And, while collaboration tools have proved to keep teams connected, many had to spend precious time implementing these tools and onboarding staff. Weeks into this transition, those with comprehensive business continuity plans have seen the benefits of having this guidance in place, and those who did not have learned that this is a critical tool to have for their organization moving forward.
As new remote work technology implementations took shape and many more employees began working from home, capacity and scalability tested companies even further. Network traffic increased exponentially. At LogMeIn alone, remote access solutions saw a 300 percent increase in use, video conferencing and meetings usage spiked 10x over 2020 norms, and remote support usage is surging 50 percent week over week. IT teams had to escalate their real-time monitoring in order to manage capacity, bandwidth and drive resources where needed. This spike in usage has created a new baseline for companies’ capacity and bandwidth and has caused many companies to advance their technologies faster to keep up with this new normal for demand.
New remote workers also introduced new vulnerabilities, not only because of new devices and networks accessing company data, but also because of increasing threats. Phishing attacks have skyrocketed with a 350 percent increase since the beginning of the year. The potential impact on credentials and sensitive information has now become palpable. As a result, IT and security teams have had to balance their regular processes like ensuring up-to-date firewalls or deploying the latest patches, with more intensive threat reporting and behavior and network activity monitoring, being extra conscious of the significant role ‘shadow IT’ plays in this new normal.
Additionally, many have had to create or increase current training programs to encourage ‘cyber smart’ behavior and password hygiene, as well as implementing and deploying new systems including multi-factor authentication (MFA) or password managers that would help protect employee and company data.
As we moved into what is arguably the largest experiment in full-scale remote work in modern history, leaders didn’t anticipate how much management systems and communication would change. Management had to modify how some of the most important in-person meetings would take place from afar by setting up “virtual war rooms.” What were once siloed departments before COVID-19, have been forced to collaborate more. Virtual coordination between IT, Security, HR, and Business Operations has been key to achieving business continuity.
Finally, the importance of communication cannot be overstated. Adaptation has played an important role on this front, from keeping constant and open communication between leaders to formulate a plan for the business, to communicating with all employees to keep them informed about the company’s next steps and to keep morale high.
What Lies Ahead
We are past the first wave of issues and challenges the full-scale remote workforce presented. We have learned a great deal about how resilient companies are to big disruptive events such as this one, what they excelled at, what the lacked and how they actually respond to the new needs of their employees and the business.
With no set end date for the pandemic, we will see new challenges arise. Organizations will need to starting thinking about their new normal and remember what they have learned from this remote work transition and use those lessons to their advantage. What changes will they keep in place? What processes did they not have, that will need to be refined. From access to critical resources for remote workers and a security architecture that addresses the new normal, IT teams will need to ensure their environments remain agile as we continue to navigate these uncertain times.