Our world is still finding ways to lift itself up from the devastating repercussions of the pandemic. Even the corporate domain was severely affected by this unprecedented event, as businesses were forced to alter their ways irrevocably. Global businesses were driven to remote working and compelled to find ways to make it work. Secure and successful implementation of remote working was a challenge by itself. However, as the world gradually heals from the effects of the pandemic, the corporate world continues to prepare itself for the post-pandemic business environment.
From experiencing the shift from rigid on-premise workplaces to operating from extreme remote working environments, the corporate world has seen it all in the last couple of years. As the pandemic gradually becomes a thing of the past, the big question is will businesses ever resume the traditional office culture? One cannot be sure at this stage. Businesses around the world are preparing to step back into the game, however, they cannot expect all of their employees to return to office in the face of the pandemic.
The Hybrid work model is a strategy that appears to be the common answer for transitioning towards normalcy.
What is a Hybrid Work Model?
The Hybrid Work model is a system in which businesses allow a finite percentage of their employees to work from the office, and others from home. There are various ways in which Hybrid working can be deployed by businesses. You either assign a certain percentage of employees to work from the office based on the requirement and the nature of their work, or you can leave the choice of working either from home or from the office to your employees. Either way, a certain percentage of your workforce returns to the office while the rest continues to work from home. You can also fix a few days of the week for your employees to work from the office and the remaining days from home.
You can say that hybrid working is the best of both worlds. However, even though Hybrid working is a step closer to traditional office culture, it still poses certain challenges to the businesses which must be addressed to prevent losses.
What Are the Challenges Faced in a Hybrid Work Model?
Besides the common challenges such as lack of employee engagement and ineffective collaboration between the employees working from home and those working from the office, there are several severe challenges inclined towards security that businesses must be aware of.
Unsecured public networks
Hybrid working means that your employees have to switch between secure business environments and extremely vulnerable home environments, especially when it comes to the networks that they connect their devices to. Employees generally do not have much knowledge of the network security best practices, and accessing corporate servers via such public or improperly secured networks can be a potential source of cybercrimes and phishing attacks.
Unsecure remote access
Having to alternate between working from the office and working from home means that your employees require access to your corporate resources wherever they are. Employees accessing your sensitive business data, especially from their personal devices is a great source of data breaches. Improper handling of the device, weak enterprise policies that fail to secure the data on employees’ devices increase the risk of systems being hacked and confidential data being leaked.
Risk of non-compliance
No matter how careful organizations are in educating their employees and constructing security policies, the manual error factor can never truly be ruled out. Employees working from home or public locations, any place beyond office perimeters are at the risk of knowingly or unknowingly forming security loopholes. Leaving their work devices unattended, browsing malicious websites, inability to detect phishing emails, the possibilities are endless.
Loss or theft of work devices
Most of the remote and hybrid working is dependent on smart devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, which are of a compact and lightweight nature. While this makes mobility really easy, these handy devices are prone to be stolen or misplaced. Employees today have access to all their critical business information on their smart devices. These devices falling in the wrong hands are as good as considering all the business secrets lost.
The proliferation of cloud-based tools and applications has given rise to Shadow IT. Shadow IT is the use of IT systems, applications, devices and networks without the knowledge or approval of your organization’s IT admins. While shadow IT has great potential to improve employee productivity since employees get to use tools of their choice, it also brings about serious security risks of data loss.
How to Implement Efficient Endpoint and Network Security for Your Hybrid Workforce
Enable secure network access
With a Hybrid-work model, you cannot control where your employees work from. On some days they may work from the office, on the other days from the home, cafe or any other location. But what you can control is the security of the network that they access with their work devices. Configuring Virtual Private Network (VPN) or firewalls allow your employees to form a secure and encrypted connection with the corporate network and monitor the incoming traffic onto your network, which reduces the risk of lurking cyber threats.
Enforce strong passcode policies
Password protection acts as the first line of defense for anyone trying to get their hands on your data. Most employees have their devices password-protected, but many of them do not know how to create strong passwords that cannot be deciphered easily. Most employees use the same IDs and passwords for several accounts simply for the ease of remembering them. You can enforce strict Passcode Policies on your employees’ devices, which guides them on the length, strength and complexity that the password must have and also set an ideal frequency to change the passwords periodically to ensure device security.
Implement Zero-Trust policy
Most organizations believe that security threats and data breaches happen only because of external sources. However, data breaches can happen because of employees within the organization clicking on malicious emails or weblinks, connecting to untrusted networks, letting their family members access their work devices or work folders on personal devices, and several such malpractices that may happen knowingly or unknowingly.
Organizations that work on the Zero-Trust policy, enable restricted access to their business resources, applications, networks, devices and trust no one. It involves layers of security configurations including access controls, VPNs, firewalls, multi-factor authentications and much more. The concept is to thoroughly verify the user before granting access. This way, no strangers or lurking cybercriminals can sneak into the confidential networks and data logs.
Automate IT security processes
Every organization’s IT team is responsible for several critical operations, corporate data security being one of them. Implementing tools and platforms that enable your IT admins to automate security processes such as routine patch management, OS and app updates, monitoring security incidents with automated compliance checks, restricting access to malicious websites, configuring policies for controlled web browsing and much more, can go a long way in preventing data leakage. Automating these routine tasks can not only improve the accuracy of security management but also improve your IT efficiency.
The traditional office culture is far from returning back to normal. While the corporate world copes with adjusting to the frequently changing “new normals”, a Hybrid working environment is something that seems achievable, considering organizations implement the right endpoint and network security practices. Mobile Device Management solutions offer all of the above-mentioned security policies which can be configured from a single console and are a promising solution to constructing secure Hybrid work models for your employees.