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By Tony Wills, Country Director, Document Solutions, Canon UK & Ireland

Over the past 18 months, people have transformed their homes into offices. As restrictions lift around the world, many are looking forward to returning to a real office space. However, professionals have become used to a certain level of flexibility. In fact, according to Growmotely, 97 per cent of employees don’t want to return to the office full-time. IT professionals need to prepare now for the flexible work lives that employees will expect and demand post-pandemic – from utilising cloud for collaboration between colleagues, through to implementing robust cybersecurity practices.

Boundaries have expanded, and as employees seamlessly move across workspaces, we need to ensure the standards of high quality remote working solutions are maintained in the agile working era.

As the office and domestic workplace co-exist, we can’t risk giving workers an “either-or” proposition on security, hardware repairs, ease of information and quick printing. Truly agile working means that the technology quality we have in the office, is mirrored at home or in any working environment.  

The cloud is your strongest weapon 

For those that have been able to work from home, the cloud has provided the backbone. Multi-cloud systems spanning on-premise, off-premise, private and public, will be the infrastructure underpinning the agile future.  

We’ve witnessed the power of the cloud during the last year – it’s brought employees closer, helping to maintain a strong company culture, and built efficient workflows, with quality and quantity of work output remaining consistent. Embracing the cloud’s anywhere operations and collaboration tools ensures that information is democratised, and teams can collaborate effectively using all available tools from video conferencing to shared drives. 

Don’t neglect your hardware

Workflow and collaboration tools are vital, but it is also very important not to neglect access to suitable hardware. Interestingly, 38% of British office workers missed a printer the most whilst working remotely. Printers are critical for many professionals – lawyers, architects, educators and publishers, the list goes on. In order for a device to be easy to use, it has to be reliable, offer double-sided printing and be smartphone ready. And, most crucially for hybrid working – it has to be cloud ready. 

Cloud-enabled digital workflow solutions are essential. In fact, there are times where remote workers need to print to a device at the office for others to collect – however requiring home users to dial the company VPN to reach on-premise printers can disrupt efficient workflows. A cloud server is needed to keep data secure, as it can trace all print jobs. 

A hybrid cybersecurity elixir doesn’t exist 

Undoubtedly, the most critical and intricate challenge of the hybrid working future is cybersecurity. The scattered workforce has encouraged cybercriminals to see organisations as a series of individuals – easier to attack than a single unit.  In fact, cybercrime has seen a 600% uptick due to the pandemic, according to PurpleSec. A strong security system could now need to encompass potentially hundreds of devices and networks. This means that businesses have to diversify how they keep critical data safe. A multifaceted armour is vital, and it needs to combine VPNs, a zero-trust architecture, updated antivirus software and tracking software.  

Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to breach even the most robust systems. While IT departments have been able to look after employees with remote screen sharing and video calls, thoroughly shielding employees’ devices from harm requires more than just installing the correct software. Employers should empower their remote workforce by investing in cyber education workshops. Ultimately, businesses need to make sure that they are offering the same level of support to office workers, remote workers and those who move between environments.  

A unique digital roof

To support our new way of life and work, IT systems need to evolve as well. If implemented correctly, digital transformation leads to better productivity, collaboration, and very importantly, employee satisfaction. To enter the post-lockdown world with confidence and agility, businesses need to start investing in their digital roof right away. Any ‘either-or’ propositions on IT standards need to be discarded. No matter the work location, an organisation has to sit under a unique digital roof, and it has to be a robust one. 

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