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Which tech learnings should we keep from lockdown?

(Image credit: Shutterstock / GoodStudio)

At the beginning of the year, who would have thought it was possible to transition an entire company to work remotely? We now know this is not only possible, but effective. The UK government is even exploring whether the right to work from home could be enshrined in law, so staff can continue operating remotely after lockdown.

While many businesses are contemplating how a return to the office might look, remote working will no doubt become commonplace. There are many tech learnings from lockdown that could benefit both businesses and employees once factored into future working practices.

Doing remote working right

While lockdown has shown we can stay productive when working remotely, it has also been a steep learning curve. Our research among UK workers revealed that many have been struggling to maintain a work-life balance during lockdown with the proliferation of communications apps and the need to use personal devices and apps for work. This has meant many have struggled to separate work and personal life, which could have long-term impacts on mental health.

If the first phase of remote working was about keeping employees productive, in the second, longer term phase we’ll see businesses turning to dedicated business communication and collaboration solutions. This will help staff stay connected, minimising the need to manage multiple communications channels.

Making secure video conferencing the norm

The uptake in video conferencing has been enormous and, when we do return to normal, this experience has shown us that we don’t always need to travel for face-to-face meetings. This could mean fewer flights or driving to meetings, a reduction in carbon emissions, as well as saving time and travel costs.

However, as the usage of video conferencing platforms has exploded, cyberattacks have also been on the rise, highlighting the need for a secure video platform when collaborating with others.

This means checking your video conferencing provider passes a few basic security checks. Firstly, video calls should be password protected, with users having to create a strong password to use the software – instead of requiring a combination of letters, capital letters and numbers, consider full phrases for additional security. There should also be a comprehensive privacy policy in place and end-to-end encryption for all communication is essential.

Being prepared for future business continuity threats

This crisis has taught us that anything can happen - and IT teams are seeing their continuity plans tested by the reality of the current situation.

Now the initial transition is over, it is time for businesses to ask themselves: did our continuity plan work? Use this time to document and review what you have in place and what was effective.

Ask employees for feedback to get insights on day-to-day usage. Consider analysing the business metrics that determine productivity in your organisation to gather data on the effectiveness of IT systems in place. For example, have sales figures increased? Have engineering teams still been able to develop code? Have customer support agents maintained call volumes or customer satisfaction metrics?

Once you have the data, use this to consider how your support systems have performed. Would you change anything? Now that you’ve put your plans into practice, have some systems been more valuable than you had previously thought? Which tools are you using most, and which might be redundant?

Use this opportunity to review the systems you have in place to make sure they are fit for purpose. While legacy systems may be functional in the short term, longer term they become unfit for use due to their dependency on remote VPNs and datacenters, whose capacity can’t keep up with demand. However, cloud-based solutions are designed for use in a remote distributed model and have inherent security features built into their service offering. As normality returns, consider switching to a cloud-based solution that can offer this continuity in future.

The last few months have been a steep learning curve for both IT and business leaders, as well as workers across the world. Let’s make sure these lessons aren’t forgotten when life eventually returns to normal.

Morgan Watts is Head of IT at 8x8