By: James Bristow, SVP EMEA, Cradlepoint
The evolution of the workplace has been rapidly accelerated by the pandemic, making the once distant idea of a flexible workplace an almost universal reality in under two years. Now with the world reopening, many businesses are reassessing their work from home policies in the long-term. Technology companies have been hitting the headlines taking various approaches to remote working, with varying reaction to their new strategies. Though “work from home” guidance has officially ended, people in the UK are making the most of the continuing flexibility by interpreting “work from home” to mean “work from anywhere”.
Transformation of the workplace
The workplace evolution in the last few years has seen organisations jump on trends such as hot desking and co-working spaces. Now, responsible companies understand that unlocking a successful workplace strategy means listening to what their employees want. Before the pandemic hit, “work from anywhere” typically referred to those with a nomadic lifestyle; tanned millennials working multi-hyphen careers from a Balinese beach. But now that millions of workers have proven they can work from home productively for more than a year, many are considering taking advantage of their employers’ more liberal remote working policies and choosing to work in other locations too. A recent Cradlepoint study of 2,000 UK adults revealed that a third (33%) of workers would consider using holiday destinations as “work from anywhere hubs” as COVID-19 has changed the world of flexible working for good. This rose to nearly half of Gen Z and millennial respondents (47% and 45% respectively).
The need for universal connectivity
For millions of people in lockdown, connectivity became the crucial issue in their day-to-day lives. The pandemic increasingly highlighted the need for high-performance broadband in the home and the drastic need for new solutions. With the expectations and demands for ubiquitous connectivity suddenly apparent, the need for enterprise-grade, secure, reliable, high-bandwidth, and easy-to-deploy work from home router was highlighted. Businesses needed to find solutions that could provide a dedicated network and enable their IT teams to centrally manage Wide Area Network (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN) connectivity, cybersecurity measures, and applications. And this demand for IT controlled networks does not go away just because employees are working from home or on the road.
The new normal and a new approach: working from anywhere
Enabling employees to work from anywhere requires organisations to consider the knock-on impacts for their business carefully. This includes having the right technology, solutions and policies in place to support their workers with secure, reliable, managed, and compliant networks that provide enterprise-grade connectivity.
In short, this means creating a “work from anywhere strategy” which considers productivity, data security, administration of end user devices, network communications and cloud infrastructure. Crucially, IT teams need to be safe in the knowledge that their network solutions:
- Can be deployed to new locations quickly: The pandemic has highlighted the need to be agile and fast and network solutions should be the same: easily adaptable and quick to deploy and set up.
- Can be managed at scale: The strategy needs to enable the IT team to centrally control network security, availability, management, device access, and traffic usage — wherever the employees are working from. With the network edge expanding, it’s crucial for IT to be able to manage the new network edge at scale.
- Provide enterprise grade connectivity: There’s not just a need for ubiquitous connectivity but quality connectivity so employees can do their jobs efficiently. With more and more time spend on Zoom and Teams calls and accessing Microsoft 365 office applications, ensure a reliable use and a quality experience of critical business application is essential.
- Maintains a secure posture: Security must be integrated into the expansion of the WAN edge to work from anywhere employees and their networks to protect sensitive data. This includes support for network access control, corporate VPN connectivity, direct internet access, IPS/IDS, and web content filter with IP reputation.
Why Wireless WAN?
Though wireless LAN is a familiar term, enterprises must now adopt the concept of Wireless WAN to keep up with the workplace evolution. Using cellular wireless networks have been proved to be ideal for connecting critical assets in places wires cannot go, like vehicles, field forces, and remote kiosks. However, today’s cellular networks are more pervasive than ever and getting faster with the deployment of Gigabit LTE and 5G. At the same time, flat-rate pricing is eliminating overage anxiety. These realities highlight Wireless WAN as a reliable solution and making wireless the preferred dedicated broadband connectivity for work from home, branches, stores, holiday parks, and other fixed sites — the last exclusive domain of wired networks. With this new demand for work from anywhere connectivity, Wireless WAN enables a flexible and unified approach to connecting people from wherever they work.
The need for flexibility and connectivity is not going anywhere, even after COVID restrictions have been eased. In fact, Gartner projects 40% of organisations will use ‘anywhere operations’ by the end of 2023 to enhance customer and employee experience. Businesses of all kinds need to find realistic and secure solutions to provide their employees with what they desire in terms of working locations. And those solutions must combine reach, reliability and IT manageability with greater simplicity, agility, and security, in order to ensure that the home office delivers the same corporate environment as the traditional business office.
James Bristow is the SVP EMEA of Cradlepoint
Cradlepoint is the global leader in cloud-delivered 4G and 5G wireless network edge solutions