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Your new hybrid workforce

Here are six key steps to ensure that your workers are happy and productive without compromising data protection.

At the beginning of the pandemic, companies moved with lightning speed to set up their employees with the tech necessary to get their jobs done. During the months that followed, employees settled into their new workspaces and learned to navigate online meetings, virtual collaboration, and time management. They also had to deal with an increase in phishing attacks and malware.

The key to success for smaller organizations (and larger ones) is the ability to manage hardware and security remotely.

What Employees Can Do

Password maintenance. Employees need to update their passwords frequently. Ensure employees are on a regular, aggressive password refresh schedule: If they don't change their passwords by the deadline, they'll lose access and need to call for tech help. That small inconvenience will help underscore the importance of taking action early.

Be alert. Phishing scams can seem legitimate. Staff members should be trained to identify deceptive emails, which often contain malicious links and attachments. 

What Employers Should Do

Provide Virtual Private Network (VPN) access. A VPN secures an organization when employees are logging in remotely, especially if they're using the public internet or weakly secured Wi-Fi connections. Without a VPN, confidential data in the company's central database is at risk as hackers can intercept data mid-stream. VPNs use strong encryption to create a connection between workers and a secure corporate network. (Dell offers individual and multi-seat licenses of the SonicWALL VPN.)

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and require strong passwords. Weak passwords open the door to hackers. MFA requires users to provide at least two pieces of evidence to confirm their identities, in order to gain access to an app or digital resource. Those pieces of evidence can be something the user knows (an additional question or password), has (a token or code sent to a phone), or is (a fingerprint, for example).

Implement access control. It's critical to track employee access to company information and resources. Using role-based access control provides access to specific users based on their responsibilities and authority levels within the company. Role-based restrictions lessen the risk that human error might undercut your well thought-out cybersecurity measures.

Offer regular training. Sometimes companies suffer attacks from vengeful employees, but far more often, carelessness is the culprit. Employees may compromise systems and data by not using a secure connection to download confidential files; forgetting to lock a computer screen when working in a public place; or responding to a phishing email that installs malware on their devices. In addition, employers should be clear about which apps and programs are acceptable and which are not. Most companies will want to encourage or require secure online storage, for example, and not rely on employees' personal Dropbox or Google Drive accounts. Regular training encourages employees to be more mindful of security and to incorporate those practices into their everyday routines.

Invest in new equipment. Updated equipment will have the features required to work efficiently and will support greater productivity in general. For example, video conferencing requires a high-resolution web camera, a microphone, and fast computer processing (CPU). They'll also have more standardized remote management support and updated security capabilities. (Hackers make a habit of exploiting older, outdated software and hardware, so regular refreshes are a must.)

Deploy network monitoring systems. These software and hardware tools can track various features of a network and its operation, including traffic, bandwidth utilization, and uptime. They detect all devices that connect (or try to connect) to the network, provide status updates, and issue alerts when there's anomalous behavior.

Hybrid here to stay

Studies have found that, on average, hybrid work environments are successful for businesses and their workers. Employees are generally productive while working remotely, so many companies are planning to continue allowing that type of flexibility as part of employees' regular schedules. In addition, employees report being happier with the ability to work remotely in some capacity.

Employee happiness is increasingly important to companies. The labor shortage that many employers are now facing is requiring businesses to market themselves to potential and current employees. There are many job openings and relatively few qualified candidates; competition for skilled employees is fierce.  Job seekers surveyed by IWG research said that, when choosing between similar employment offers, they would select the one offering flexible working options.

Retention is also a concern. A survey by Owl Labs reported that remote workers are more likely than office workers to plan to stay in their jobs for the next five years. A vast majority of full-time workers  -- 70% -- worked remotely during the pandemic, and 80% said that once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and a more "back to normal" routine is re-established, they expect to work from home at least three days per week.

With some careful planning and the help of remote management technology, you can reap the benefits of higher morale and productivity without compromising security. 

Not sure how to get started? Reach out to a Dell Small Business Advisor for guidance tailored to your specific needs.