20-Minute Tech Talk:

Technical and Security Challenges of Hybrid Workers

Watch our recorded webinar below and learn solutions to overcome the technical and security challenges of hybrid workers. Spend 20 minutes with us and we’ll offer some possible solutions to overcome these challenges and answer any questions you may have about moving forward long-term with a hybrid work environment.

Watch the replay here:

Complete transcript below:

Good afternoon everyone. It is 12:10 pm and we’re going to get started. Thank you for joining me today. I am Cathy Coloff from IT Radix and we are going to talk a little bit about the hybrid work place, some of the technical and maybe not so technical challenges, and security challenges that we’ve seen over the past year. If you have any questions throughout you can ask them in the chat or if you want to ask it interactively just raise your hand and we’ll unmute your phone. With that, I will get started.

The Hybrid Work Model is Here to Stay

So obviously the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way most folks are doing business and working. Hybrid is basically here to stay, and most businesses need to figure out what they’re going to do to ensure that the physical, the digital, and the culture are all blended together so they can continue to be productive creative, and innovative in the future, and basically figure out how to make this hybrid stuff work permanently. So, with that I am going to jump to the next thing.


Phone Calls and VoIP
Folks are getting inundated now with the various technologies that are out there and the methodologies to communicate. One of the things that I am constantly amazed at and some of the folks here at IT Radix have commented on is now if you call a business, it’s 50/50 and maybe even less if you’re actually going to get a person on the phone because many businesses haven’t necessarily thought through their phone service. Their Voice over IP or basic phone service and they’re routing calls to an individual employee’s cell phones. They don’t have the phone infrastructure in place and one tip is that if you haven’t already looked at some kind of hosted VoIP solution or VoIP phone service, you can do that and it makes switching back and forth from an office or working remotely seamless. The person on the other end really has no idea where you are, and it makes the hybrid environment really work. Today, obviously, we’re using the video. There’s a lot more video chat and things of that nature out there.
Email Explosion
The big one is that the email completely exploded. Everything from the amount of email everyone is just inundated with even more email than before. Some of it is how people are communicating because they may be working late at night or they’re working first thing in the morning, so they fire off an email, whereas normally if we had been going to an office, they would communicate during the normal business hours. The other thing that we’re seeing is the amount of phishing emails that come through has just exponentially increased. What you want to make sure is that you’re educating your team on what a phishing email looks like, what to do if they think if they’re not sure, and things of that nature.
Messaging Mahem
Last but not least, people are just getting inundated with chats, instant messaging, text messages, and so forth and so on. One of the things that you really want to make sure you’re doing is building in breaks throughout your day so that you can get a break from all these digital communications.

Is Innovation and Creativity Diminished?

But one of the things they also have been studying is that during this pandemic and the shift where people are disparate is that some of the innovation and the creativity in these disparate locations has actually diminished. One of the challenges that’s not necessarily a technology challenge or security challenge that businesses are facing is how to ensure that their creativity, their productivity, and their innovation inside of their organization continues to occur even though everybody is working in a hybrid environment. The other thing that they’ve shown with some of the studies is that your tight-knit immediate colleagues are working better, but your close-knit networks are kind of falling apart, and the communications is really going down and that’s the part of what’s driving that reduction in the innovation decrease.

Conducting Effective Meetings

One of the things we’re getting a lot more questions about is how to have effective meetings where some folks are in the room and some folks aren’t. So obviously the main piece of advice is to make sure you’re designing for the folks that aren’t in the room. We’re seeing a lot of intelligent cameras being deployed. We actually have one here. It’s a little alley and it sits on the middle of the desk. It follows and it rotates around the room and follows the conversation. The image on the right is actually sort of a Microsoft depiction of what they think an effective meeting room should look like. You’ll notice that they’ve got the Teams on the left. They’ve got the white board which is built into Teams. You can easily share that and put that up on the screen. They’ve got the chat on the right, and then of course, down on the bottom. They’ve got sort of that together mode so you can simulate everybody being in the room.

The other thing I encourage you to take advantage of is some of these inclusive features so if somebody has a hearing or other type of disability, turning on the live captions (they just launched live transcription in meetings). What you can do inside of the meeting is turn on the live transcription. I love this feature, so if you’re speaking you don’t have to worry about scribbling down all your notes anymore. It will transcribe live who is speaking. It actually designates who said what and then it does a bang-up job of translating the words into the audio typed out text which you can download after the meeting and kept.

I encourage you to use the interactive features in there like raising your hand or the reactions they have built in to raising your hand while keeping an eye on it and looking for raising your hand in the middle of a meeting so the folks that aren’t in the room are able to engage in the conversation without necessarily having to cut in on people. I know I’m a little notorious for sort of butting in on conversations when the other person on the other end of the of the line was speaking. It was on a speaker phone so there was no way for me to kind of insert myself into the conversation and they were going on for a while. If I tried to raise my hand but they were looking at it on a cell phone—super small, really hard to see. So, as you’re thinking about these meanings, you need to think about how they’re interacting in terms of what you don’t know, what they have on their end in terms of what they’re looking and how they’re viewing things, and then of course, to have the chat going so you can chat during the middle of the meeting, and things of that nature.

Zoom supports these kinds of meeting platforms out there. Teams has all of these built into them as well. Many of our clients have Teams, so I encourage you to check these things out.

Switching Back and Forth from Hybrid to Working Onsite

All right the next thing is, does this look like you when you do come to the office or maybe first thing in the morning? Is the frustration of you jumping back and forth from being in the office to working remotely, back and forth? All of a sudden, do you look like this monster? Is it bringing out this monster in you?

One of the things that we’re getting phone calls about is people trying to get up and working quickly. They come into the office, they want to sit down and get to work but now they got to plug in all these cables and get on the internal Wi Fi, things of that nature. The technology of just the hooking up of things and getting connected and getting up and running quickly whether they’re at home or at work has become a challenge for some users. Some users handle it just fine, others not. Ergonomics is another big one. I was looking at a meeting the other day. You could tell that a bunch of these folks are going to end up calling their chiropractor because they’re looking down at the little, teeny laptop monitor. You really need to get folks set up whether they’re at home or in the office so they’re able to work ergonomically and comfortably because it will take the toll on folks again. This is not a technical challenge, this is not a security challenge, other than from a technology standpoint making sure you have some ability to set them up so that they could see their monitor and work on their keyboards and so forth without any issue. Sound has become an issue with the hybrid workforce because a lot of folks are moving to no longer using desk phones and they’re using earbuds and headsets. This one is a pretty high-quality headset; it has noise cancelling built in so if somebody’s talking around me in the room, I was actually playing music and holding my cell phone up to it earlier prior to the call. Folks could barely hear it. So, you want something that’s going to cancel out that background noise. We’re finding this to be a little bit of a problem for us here because some earbuds are more sensitive than others and they’re picking up the other conversations in the room around us. So, investing in a good quality headset is a great thing from a technology standpoint.

Working Outside 9-5?

Back to that getting up working quickly. Folks are working different hours now. They’re working at night, they’re working in the mornings and not necessarily able to just pick up the phone and call. They’re having trouble getting logged in and things like VPN or their password resets, so there are technology solutions. Out there that can help with self-service password and things like that, but you want to make sure you’ve layered on the appropriate security. Features on top of that like MFA with multi-factor authentication, things of that nature. And of course, we’re always here if you want to call us. So many people sometimes have multiple machines. I’m one of those. I have a desktop that I use in the office and then when I’m remote, I like to use my laptop. I prefer my big desktop in the office and what I’m finding is that sometimes just something as simple as I scribbled a note on my desk on a piece of paper on my desk I left it behind at the desk and it’s not at the house so I would encourage you to take advantage of things like OneNote which is inside of Office 365 so that when you’re taking notes it’s instantly synced up to the Cloud. You can absolutely use the note taking inside of Teams. If you’re in a meeting, a Team’s meeting, you’ll notice that it has a little option up there on the channel that says meeting notes. Take advantage of those online meeting notes and I mentioned the transcription as well just because those are cloud-based so it doesn’t matter physically where you are, you’ve always got that note with you.

Going Digital

The last thing I wanted to mention a little bit about is going digital. One of the things we are seeing is that people are printing less but they still need to print. Printing at home or printing from home to the office has become a challenge for some of our clients. There are technology solutions out there that can allow you to do that through VPN or some sort of internet-based printing. The other big one that I’ve seen is a lot of people, and because scanning is no longer convenient, not everybody has a scanner at home. A lot of them are taking pictures on their cell phones and using their cell phone as sort of a cheap scanner. I have some concerns about that because now you’ve got sensitive documents that you’ve potentially taken a photo of and it’s on your cell phone. You don’t know who’s going to have access to that and those things, so coming up with some technology solutions that work in a hybrid environment from a scanning standpoint are some challenges that we’re seeing clients facing.

Embrace Zero Trust Security

Lastly, next zero trust, this is a big one from a security standpoint. On the left is sort of the old model of how people worked, and you know we have some clients that have always been virtual, but their old model was that you were in the office and then you would build a little wall or a firewall around your network and that was your perimeter. It was relatively straightforward what you needed to protect, but now what we’ve done with this hybrid world is you just blow that wall up, the perimeter is gone, and what you have to protect has expanded exponentially because it’s not just the office anymore, it’s now potentially the person’s home network or wherever they’re working remotely.

Of course, we’re looking at enhanced endpoint security solutions that we’re rolling out to different clients. In particular, that is a Zero Trust type of approach, which means that you authorize only certain things to run and if it’s not on that list that’s being authorized then they have to request permission and access. To do that, you want to manage every device that has access to any type of corporate resource. It could be a cell phone, it could be a tablet, or it could be a workstation, and there are solutions whether you could put on cell phones or tablets to help manage and ensure. The security is that you want to draw a line between the person’s personal information and the corporate information so that you’re not inadvertently either breaking compliance or exposing potentially things to things like ransomware and things of that nature.

Managing Your Identity

Identity management has become a big thing as well. Just making sure because it’s really hard to know. I mean at this point, you may not have ever met that person; you may not know the voice. There are technology solutions that are coming out to help with managing your identity and the passwords. For example, there are single sign-on solutions, so you only have to log into one technology and then it logs you into all the others so there are less passwords. But on the flip side, you still have passwords you have to keep track. We are strongly encouraging folks to move towards a cloud-based password management system so that no matter where they are they have those passwords but they’re secure with people working from home. You want to make sure that they’re checking periodically their home networks to make sure that they’re buttoned up and secure. Don’t let them leave, for example, their home routers and equipment the passwords to be the defaults that come out of the box. In our experience, MFA is still one of the best ways to keep the bad guys out of whatever system is that they’re trying to access because you have to have the userid, the password, and then that second level of authentication which most commonly for most of our clients is a cell phone or some kind of a token device.

Least Privilege: A Need-to-Know Basis

This last bullet here is about the least privilege. This is something that I also think we need to sort of change our mindset. Most business owners or businesses in our experience start out fairly freewheeling. They are up and running quickly, they’ll create a shared area that everybody has access to and they really need to start thinking about how can we break up and sandbox the information so only the people that need to see particular types of information are able to get in and have the appropriate permissions the reason why you want to do this is, God forbid, somebody in your organization gets breached or has some sort of an incident. This breadth of what they’re able to see is what potentially could be exposed. So, if you tighten down what they can see, your risk vector and what they can see goes down as well. I love the fact that we’re very trusting individuals, but we need to flip that around and don’t trust quite so much and work towards this least privilege.

Ongoing Monitoring and Auditing

Last but not least, I just want to talk a little bit about monitoring and verifying. We are seeing compliance reasons that more and more of our clients are being required to log and verify. You know, revisit and go back and audit what’s going on in their environment. It used to be that there weren’t a lot of solutions out there that were cost effective for the small- to medium-business space. That has changed during Covid. Those solutions are now coming out, and they are more cost effective and allow you to be compliant. So, keep in mind, I think most businesses think, “Oh, it’ll never happen to me.” In my opinion, it’s not if it’s going to happen to you but it’s more of when it’s going to happen to you.

That’s a Wrap!

All right, so I’m going to pause here and see if there’s any questions, but I went through this fairly fast which is what we try to do here. But again, the focus is really to get people, get the technology, and the security tightened up so that they’re able to work effectively in this new hybrid world that I believe is here to stay. All right, any questions? We’re good? All right. Well, thank you so much. We are going to send out a survey and would love some feedback on what you thought of this or other topics that you’d like to see in the future. Thanks again, Cathy from IT Radix… have a good day!