Everything You Need to Know about Today and Tomorrow’s Office Network

IT decision-makers must ensure their networks can support employees in and out of the office – and with uninterrupted, reliable connectivity. Here are three areas to consider when determining how this can best be done.

Hybrid work
(Credit: tilialucida / Alamy Stock Photo)

The workplace is in a period of immense transformation, with return-to-office (RTO) and hybrid models bringing a new demand for tools that help people work from anywhere, any time. More than ever, organizations rely on new technologies and applications to support a variety of workplace scenarios. These fundamental changes have brought networking and IT needs to the forefront for business leaders, especially with how far tech has advanced in the last few years. Leaders now recognize that IT and networking departments are as critical as traditional business departments, like sales or marketing, to keep the organization moving forward instead of a reactive function as they've been viewed in the past.

In today’s ever-evolving workplace, IT decision-makers must ensure their respective networks can support employees in and out of the office – and with uninterrupted, reliable connectivity. Here are three areas to consider when determining how this can best be done.

In-Office Success

For those returning to the office, this may be the first time that a majority of employees are under one roof since before the pandemic. Likely, networks haven’t been used or tested for this capacity in some time, which means IT teams need to prepare for this influx. Assess your current network, determine what has changed since your last update, and make the appropriate adjustments. Your space may need a few new Wi-Fi access points or an entire upgrade. Ultimately, slow or patchy connections while working in the office are not tolerable, so this assessment needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Further, the latest devices like cell phones and laptops that employees bring into the office have adopted Wi-Fi 6E, and some have even started to implement the new Wi-Fi 7 standard - with more to come. For a business, this means that network infrastructure may need to evolve to meet their staff where they are today. Setting up a network that can handle the capacity of these devices without slowing them down is key. This way, work outputs and productivity aren't impacted by employees' connection while working from the office.

Continued Remote Support

Organizations must be prepared for the flexible, sometimes remote, ways employees work. While an IT team has control over the networking setup in the office, employees could have any range of connectivity at home. This is why they need to be nimble and provide the tools for employees to be successful. Many businesses provide a company-owned laptop that is properly configured for any environment outside of the office, but consider taking this a step further. Providing networking equipment or establishing networking standards for remote employees will help create the same or similar work experience as in the office. This includes not only network access but performance and security. Finally, ensure your company is securely set up on the cloud, too, so employees can access their files from anywhere in a safe environment.

It should also be kept in mind that a business may have remote employees working on any given day and, therefore, have the proper setup to seamlessly facilitate work between in-office and offsite employees. Many offices have already been redesigned away from big boardroom-type investments to ensure that every meeting room is fully equipped for both in-person and remote participants to easily communicate during meetings. This can include teleconferencing capabilities and even broadcast to ensure that meetings or events held onsite at the office are just as meaningful for the remote employees who are joining.

Security No Matter What

Security has never been more critical. On any given day, it’s hard for CIOs to know where any given person on their staff could be - in the office, at home, in a coworking space, or traveling, to name a few. A VPN is no longer enough: companies need consistent security regardless of the location of their employees. If they haven’t already, a zero-trust policy should be put in place and regularly refreshed for new and existing staff - this is often the greatest, lowest-cost defense for a business. For additional layers of security, ways to implement Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) should be explored, plus integration of databases into ‘master data pools’ across hybrid cloud environments. While there are some significant challenges, such as lack of expertise and cost concerns, especially for smaller firms, security must be prioritized. Consider a network tool that can provide built-in security options, like SSO, two-factor authentication, and more.

Businesses need to be adaptable to withstand today’s shifting workforce. Whether owners are asking their employees to fully return to the office, maintain a hybrid approach, or continue with a fully remote environment, the business should be prepared to accommodate any of these situations without disrupting their daily experience.

About the Author(s)

Richard Jonker, Vice President of Commercial Business Development, NETGEAR

Richard Jonker currently serves as NETGEAR’s Vice President of Commercial Business Development, AV-over-IP, APAC & EMEA. Jonker is a seasoned international executive with 25+ years of global sales- and general management experience in the tech sector. His well-rounded background, coupled with NETGEAR’s near 30 years of pioneering network experience, are a perfect match to support the IT needs of businesses everywhere.

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