Why trusted systems and trusted employees are essential in the COVID age

clock • 5 min read

Remote working and online collaboration at scale have kept organisations afloat in the pandemic, alongside mobility and flexible workflows. This much we know.

For those organisations that were well on their journeys into the cloud, the global acceleration of that trend might have been less of a challenge to meet for hard-pressed IT teams. But for others with longstanding technology legacies, the need to set up infrastructures, platforms, and hardware rollouts to cope was thrust upon them.

Computing research shows that 84 percent of organisations have seen a significant ramping-up of remote working over the past year, while a majority have accelerated their cloud plans.

The cultural, managerial, licensing, and security challenges of widening the organisation's perimeter to include home offices and remote workers are set out in our other reports and in this detailed white paper, with research findings. But one factor is most important in each of these contexts: trust.

Trusted systems, trusted employees, and establishing a culture of trust within the enterprise can all be made much easier to achieve by the well-managed application of cloud technologies, but more difficult by applying them in a clumsy, outmoded, tactical way.

As previously reported, outdated managerial styles, ‘presenteeism', micro-management, and clock-watching do not spell ‘trust' to an already stressed and exhausted workforce. Neither do these issues port well into the more flexible, demand-led world that the pandemic has left in its wake - an environment that is in some ways more productive, not less, than commuting and office-based activities.

Worse, they make employees feel as though they are being monitored and surveilled in their own homes as they struggle to balance competing priorities and family commitments. That just isn't appropriate.

It is far better to adopt a more hands-off approach that focuses on outcomes and goals, rather than a legacy ‘bums on seats' attitude. To build and maintain trust, IT leaders should shift to a more output-focused model that demonstrates - and builds - real rapport among their own employees, and in workforces across the enterprise.

Again, these issues have explored in our previous reports and the in-depth white paper. But the conclusion is this: cloud platforms and collaboration tools can be platforms for building trust on all sides, for sharing work, and for bringing teams together.

Those same tools should not be used as blunt instruments that may reinforce any lurking feelings that employees might have of being undervalued or treated with insufficient respect.

Put another way, cloud platforms should be a unifying, not a divisive, force. They are about fostering the concept of colleagues working together towards shared goals, not ‘us - and (an increasingly remote) them'.

But this also demands that organisations make trusted technology choices. While the ability for organisations to scale up and down, collaborate, and - most importantly - do it remotely has been invaluable during the crisis, there have been problems, according to Computing's research.

Some firms hastily grabbed the first solutions that looked feasible - for video collaboration and meetings, for example - often because they were popular with employees. As a result, decision-makers followed the path of least resistance.

Meanwhile, some officially sanctioned solutions were not able to scale up to the required numbers for licensing or internal capacity reasons. Those organisations now have to establish if tools adopted in the heat of the moment, to satisfy a short-term need, are right for them strategically and can integrate with other trusted applications.

Employee behaviours also need to be built on trust, identification, and authentication. This is partly because cybercriminals are exploiting the disruption of lockdowns and current economic restrictions. They are doing so via phishing, fraud, ransomware, malicious code, and social engineering attacks that play on the fears and uncertainties surrounding Covid-19.

Computing found that these problems are rife: 44 percent of the 150 IT leaders questioned in a 2020 survey said they had experienced cyber attacks that directly referenced or exploited fears associated with the virus.

Forty-one percent reported greater susceptibility to cyber attacks as a direct result of increased home working, while over one-third (37 percent) reported a significant increase in the number of attacks.

A knock-on effect of this was cited by 22 percent of respondents: overworked cybersecurity personnel, most of whom are of course working remotely and struggling to support the workforce.

The subtext is clear: knowing who and what to trust - and why - are essential considerations during the pandemic. More, they will continue to be so once the crisis is over, as remote working is likely to remain the norm for many organisations.

The cost and scale benefits alone will demand that at least some employees work remotely some of the time, so trust will remain critical in that environment.

Teaching staff how to spot and counter both external and internal threats to trust and security is key to organisational unity and success, and helps foster the idea that trust needs to be earned on all sides.

Yet trust is also a subtle, interpersonal thing: in the office, it is often much easier to read people's moods and intentions, and to understand the spirit in which things are said. Online and via text and chat, misunderstandings can be rife and it may be harder to gauge someone's meaning or mood.

So it is important for employees, via the tools they use, to adopt trusted behaviours and show mutual respect, always. Trusted systems and trusted employees are essential to making this new, and often confusing, world work for everyone.

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