The pandemic has changed where we work and how we work— and it’s reinforced the need for robust security to protect remote teams, says Jamf CEO Dean Hager.

The big move out

Hager’s company began working remotely over a year ago in response to the pandemic. In 24 hours, the firm’s entire global team switched to working from home. As a tech-focused company, Jamf experienced little business disruption during the  transition. To some extent, this was because the company chose to follow best-practice advice for remote working:

  • Make use of off-premises cloud infrastructure where possible.
  • Migrate all communications from fixed line to mobile and video conferencing.
  • Use the latest technologies — in Jamf’s case (as in 23% of US industry) that meant Macs and iPhones.

“My advice to companies who were not ready to go remote a year ago would be to implement these practices now, because remote work is here to stay,” said Hager.

This doesn’t mean remote will completely replace traditional workplaces. The future workplace will be a hybrid workspace, said.

“Most organizations will still have facilities. Telecommuting [100%] of the time won’t become the norm. However, surveys show that most employees want to telecommute part time.”

The hybrid workplace will require managementto  adjust to new ways of measuring performance, which will challenge some autocratic, traditional managers. “In a lot of ways, it’s going to be more disruptive than when we went all remote,” said Brian Kropp, Gartner vice president research. Ford, Microsoft, Citigroup, and even Apple seem to be preparing for these hybrid work environments.

Merely because the transition may be challenging, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be embraced. Meeting these changed expectations will be as critical as providing employees with device and platform choice, training, and opportunities for career development. This future will rely on hybrid meeting rooms, remote collaboration and project management tools.

Provision and support of these environments will become an HR issue, supported by zero-touch remote IT and equipment deployment support, as used at HSBC.

PwC has found that fewer than 20% of executives say they want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic. “Over half of employees (55%) would prefer to be remote at least three days a week once pandemic concerns recede,” the PwC US Remote Survey claims.

“Jamf has adapted to this reality,” said Hager.

“We have already announced to our employees that our facilities going forward will be a service we provide employees, not an expectation of them. In other words, both our facilities and our user technology eco-system are an employee benefit.”

Securing the distributed enterprise

The move to remote means remote workers are more responsible for security than ever before. The Jamf CEO notes this, and warns:

“Awareness is key. Most modern attacks, especially on the Apple platform, require user interaction in order to be successful. Just as credit card users are often asked to remain vigilant in fraud detection by spotting suspicious activity, each employee should consider themselves an extension of the security function of the organization.”

It isn’t just an employee problem, employers must also embrace the issue. Organizations need to ensure they provide remote workers with the right resources to protect themselves and accept that security should also encompass resilience and crisis planning.

“Just like with credit card fraud, when mistakes are made, organizations should have solutions and processes in place to limit the damage that can be done from a single compromised endpoint or user identity,” said Hager.

Given his company’s focus on supporting the use of Apple products in the enterprise, it’s of little surprise that Jamf continues to improve its security offerings for IT. “From identity, compliance, application lifecycle management, to malware prevention, we continuously invest in the Apple Enterprise Management platform, providing capabilities that protect people, processes, and data,” he said.

The company recently supported HSBC in empowering its employees to work remotely.

[Also read: 200+ Apple WFH tips: 2020 edition]

We’ve reached a point where the remote-work requirements have accelerated many existing digital transformation trends, from cloud service adoption to BYOD and beyond.

“User identities, their devices, and the corporate data and services to which they connect are quickly becoming the new ‘network,'” says Hager. Software that identifies the individual and ensures the computer is safe and compliant is the new security perimeter. These focus areas for IT and security are here to stay, especially as 2020 proved that many industries can not only survive but thrive with remote work. Offices are viewed now as a service to employees rather than a requirement.

“Apple has done a great job of innovating in the areas of security and privacy for their devices and services, but you can look back and find plenty of evidence that more secure has never meant immune. As the Apple platform becomes more popular and prevalent in the enterprise, attackers are more incentivized to target Apple devices and users. While not a challenge to the crown, users should recognize that their security consciousness does, and always has, complemented the security of the platform — especially now more than ever.”

The challenges of remote working

Hager also has solid advice for companies attempting to improve their support for remote employees. The pandemic imposed huge stresses on everyone, as well as low-level fear of infection; employees grappled with loneliness, isolation, depression, childcare responsibilities, and in many cases, bereavement.

Jamf offered its employees additional leave to help deal with such emergencies and invested in mental health and other personal support resources across its global employee base. It also put personalized flexible work schedules in place to help employees balance personal and work needs and provided financial support to improve home offices.

“We continue to offer this stipend for new employees onboarding remotely,” he said. “We expect more and more companies will invest resources in the employees’ technology as opposed to their on-site facilities. After all, the technology experience is becoming the employee experience.”

The company’s employee-focused approach to the transition seems to have been effective. In the last year, the company was certified as a “Great Place to Work” with 96% of its employees saying they are proud to do so, far ahead of most US firms.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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