Sascha Giese, Head Geek™at SolarWinds, discusses how organisations can support the ever-increasing mobile workforce in the public sector
Over five million people work in the U.K. public sector, representing over 16% of all people in paid work, according to government figures. And across the working population, mobile working is a reality of daily life for many of us. A report from Deloitte revealed of the 32.3 million people in work in the U.K., the majority (51%) spend some time away from a fixed location in the course of their work. Add to this the impact of flexible working, which is most common in the public sector, and we find ourselves living in a culture where the option to be a mobile worker is key.
Major technology developments are also broadening the ability of people to work remotely using their mobile devices. Take the arrival of 5G in the U.K., for example, which will have a major impact and deliver wireless connectivity up to 100 times faster than any previous network technology. Already, BT, O2, 3, Vodafone, and VOXI have launched 5G services, and it’s available in 22 towns and cities on at least one of those networks.
Juggling priorities in the public sector
As these trends continue to develop, public sector organisations can play an important role in shaping employment habits, such as mobile working. According to the CIPD, “The state continues to have considerable influence as an employer. Public sector workplaces can be a testbed for different working arrangements and their experience can help other employers appreciate the advantages and disadvantages.” Technology plays a central role and gives the public sector the challenge of balancing a range of priorities.
For example, the monitoring, management, and security of all the hardware and software used to deliver remote working has become more complex as the number and variety of devices and access points has increased. Balancing ease of use with security is important, and while cybersecurity is the main priority, end-users want their mobile and remote-working technologies to integrate effectively and perform well. In the end, they want to get their jobs done, and technology should be an enabler, not a frustrating barrier.
Top tips to keep employees moving forward
Among the various ways to balance ease of use with security is to use virtual desktops, a popular and mature technology providing remote access to users as if they were sitting at their office desk. They can be configured to offer the full range of commonly used applications and services and offer a uniform method of delivery, and the system being used to access the network is irrelevant.
Another approach is to implement a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with profiling, which allows users to access network resources with their own device and use their own applications. The profiling element means administrators can ensure key services such as malware protection are installed, the firewall is on, policies are up to date, and the device has all its necessary security updates. This is easier than it used to be, since most tasks are based on web applications, and a browser is all we need.
Looking at the security of mobile and remote devices further, when a user is in the office, it’s easier to deploy security policies against their device, so they can securely use the network in line with IT security policies. Whereas endpoint security used to mean just providing users a firewall and some antivirus software, the rise of malware and other intrusions means endpoint security needs to be more comprehensive.
As a result, modern endpoint protection has progressed to the stage where agents now can contact an organisation’s security management systems, which can be located either on-prem or in a cloud, to get its policies and definitions. This version of protection allows organisations to provide maximum security to users when on-site or working remotely. This can be especially helpful for users who are constantly on the move, as they’ll still receive security updates and configuration as soon as they’re published, while the administrator can, ideally, stay ahead of the game.
The public and private sectors share many of the same challenges in enabling today’s mobile workforce, and the technology-led pace of change across all sectors will increase pressure on employers to deliver the mobility that’s become such a feature of the modern workplace. But moving with the times has been a consistent feature of public sector employment habits over the years, and mobile working can offer another way to balance productivity, efficiency, and a work/life balance.
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