Empower collaboration without risking security

Creating an IT stack that lets your hybrid workforce collaborate effectively and securely from any device, anywhere.

REPORT | 4m read
December 21, 2021

For decades, IT teams were treated by their organizations as a utility — a peripheral function that focused on keeping the lights on, but didn't contribute to business success. And while IT has played an increasingly central role in recent years, the transitions to remote and hybrid work have made it the key enabler of business. From check-ins with managers to brainstorming sessions, all the modes of collaboration that make a modern hybrid enterprise tick now depend on technology that not only “works right,” but works well.

The evolution of IT's importance to enterprise health is especially evident in the latest Pulse research survey, where IT leaders predict that the ability to empower distributed collaboration will have the biggest impact on employee productivity and experience over the next five years. Enabling individual focus was a close second, revealing the significance of balancing group and individual needs. And according to The Era Hyper-Innovation report by Fieldwork, distributed collaboration has had major payoffs for innovation, too.

But while distributed collaboration tools can help take employee productivity and innovation to new heights in a hybrid work world, they’ve also created what may be security’s biggest challenge yet: a fundamental shift — or perhaps more accurately, disappearance — of the traditional security perimeter. To secure a workforce that moves between the home, the office, and so-called “third places” like coffee shops, it’s clear that employers need to overhaul their security protocols. But they also need to ensure that more passwords, more places to sign in, and more security tools don’t make it harder for employees to do their jobs.

Savvy leaders have realized that the choice between effective distributed collaboration and effective security is a false one. As they enter 2022, these leaders are discovering that with the right technologies — supported by the right polices — distributed collaboration and strong security protocols can coexist, and even reinforce each other.

40%

of IT leaders ranked distributed collaboration as IT’s most critical function for employee experience and productivity over the next 5 years.

Choosing digital collaboration tools that work for all

When it comes to hybrid work, tools like collaborative work management software, e-signature software, virtual meeting apps, and real-time file-sharing and collaboration platforms are more critical than ever. But with so many options, and so many employee and security needs, Pulse data shows that IT leaders are struggling to decide which tools to pick.

The key to giving employees what they need to collaborate, while ensuring that all access points remain secure? Choose tools that can integrate with one another and flex for different use cases, so IT has less to manage from a security standpoint. Add-on features and customizations make it simple to tailor a single tool to different teams, roles, and individuals. Look at for tools that offer automated customization as well, which can lighten the load on IT even more.

The top security concerns of 2022 — and the best solutions for addressing them

Of course, shoring up security isn’t just about streamlining your tools — it’s also about understanding the major threats and choosing the right solutions. Ransomware attacks are top of mind for IT leaders, with some 40 percent reporting these are their biggest security concern going into 2022, followed by insider threats at 18 percent.

Still, today’s leaders are optimistic about the future. Nearly 80 percent of the business leaders surveyed in Fieldwork by Citrix’s “The state of security in a hybrid work world” view this moment as an opportunity to rethink their long-term information security strategy. For forward-thinking IT teams, 2022 will be about finding the solutions that can address ransomware attacks and other major risks while still allowing flexible work and always-on availability.

One of the most critical of these solutions is zero-trust network access (ZTNA). Also called perimeter-less security, ZTNA allows employees to quickly and safely access all private corporate applications from anywhere through a single access point, while simplifying management for IT on the backend. Unlike VPNs, which grant secure access to the entire company network, ZTNA grants contextual access to specific services or applications — a must in a world where many devices and apps are accessed off-network.

While ZTNA can create the foundation for a secure hybrid workforce, there are a host of other security solutions that can augment its capabilities. Understandably, you may be wondering how to prioritize your investment — and you’re not alone. One of IT leaders’ highest security priorities right now is managing the pace of digital acceleration with cybersecurity investment, Pulse researchers found.

Exploring your options is a good first step, but it should be paired with performing regular cybersecurity assessments that examine risks and employee experience. Because effective security is critical to survival, but to thrive in the year ahead, you must unlock productivity and innovation through seamless security.

The #1 security concern for IT leaders today is ransomware attacks

The top 6 workplace policies to prevent a two-tier workforce

While business leaders are optimistic about hybrid work, a fear looms: the emergence of a two-tiered workforce, in which in remote employees effectively become second-class citizens.

Location-based favoritism, also known as proximity bias, can undermine distributed collaboration and security in one fell swoop, no matter how strong you IT stack is. That’s because proximity bias can leave remote employees out of impromptu brainstorming sessions, inadvertently silence them in meetings, and limit their access to certain tools — leading them to find unsecured workarounds.

To prevent this outcome, consider enacting these HR and IT policies at your organization to address proximity bias head-on:

  1. Run hybrid meetings virtually. If one person is remote, everyone should dial in from their device to maintain an even playing field.
  2. Go completely digital. For hybrid teams, all work should happen in the digital space. Impromptu in-person meetings that can substantially change the team’s work are a no-go.
  3. Conduct regular IT audits to ensure parity between the remote and in-office experience. Using surveys, focus groups, and IT tickets, identify where tech is falling short. Then create an action plan.
  4. Create performance metrics based on outcomes, not visibility. This will help reduce the power of proximity bias when evaluating employees for assignments, promotions, and bonuses.
  5. Ensure all employees get equal time with managers. Whether meetings with employees are planned or ad-hoc, managers should keep track of them to make sure remote employees are getting just as much attention as those in the office.
  6. Create bonding experiences accessible to all. Talk with your employees to figure out how they want to build stronger relationships with co-workers. You might create virtual “break rooms,” or work with employees to form virtual interest groups.

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75%

of business leaders are worried that hybrid working will create a 'two-tier' workforce, with those in the office more privileged than those at home.

REPORT

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