The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we look at many different parts of our lives. Working from home was an option rarely applied, but when the pandemic started sweeping the globe, it changed from an option to a necessity in order to keep people safe from the swiftly spreading virus.
This push towards the remote work has changed IT department priorities. It’s not feasible to drive to each employee’s house if something breaks down or starts malfunctioning.
How have IT priorities changed during the work-from-home (WFH) era? Let’s see.
1. Establishing remote workspaces
Creating functional remote workstations was one of the biggest challenges at the beginning of 2020, especially for companies that weren’t already set up to support their teams as they shifted to working from home.
Existing home computers may not have been able to support all the necessary programs to complete their tasks — and sharing program keys for machines outside of the office could be problematic. Around 84% of companies found themselves adopting off-the-shelf solutions to help them keep up with their workloads while keeping everyone safe.
2020 was a massive curveball for everyone, and IT departments that were focused on keeping their in-house equipment running and updated suddenly had to shift to providing tech that allowed their teammates and employees to keep working throughout the pandemic.
2. Deploying robust cybersecurity
Data breaches have become a fact of life in the internet age, but there are steps we can take to make our networks safer. It only takes one backdoor, or, as with the Colonial Pipeline in 2021, an old password sold to the right person, to open the floodgates and shut everything down.
Cybersecurity has always been an IT priority, but the need for comprehensive security protocols increases exponentially when you’re using a bunch of home internet service providers and personal computers and tablets instead of one easy-to-secure in-house network and company-owned workstations.
This has created new challenges for IT professionals as they set up new secure VPNs (virtual private networks) for each person accessing the network from home.
3. Maintaining tech support accessibility
How do you diagnose and fix hardware or software programs when everyone is working from their own living room or kitchen table and visiting anyone outside of your bubble is severely discouraged? Build a toolbox of remote tech support tools, remotely access the problematic laptop or desktop, and do your work from the comfort of your own home.
This isn’t always an option, especially for hardware problems that may require replacement parts, but for most software and many hardware problems — at least on the diagnostic side of things — remotely accessing work on computers is the best option. For other problems, the best option is going to be to work on your instructional skills, because you’ll need to be able to talk the user through the repairs over the phone or through a Zoom call.
4. Anticipating the future
The primary priorities of IT professionals haven’t changed much in the last couple of decades. The goal is always to ensure each piece of equipment is working optimally. But that can be more challenging to do when everyone is working from their own homes.
That’s the only major shift in priorities that you’ll likely see in the information technology sector as we navigate this new normal. Many companies are planning to stay remote, even as the pandemic begins to wane, because it offers more benefits than maintaining often costly office spaces. Anticipating the future and weighing the costs and opportunities of changing business models or workflows will likely remain one of the most enduring lessons of recent global events.
The future of working from home
With the new Delta surge in the second half of 2021, it’s likely that we’ll be working remotely for a while to come. Instead of being caught off-guard like we were at the beginning of 2020, IT professionals have the tools in place to support a growing permanent push toward remote work. The main priorities, such as cybersecurity, will remain the same as we move through the second half of 2021 and into the future.