- The rise of hybrid work has brought with it a host of issues organizations have not dealt with before, and technology is quickly advancing in key areas to address these issues.
- Virtual private networks and security software are among the solutions developed to protect organizations from security threats on outside hardware and connections.
- Hybrid work has created jurisdictional issues which organizations must be aware of; solutions which ensure valid taxation and immigration compliance are necessary for the abroad employee.
- Communication and productivity within a global team must be as cohesive and malleable as in a physical office.
Digital Solutions in Legal Operations
In our previous article, Hybrid Work and Knowledge Management, we discussed hybrid work and knowledge management, and the issues which have arisen from advancement in these areas. Now that they have been identified, we must uncover how technology addresses the issues, and recognize which of those issues apply to your organization. The final step, to be discussed in a latter article, will be the implementation of those solutions into your organization.
For now, let’s start at the beginning – how does technology address the issues raised from hybrid work?
How does technology address security threats which stem from Hybrid Work?
Work at the office, or on-site, is done on a secure system. Remote work, of course, disrupts this control. The question becomes, how can a secure system be replicated in a non-secure environment?
Traditionally, organizations tried to answer this question and manage security through company-supplied laptops and phones. The organization can control how these are accessed and used, and can limit their functionality. When the hardware is the property of the organization, administrative roles can be established, standardized uses enforced, and restrictions implemented.
However, these portable workstations are extremely costly to maintain. An alternative solution lies in Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). VPNs have been around for a long time but became much more popular with the trend of allowing employees to use their own equipment. When connecting through local or personal internet, the VPN creates a secure connection which mimics the end user’s workstation. This mimicked workstation can be physically on the company premises or exist virtually on the company’s infrastructure. This allows for the organization to restrict access to applications and websites and grants an element of control to the business.
Organizations can also enforce or restrict software installation, either on personal or office-supplied computers. This software can offer virus detection or identify inappropriate behaviour. It can also include an automated “kill switch” if something suspicious is detected. There is software which can monitor, control, and report on usage and access, and some software can even enforce the use of a webcam, track eye-movement, record the screen, and measure keyboard usage. While these solutions can be negatively received (they can be overly invasive), they can also be the perfect solution for a specific business.
Physical protection (webcam covers, glare guards) can also answer security concerns arising from hybrid work, but this ultimately falls on the employee to behave appropriately, and not on technology to enforce. We will discuss this further in a future article.
How does technology address jurisdictional restrictions which stem from Hybrid Work?
Remote work allows for users to perform their duties in areas and jurisdictions beyond their own, or outside of the organization. While this is beneficial for the user, there are ramifications which must be considered; tax implications and labour laws must be adhered to, for example. To stay on top of this, the business must be aware of where the individuals are located. Policies and processes which tracks employee locations are effective for this, but technological solutions are also progressing. Providers like Topia deliver reporting and analytics on employee locations with the specific goal of solving tax issues and ensuring immigration compliance.
Hybrid work also allows for recruitment and hiring outside of your organization’s geographic area. As discussed above, remote access and VPNs allow for these users to do the work, but restrictions around teamwork and collaboration become a discussion point. Services like Microsoft Teams, various video conferencing solutions, and software like Miro help address these restrictions. These solutions have existed for quite a while but are today more relevant than ever. They are consistently improving, becoming more user friendly and effective, and so identifying which is right for your organization requires a strong and thorough comparative analysis.
The metaverse also warrants some discussion. While this technology is quite new, there is a lot of excitement around the possibilities it represents. This virtual universe will maintain consistency and remain persistent, something which could become more and more powerful in the future. While today, this might not be the direction your organization moving in, keep an eye on it for tomorrow!
How does technology address communication & productivity issues which stem from Hybrid Work?
As mentioned above, services like Microsoft Teams, various video conferencing solutions, and software like Miro help address these communication and productivity issues. But these tools only provide a means of communicating, and do not address some more overarching concerns. Communication restrictions from language barriers, time zones, and scheduling also require distinct solutions.
Because people can work from home, calls across time zones are more acceptable (people would rather take a 10:00 PM call at home, when facing a 12-hour time difference, than be in the office until 10:00 PM). Shared calendars and schedules are also critical for organizing internal meetings, but this requires consistent infrastructure across offices around the globe, or software which communicates between each area’s distinct solutions.
Connectivity can also be an issue. Today, everything relies on internet access – ensuring the proper reliability and power for your organization is critical. When users in the USA or Canada are working with users in China, lag and connectivity issues can become very problematic. Advancements in internet access are something to consider for your organization. Solutions like Starlink (satellite internet) seem likely to solve issues in locations which struggle with connectivity, but this is not globally accessible today.
So, how do we implement?
We have identified several technological solutions to various problems which have arisen because of hybrid work, but that is only half the battle. How do we know which of these are right for our organization, and once we identify the right solution, how are we going to implement it? Stay tuned for our next article, in which we will discuss the realization of the solution into your organization! Until then, let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to check out our Blog for other articles on Legal Operations!