The nature of the workplace has transformed in recent years. This evolution is due to technological advances, among economic disruptions, such as Covid-19. In today’s work, employees have the expectation to work securely from anywhere and on any device. Furthermore, workers today understand the importance of work that enriches and fulfills their lives. For this reason, when the productivity tools they leverage enhance the quality and effectiveness of their work experience, employees are happier, more valuable, and more likely to stay in their roles. It is a company’s responsibility to provide this level of empowerment, while also protecting their IT assets, general infrastructure and security of the business. This blog post is written for CTOs and CIOs managing productivity suites and security tooling within their businesses who are looking to revolutionize their workplace by modernizing it. In this article, I’ll be discussing the importance of a modern workplace for businesses in the current year while answering the question, “What is Microsoft’s Modern Workplace offering?”
The ability for employees to work from anywhere in the world and still be able to communicate and collaborate is more important than ever. In a post COVID-19 world, an increasing amount of organizations are allowing their employees to work remotely. There is also an increasing need for those that travel to be able to continue collaborating with colleagues in the business and accessing information while away. For these reasons, the ability to keep identities, devices, applications and data secure becomes a top priority to businesses of all industries across the globe.
According to the Forbes article, ‘The Coronavirus Pandemic is Driving Huge Growth in Remote Freelance Work’, there has been a 140% growth in remote work with non self–employed workers since 2005. The article also identified a 22% increase in workers that were telecommuting between 2017 and 2018. This increase in remote work is outside of the 2020 global Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic alone drove a three-fold increase in telecommuting.
Studies have forecasted that this increase will continue as businesses determine that they are able to retain employees by offering them a remote work option. Certain studies have shown that retention rates could increase as far as 10% in the current year, saving organizations approximately $11,000 per employee through cost avoidance.
The savings covered above are a clear incentive for organizations like yours to provide remote work services to their employees and provide their IT team with proper governance tooling and best practice guidance that brings value to employees while maintaining the level of security and compliance they require.
Microsoft’s Modern Workplace is a stack of products designed to improve employee productivity and satisfaction by driving seamless communication, ensuring device security and compliance, and generally promoting collaboration within the organization. Within the Modern Workplace offering, Microsoft boasts the inclusion of Microsoft 365, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, which includes a variety of productivity and collaboration tools designed to enable modern ways of working while keeping the organization secure. For example, a Microsoft 365 E3 license would include tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher, Visio (web), Outlook, Teams, OneDrive, Yammer, Viva, and Delve.
In the Forbes article, ‘5 Proven Benefits of Remote Work for Companies’, it was observed that employees who are provided with the opportunity to work remotely have a renewed commitment to their job and a drive to exceed their goals. Thanks to the flexibility of working from home, employees have a renewed passion to perform in their role. At scale, this increases employee productivity of the entire workforce and in turn, benefits the organization. Furthermore, the same article states that employees that are satisfied with their role and committed to their job experience up to 41% less absenteeism.
Providing employees with a flexible and remote workplace can also increase retention. According to a Helppier article, ‘Remote Work and Its Increasing Popularity’, many employees voice that they would be likely to change positions if their role became available with remote flexibility.
These combined benefits to employees equate to better performance, productivity, and engagement which leads to higher profitability for the business.
IT teams looking to modernize their workplace and offer remote flexibility run into three common challenges which can be addressed by Microsoft’s Modern Workplace offering:
Microsoft has put serious thought into its Modern Workplace offerings to directly tackle the above challenges in a seamless and comprehensive way. Below, I will provide insight into how Microsoft offers businesses the ability to create a secure and remote modern workplace.
Microsoft Teams delivers engaging experiences that can help employees work efficiently and stay connected to collaborators wherever they are and on any device. Businesses can think of Microsoft Teams as a teamwork hub that offers meetings and calls. Many customers who were previously leveraging Skype for cross-company communication, have migrated to Teams to take advantage of meeting rooms, telephony offerings, and its document management capabilities.
Meetings within Microsoft Teams offer a high-definition audio and video experience that allows employees to interact and collaborate seamlessly, regardless of their network or device. Teams can be used for one-on-one video calls or larger conference-style meetings. Microsoft also offers Teams Live Events for hosting global live events that can be delivered to thousands of users.
Past the collaboration on files, chat services, and conference calling, Microsoft Teams can also be used to integrate into or replace a traditional phone system. Some businesses may not be comfortable fully moving to Teams as their phone system because of security, or niche technology integration dependencies. For this reason, Microsoft Teams can complement the existing phone system. Microsoft offers a Microsoft Teams Calling Plan which acts as a telephony system directly embedded inside Teams.
An increase in remote workers means a need to deploy secure remote work capabilities to employees. Businesses can look to Microsoft for identity and access management, workplace security, mobile device management, device deployment and management, and help governing their Windows environments. When architecting a secure remote workplace, it should be noted that planning does not end with deployment. There is an ongoing management consideration that comes with running cloud systems. For this reason, it is advised to work with a Modern Workplace Live Services Partner that offers managed services across Azure, Microsoft 365, Windows, etc.
Microsoft also provides the tooling and support needed for identity and access management. For example, Azure Active Directory, multi-factor authentication (MFA), Single sign-on, and the monitoring of conditional access activity and policies can contribute to the identity and access management needed in a remote workplace. Once live, a Modern Workplace Partner can provide managed services to support your business’s identity and access management infrastructure by providing support in creating roles and monitoring activities within the environment. Partners can also help create policies and assign role-based access control to determined apps and services. Azure Active Directory (AAD) Governance can help ensure that the right employees have the right access to the right resources. Additional Enterprise Mobility and Security Features included in Microsoft’s Modern Workplace can help mitigate access risk by protecting, monitoring, and auditing access to critical company assets while ensuring employees stay productive and connected.
Often times, remote work means having to send devices such as laptops, tablets, or cellphones to another state. It can also mean remote onboarding onto devices and applications. Device deployment and management services included in Microsoft’s Modern Workplace stack provide hardware and profile deployment tools like AutoPilot to provide consistent device delivery to employees. A Modern Workplace Partner can help businesses like yours set up the automation of device deployment and through a live services plan, continue to manage them for updates and compliance.
Finally, Microsoft offers tools for mobile device management that aid businesses in monitoring and maintaining organizational device compliance with security controls, patch updates, and the isolation of sensitive apps when employees choose to use their own devices. A Modern Workplace partner can help businesses configure endpoint management as part of device deployment projects and in turn ensure that devices are properly enrolled and compliant.
Now that you’re aware of Microsoft’s Modern Workplace Offerings, you may be curious about how to get started in your implementation of the tools available to you. Microsoft offers a diversity of programs that can help offset the cost of getting started while providing comprehensive and immersive workshops that can help educate your IT team. For example, a Modern Workplace Partner can run you through a ‘Secure Work from Anywhere Workshop’- a two-day engagement that includes:
A Modern Workplace partner can also help you assess a migration strategy, should you currently be working with another tool. Microsoft also offers a program called FastTrack which comes at no additional cost for businesses with eligible subscriptions to Microsoft 365, Azure or Dynamics 365. FastTrack can help businesses migrate to and deploy Microsoft cloud solutions.
In a world where remote work is becoming the new normal, envisioning and realizing a modern workplace should be every business’s top priority. Not only will your organization attract top talent, but you will be able to drive productivity and efficiency while retaining employees. Microsoft’s Modern Workplace suite of products can help businesses create flexible and agile workplaces with the proper tooling and services.
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