Skip to main content

Come back better: The hardware priorities for business leaders on the return to the office

(Image credit: Image Credit: Coffee / Pixabay)

Despite the large number of changes and transitions all businesses have made over the past months, there is one aspect of working life that is key. Businesses have maintained their reliance on technology solutions to stay connected with employees, colleagues and customers throughout the global pandemic, and have been working to maintain productivity as best they can.

Understandably, during the crisis, the focus has been on implementing the right technology to enable employees to work from home. Platforms such as Zoom saw an incredible rise in users during the early phases of lockdown around the world, for example. Though now that restrictions are beginning to ease, business leaders are starting to plan their return to near-normality.

Of course, front-and-center of these plans is to ensure that workspaces are safe places to be and that social distancing guidelines are being met - though attention should also turn to ensuring that the technology hardware available enables us to keep every office functioning, and help to build a “new normal” working environment at the same time.

With time to take stock of the hardware currently used and their security provisions, Chris Wood at Sharp UK shares his perspectives on the priority areas business leaders should be considering as we all aim to come back better after lockdown.

Visual solutions to enhance meeting spaces

It is almost impossible to imagine right now, but soon groups of people will be able to be in the same room again for meetings. Now is the ideal time to consider the meeting spaces in your office, and how they can be optimized with the most appropriate visual solutions to support team collaboration and presentation that includes both office based and remote colleagues.

It is important to ensure that the most suitable technology takes priority, not only for the space, but for the people who are to use it. Bigger is not necessarily better, and over complicated technology has the potential to create anxiety and resistance among employees. Consulting the key users within the business can help guide your decisions here, ensuring that the right technology is introduced to the space that will be easy for employees to use. 

Features included in Sharp’s Windows collaboration display, for example, is certified to deliver interactive and collaborative virtual video meetings using Microsoft Skype for Business and Teams, but can also help to monitor the temperature, air quality, humidity, occupancy and ambient light in the space it is operating in. It’s this kind of environment management that will be a staple of future offices, and now is an opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

Printers to support the information exchange

While businesses are rightly concerned about the environmental impact of printing excessively, investing in an energy efficient printer is another way to contribute to this while also allowing necessary documents to be handled on paper.

Printers are also one of devices taking on a new lease of life in the connected Internet of Things (IoT) office, but with these new applications comes a greater security risk. Sharp recently released research that found over half (54 percent) of SMBs in the UK are exposing themselves to a serious data breach because they are not adequately protecting their office printers. Despite latest analyst reports suggesting that print-related data loss costs larger businesses an average of £313,000 a year, the threat posed to a network by connected printers and MFPs is still being overlooked by businesses across the UK.

While businesses are increasingly looking to source these connected MFPs from their IT suppliers, there is an opportunity here to gain a more unified approach to infrastructure security too. Receiving security services from hardware suppliers is much simpler, and business owners will feel safer knowing that suppliers already have the expertise and technology to protect them.

Secure devices to protect customer and company data

Business owners are duty-bound to ensure all their hardware, customer data, and digital assets are safe. We know that cyber-crime is an immediate threat to businesses of all shapes and sizes, and this was particularly prevalent in Q1 2020 – the number of attacks on businesses increased by 30 percent in Q1 compared with the same period last year. With that in mind, the time is now for business owners to recognize this threat and take proactive steps to build a strong defense.

Today, there are many entry points into a business’s infrastructure that hackers can exploit, and unfortunately, most of these routes are almost impossible to track. This isn’t just an issue for software programs, but also for internet connected hardware as the IoT office becomes commonplace.

The modern IoT office, while bringing an array of new opportunities in intelligent management and streamlined working terms, also poses significant security risks for business owners. From computers to printers and televisions to telephones, as we adopt more sophisticated connected technologies, we also increase the number of potential weak spots, all of which can be exploited.

There are many ways in which SMBs are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and this list of weak spots will grow as more office devices become integrated and connected. The IoT office is now a reality, and the potential routes for attack will only increase. 

The change we expect to see over the next few years is the realization that connected devices require just as much protection as computers. Business owners will see that not all cyber-security incidents can be prevented by simply asking employees to avoid dodgy links in spam emails. Instead, any connected device is being acknowledged as a potential weak spot. We see this as a great opportunity for hardware suppliers to offer peace of mind, and become more relied upon than before.

As we all return to the office from lockdown, it is a perfect moment to resolve to cover all potential avenues where businesses could be vulnerable to hacks. This includes any device that connects to the internet, so prioritizing a supplier who offers robust IT security with its devices should be top of the list when back in the office.

Chris Wood, Business Unit Director, Visual Solutions, Sharp UK

Chris is the CTO of Spicy Mango, an expert media technology consulting and software delivery organisation. His career began when the worlds of IT and video were yet to merge. He has played a pivotal role in the early adoption of ABR technologies to drive OTT delivery worldwide through senior roles at organisations such as ITV, Inlet Technologies, Cisco Systems and Ericsson.