Hybrid working is here to stay, but is the IT up to speed?

With more employees than ever choosing where they work, the need for PCs fit for purpose has intensified

Sponsored Feature The traditional workplace model, whereby most employees travel daily to a central office location, has changed, possibly forever. The recent pandemic disrupted normal working patterns, and in its wake many people's expectations and attitudes have been altered for good. The very way we think about work has moved on.

A recent survey by Gartner revealed that over two thirds of those who currently work in a conventional office setting would prefer to work remotely, or at least on a more flexible basis that allows them to pivot between office and home as well as pick their own schedule. Meanwhile 97 percent of those who already work on this hybrid basis want to keep it that way, reported Gartner. In an age of talent shortages and heavy competition for the best people, HR chiefs across various sectors, in both large and small organizations, have little choice other than to adapt to these preferences.

The hybrid working model also raises questions for IT departments. The job of an IT decision maker must now embrace providing the best possible support for the organization's remote workforce, whilst also giving them the right tools and technologies they need to work in a distributed and flexible fashion.

"IT departments are grappling with the hybrid work phenomenon and the devices that are needed to enable it," says Bradley Jenkins, UK Client Sales Director for Intel. "The PC is now the office, the thing that enables people to be productive in or out of the office, in fact virtually anywhere."

Secure, hybrid working under investigation

To investigate the challenge further, Intel commissioned Forrester Consulting to examine the role of PC devices in the new and still evolving paradigm of hybrid work, soliciting the views of hundreds of IT decision makers globally.

The COVID-19 outbreak already showed IT professionals that PCs are one of the most critical elements in empowering employees to perform across a variety of locations — at home, in the office, in a coworking space, on the road, or at a client site. Forrester's findings reveal that 85 percent of those surveyed believe that the PCs they buy for their workforce are central to allowing employees to be productive wherever they are. Some 87 percent of IT decision makers said that they now are thinking about PC purchasing differently because of hybrid working. The clear perception is that organizations investing in high-performing PCs that are fit for purpose are seeing the benefits, and those that aren't risk being left behind.

As well as the matter of individual productivity there is also the consideration of corporate security. As employees work from more distributed locations, it becomes increasingly incumbent on IT departments to improve endpoint security across their ecosystems. It's no surprise that this emerged as a top priority for 78 percent of those surveyed by Forrester. Dependability is also vital, with 86 percent if IT decision makers wanting to ensure business continuity by supplying employees with extremely stable PCs.

IT teams must be able to enjoy easy manageability across the PC estate, regardless of worker geography. In fact, just about the top barrier to supporting a hybrid work environment is the increased challenges IT departments face in managing PCs. It's an environment that requires IT departments to update and manage all devices remotely, securely, confidently and quickly.

How to bridge the hybrid device capability gap

Given these desires and priorities, it is concerning that so many senior IT people do not feel their employees currently have the right PCs to support hybrid work and so cannot tick all these boxes. Half of those questioned by Forrester said they struggle to support hybrid work with today's devices. Among challenges faced, 70 percent said that poor PC performance erodes their employees' productivity, while 58 percent indicated that they will struggle to support future hybrid scenarios unless something changes.

Clearly a major prerogative for IT bosses is to increase their investment in PCs that are able to support hybrid work – solid, dependable kit which provides the performance, security, manageability and stability they crave.

So, what attributes should PC buyers be looking for? What hybrid working challenges will devices need to be equipped for? Intel's Jenkins has some words of advice: "There are a number of things IT departments need to consider if they want people to be able to use their devices anywhere," he says. "Right near the top of the list is security. If you think about people working at home, in coffee shops, as they travel, that means IT people need to factor in how their devices are protected against a broad range of threats."

The issue has implications for other aspects of a user's PC: "Every device needs the power and performance to manage all the additional security layers," Jenkins says. "And don't forget that hybrid workers are using a lot of different applications. Not having enough power could impact personal productivity. It's about equipping employees with the device they actually need."

"Collaborative products now include amazing features like background blur, background noise cancellation and auto framing that enhance the hybrid workers experience. At the same time employees need to be productive - taking notes, analyzing data and sharing content - all of which takes up compute power. And the device must also be just as easy to dock at home as in the office, simple to connect to the Internet, and be able to handle video easily."

These days IT departments are also likely to embrace sustainability when it comes to choosing appropriate PCs too, rather than just going for a device with maximum power that could negatively impact their organization's carbon footprint. Sustainability is also enhanced by zero-touch support. How do you get someone up and running who is 100 miles away and what happens when they run into issues?

Intel vPro brings out the features

Clearly there is a lot for IT and procurement departments to think about here, so it might be reassuring to know that PCs powered by Intel vPro are well equipped to meet the needs of hybrid work. They are packed full of features designed to give the remote worker business class performance through a combination of faster applications and better connectivity.. And IT departments get comprehensive, hardware-based cyber security protection and up to date management tools, both cloud-hosted and on-premise. All Intel vPro powered devices are ready with advanced out-of-the-box features as well as support for Microsoft Windows and Google Chrome operating systems which come as standard on devices built by a number of OEM vendors.

"Intel has engineers and architects that look at all aspects of the hybrid work challenge," explains Jenkins. "We are continually designing and orchestrating solutions which address them. The Intel vPro platform is made up of both hardware and software components that help businesses to be productive – and help the IT manager. It's about performance and personal productivity."

To maximize the performance of the remote workers, every Intel vPro laptop comes equipped with Thunderbolt 4 for easy pluggability on the move for example. These ports have been designed to make connecting devices easier, allowing workers to connect multiple monitors and peripherals without complications.

"You only need to unplug one cable and put your laptop in your bag, to be plugged in at the other end, helping you to seamlessly move between home and office," explains Jenkins.

Thunderbolt 4 is standard with Intel vPro, as is WiFi 6E which operates in the 6-gigahertz band, making use of new and previously unlicensed spectrum. Unlike devices which transmit data signals in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wavebands, those using the Wi-Fi 6E standard enjoy various features that hybrid workers will appreciate which also help improve the efficiency and data throughput of a wireless network and reduce latency.

Software saves the day

Also standard with the platform is Intel's Connectivity Performance Suite, which works by constantly triaging alternatives to give users the best connection to the network. The suite dynamically prioritizes some types of traffic over others - for instance the processing of voice and video calls before a YouTube video stream – to deliver the best networking performance for mission critical workloads.

For IT decision makers thinking about the security implications of hybrid work, Intel Threat Detection Technology (Intel TDT) raises the barrier against advanced threats. It is a key feature of the Intel vPro platform that speeds up the detection of malware. Intel TDT uses a combination of CPU telemetry and ML heuristics to detect attack-behavior, and can detect ransomware, cryptojacking and a range of other threats.

Every Intel vPro system comes with support for manageability, says Jenkins: "If IT want to do a zero-touch deployment, there are software tools to help with that," he notes. "Even if something happens with the operating system of a remote worker, Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) provides tools that IT can use to help get the remote worker system up and running again, even if the OS is down. They can even remotely reload software to that device."

Where stability is a concern, Intel tests and validates with the latest three Windows releases. So, if IT still wants to deploy the latest processor Gen while still running Windows 10 they can do that and upgrade to the next version of Windows 11 when they are ready to update the entire computing fleet. Says Jenkins: "We also test different workloads to see that things operate as they should. With the Intel Stable Image Platform Program, (Intel SIPP) IT has stability through the entire buying cycle to ensure no disruption."

The Intel vPro logo on a device guarantees that it will come with a certain set of hardware and software technologies designed to offer no less than a computing foundation and a platform built for business. And Intel vPro aims to ensure that organizations who use a hybrid work model can offer a better working experience to their employees. This can in turn drive productivity and employee engagement at work, and help businesses operate more efficiently as a result.

Sponsored by Intel vPro.

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