How IT Can Improve User Experience in a Hybrid Workplace

Written by Kate Lake on August 18, 2021

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As companies reopen offices, many are strategically switching to a hybrid workplace model. In this model, employees will work remotely and in the office certain days of the week or a certain percentage of the time. Having employees switching locations means IT will need to address new challenges. Aside from security, one of the highest priorities is user experience. 

A large part of an employee’s satisfaction with their job comes from the user experience they have with the technology they work with every day. But user experience starts earlier in the employee journey —  all the way back to the job application, hiring, and onboarding. Employees hold the same expectations customers do of seamless, easy, and fast interactions with a brand, both digitally and in person. So, when employees are able to both work from home and come into the office, they expect a seamless transition and experience — as easy as, say, logging into your Chrome browser on a new device. Everything is right there: passwords remembered, supporting apps (and plugins) ready, and all communications, history, and preferences saved. 

Unfortunately, many companies struggle to make things this seamless. The average company uses dozens of applications, many of which are not integrated. Employees need multiple logins and passwords. Permissions vary from one device and system to the next. Add in the potential for BYOD and home WiFi networks with varying bandwidth, and it gets even messier. 

Crafting a great user experience isn’t a one-and-done task; it’s an ongoing initiative to make sure things run smoothly for the user, regardless of which route they take to do their work. Consider the following elements of a great user experience when configuring your hybrid remote environment. 

The Little Frustrations Matter

It’s easy to assume that logging into different networks, accessing applications, remembering passwords, and switching files from one device to another isn’t really that big of a deal, because it’s just the way things are done. But these little irritations add up throughout an employee’s day — and not only do they cause frustration and dissatisfaction (employees know it can be easier!), they also impact productivity and security. 

How often do teams spend the first five to 10 minutes trying to log in to a meeting? Video meetings have made this easier (though there are still login delays), but teams logging into conference rooms also run into issues. These friction points add up, especially when a workplace’s technology isn’t unified. 

They say it’s the little things that get you. And for employees, these seemingly minor irritations simply make work feel harder than it should be. This makes them wonder why their employer can’t make it easier, and that starts to erode their engagement and positive sentiment for the brand. This quiet resentment can trickle down to the customer experience as well. 

Improving the user experience envelops many aspects. But let’s get down to the basics: identity, access, and device management. 

Identity

For an employee, identity comes down to receiving the authorization to access all the resources they need to do their job: productivity tools, files, buildings, conference rooms, printers, collaboration platforms, computers, devices, servers, phones, apps, and more. They want it easy and simple. One identity that can be used everywhere. 

For IT, the back-end functionality enabling seamless access to resources can be much more complicated than it looks from the user’s perspective. And when it’s overly complex or improperly configured and managed, the frictionless user experience breaks down, and employees face even more minor irritations: typing in their password over and over, locking themselves out of applications when credentials are forgotten or mistaken, facing the inability to access certain resources in different environments, or having to find workarounds to avoid cumbersome login steps.  

The key to strong, simplified user identity management is a centralized identity and access management (IAM) system, where all resources use the same identity data from the same source. In hybrid remote environments, the central IAM system needs to be able to support resources both in the cloud and on-premises. IT needs to be able to rapidly create, import, and provision users; streamline onboarding and offboarding processes with SCIM and SAML JIT provisioning; and extend identity to connect to all IT resources including devices, applications, servers, networks, and cloud-based infrastructure. 

Unifying identity management with one identity, one set of credentials (think True Single Sign-On), and multi-factor authentication (MFA) for security, provides simplicity for IT and a better user experience for employees. 

Access

Employees need access to all the resources required to do their work; IT needs to ensure that they have that access, but also that they don’t have access where it’s not needed. Policy-driven access control makes sure the right people have access and the wrong people don’t. 

Managing access can be complex. We recommend sticking to the Principle of Least Privilege (PLP) to make sure employees only have access to what they need; no more, no less. Try combining it with conditional access policies to further improve the user experience: you can waive some security steps for trusted login attempts or to resources that carry a lighter security risk to the organization. For example, an employee could skip the MFA step if they input their correct credentials on their assigned, trusted device and on the in-office WiFi network.  

Further, to make sure employees can access all the resources they need without straying outside of the single unified identity management system, look for a multi-protocol cloud directory platform that can facilitate authentication to on-prem and cloud applications via LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, OAuth, and other protocols. Some cloud directories like JumpCloud® also offer single sign-on (SSO), OS-agnostic device support, and cloud RADIUS for WiFi and VPNs — all from a browser. This means IT can manage this from anywhere as well, enabling a hybrid model for them, too. 

Device Management

Workplace devices are diversifying, and not every company is Windows-exclusive anymore. While Windows was the de facto office standard in the early 2000s, some industries and users tend to favor Macs, cloud networks use mostly Linux machines, and many environments use a mix of several operating systems. In fact, 55% of companies are now Mac-friendly, and 90% of the public cloud runs on Linux. 

As personal computers and smartphones become commonplace, so have personal preferences toward different operating systems. Asking a lifelong Mac user to switch to Windows (or vice versa) can be about as jarring as asking someone to write with their opposite hand. Rigid company policies around permitted devices and operating systems can decrease employee productivity and satisfaction right off the bat.  

On top of device preference, hybrid remote environments tend to call into question appropriate personal device use. Employees will be tempted to find workarounds and use personal devices when it makes work more convenient. Some employees share devices at home, some may switch between devices, and some may need to use in-office equipment. Companies will need to determine their device policy for hybrid workplaces, whether provisioning company-owned assets only or in a combination with BYOD. 

Clear policies around these issues will help prevent device misuse; however, like the user experience with identity and access, the best way to streamline device management for the IT admin and the user is by combining device management with the central identity management system. 

IT needs to be able to streamline device management for multiple device types to have full visibility and safeguard company data. That data needs to be associated with users, permissions, applications, networks, and other resources. Using a single cloud directory platform, IT can manage all Windows, Mac, and Linux devices alongside identity and access management. That includes provisioning users and permissions controls, implementing MFA, enforcing full disc encryption, and managing and securing devices with point-and-click simplicity. 

Because a hybrid workplace model opens the company up to employees using multiple personal devices to access work data and systems, implementing a Zero Trust security policy will be important. In short, Zero Trust security never trusts an identity, device, or network without verifying them first. 

Start Improving the User Experience with a Cloud Directory

Starting with the basics of user experience — identity, access, and device management — IT can lay the foundation for a better employee experience that makes work easier to accomplish. By using a single cloud directory platform like JumpCloud, IT can streamline and improve their user experience as well as the admin’s management experience — making work easier, more secure, and more satisfying for all involved. 

To explore the user experience for yourself, you can sign up for JumpCloud Free and explore the platform. It’s free to add your first 10 users and devices, so you can get a feel for how the platform works in your environment. We’ll also provide 10 days of free live chat support to help you work out the kinks and optimize the platform to your unique instance. Try JumpCloud Free today.  

Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior SEO Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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