Zero Trust is the backbone of the new employee experience


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Wednesday 31 May 2023 17:13 BST
Office 2.0: The ability to work from anywhere is now an expectation.
Office 2.0: The ability to work from anywhere is now an expectation. (iStock)

Zscaler is a Business Reporter client.

Never trust, always verify. The basic idea behind Zero Trust works on the assumption that your network is already breached, and all users pose a risk. This may sound abrasive initially, but in today’s workplace it is the only way of putting your employees first and delivering an exceptional employee experience.

In the past few years, the job market has undergone unprecedented change. Employees hold the balance of power and view the flexibility to work from anywhere, with seamless connectivity and personalised digital experiences, less as a luxury as an expectation. Companies are increasingly finding that offering hybrid working is a critical factor for retaining and attracting new talent to a business.

In Zscaler’s latest research, The State of Zero Trust Transformation, companies consider top talent to be a top four driver of digital transformation (25 per cent), alongside revenue growth (22 per cent) and supporting new business strategies (24 per cent). At the same time, research from LinkedIn recently found that 93 per cent of organisations globally are concerned about employee retention.

This is a problem compounded by the fact that only 39 per cent of businesses we surveyed have the infrastructure in place (Zero Trust-based or VPN) to support a secure hybrid working environment, and a further 41 per cent either haven’t started implementing one or have no plans to.

At this point, you might ask: what exactly does Zero Trust have to do with employee experience?

Consider traditional office-based work. It was once easy to imagine your organisation as a castle, with your employees, devices and data stored within a guarded perimeter. The emphasis was on protecting internal systems and information from attackers on the outside: a trust-but-verify approach.

In hybrid models, however, employees are just as likely to be working at home, in a café, or on a beach as they are from the office. As Alex Teteris, Director of Global IT & Center Technology at IWG plc, says: “Demand for flexible workspace is booming as more and more companies permanently embrace the hybrid work model. Companies that don’t offer a hybrid work environment risk losing talent, with trends such as the Great Resignation demonstrating employees’ willingness to quit if they’re not offered the flexibility they want.”

Rather than an internal server, with a Zero Trust approach data is stored in the cloud, and rather than using a static PC, employees use multiple devices for work across multiple applications. Far from castles, organisations today are more like archipelagos.

Many IT decision makers acknowledge that employees are suffering from poor digital experiences because their employer’s legacy security infrastructure can’t cope with hybrid work. Not only that but our research found that legacy infrastructure may be impacting productivity. Almost half (47 per cent) of IT decision makers are implementing or are planning to implement Zero Trust-based hybrid work infrastructure because their employees face access issues with current security. While many organisations have turned to virtual private networks (VPNs) to maintain a secure business network, the ever-widening attack surface is making them ineffective.

“There used to be a myth perpetuated by employers that whenever you worked from home, you had a much worse experience based on using a VPN,” says Teteris. “But today, the employee experience of accessing any SaaS application or the public cloud at home is almost immediate. Employees therefore expect that same experience when they go to the office.”

The bottom line is that a highly mobile, cloud-centric world demands a paradigm shift in security for all businesses, as the erosion of the perimeter means that costly on-premises security no longer cuts the mustard. To evolve towards hybrid working and deliver powerful, trusted employee experiences, organisations should implement a Zero Trust platform across their network.

Implementing Zero Trust

The Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange™ is a cloud-native security platform that securely connects any user, device and application, regardless of location. Following the principle of least-privileged access, the platform establishes trust through user identity and context – including location, device, application and content – and then creates secure, direct connections based on policy enforcement.

As an enabler of organisations’ digital transformation projects, the platform helps to reduce costs, eliminate the internet attack surface and prevent the lateral movement of threats, while providing an excellent user experience. Additionally, to comply with legal requirements and regulations, cyber-security is a cornerstone for the secure deployment of workloads in public cloud environments.

Take our long-term partner Colt Technology Services, for example. The deployment of the Zero Trust Exchange™ enabled it to advance its digital transformation with confidence and support its ambition to be truly and securely “flexible first” for 5,000 employees around the world. With more and more businesses like Colt at or heading towards a cloud-first principle, improved security is fast becoming one of the most important gains in such modernisation.

Whatever a company’s experience of trends such as the Great Resignation, workers across the world have demonstrated a willingness to quit if they are not offered the flexibility they want. It is not the end of the office, but an inevitable transformation in the way people want to use digital tools to create and collaborate. “Now, with the increased usage of collaboration tools, everyone’s expecting super high 4K quality on their Teams or Zoom calls,” says Teteris.

And as a younger generation enters the workplace, delivering a consumer-grade employee experience is becoming essential. The route to success in this unprecedented transition is powered by security built on Zero Trust. How organisations can transform their infrastructure to deliver true Zero Trust connectivity can be experienced at Zenith Live in Berlin from 27-29 June.

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