The pandemic has fast-tracked the working world towards a hybrid model of remote and office working, creating huge opportunities for IT workers and people seeking jobs in the sector.
That is according to Philip Maguire, CEO of Auxilion, an award-winning provider of IT services including consulting, project management, project delivery and managed services.
The Covid-19 pandemic and wider access to broadband across Ireland has accelerated the move towards hybrid working, and that is exactly what employees want, Mr Maguire explained.
He said the need for companies to develop digital platforms and allow workers to work remotely some or most of the time has created huge opportunities for IT workers and those seeking jobs in the area.
“It’s an exciting time for people in the sector, there’s huge opportunities,” said Mr Maguire. “There’s lots of different directions to go in as well from business automation to security, core infrastructure, cloud applications, online marketing and more. No matter what your business strategy is, you need a digital strategy to digitally enable it.
“Demand is out the door for IT workers,” he added. “There’s a huge amount of opportunity and jobs at the moment, especially in Ireland.
“We’ve been expanding rapidly as well and have taken on around 50 people in recent months, attached to large contracts. Demand is just huge.
“We’re bringing people in from abroad, looking at a new location in Spain and expanding the team in the UK.”
Mr Maguire highlighted IT as a growing market in Ireland and one that needs more graduates and a larger workforce.
“It’s a rising marketplace and there’s not enough people. We need to get more people doing STEM subjects. The more STEM we have, the better it will be,” he said.
A recent survey from Auxilion and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, revealed IT workers are keen to embrace the hybrid way of working, and that businesses need to step up their digital approach.
The survey found 71% of IT leaders would refuse a job or quit their job if remote or hybrid working was not offered. A further 42% think the most likely workstyle in future will be mainly remote working with half days in office. However, just 39% feel their organisation is well equipped for long-term hybrid working and 52% rate their company as being only somewhat equipped.
The research also revealed that 45% of IT leaders are not confident in their organisation’s ability to manage and secure remote staff’s home environments, as 52% said their company doesn’t have a centralised system which provides full visibility of all devices being used by employees to access the company network.
Almost half (49%) of respondents also disclosed that they don’t think their organisation has adequate security and data loss prevention measures in place.
Respondents said that one of the biggest challenges for businesses when employees return to a hybrid workplace is having adequate IT security measures for devices across locations (67%). The top challenge cited by IT leaders was ensuring that staff have the same user experience (68%).
It seems investment is going to be made in this area with those surveyed expecting, on average, 30% of their overall IT budget to go towards security over the next 12 months.
Moreover, 40% of IT leaders are expecting the total IT budget to increase by at least 30%.
Mr Maguire explained that, while some businesses may not be ready to take on the hybrid model just yet, IT workers are there to lead the charge towards hybrid working into the future.
“The IT industry is used to remote working,” he said. “In our managed services and professional services, we’ve worked with clients sometimes on their sites, sometimes remotely so we’ve always had that flexible environment.
“So, when the pandemic hit, we were working with lots of our clients to make sure they were enabled and could move to working from home.”
Mr Maguire added that it was a surprise to see such a high percentage of those surveyed express a desire for a hybrid model, and he emphasised the importance of balance between remote and office working.
“There’s a balance there that needs to be struck because you need the same tools, technology and equipment at home as you would in the office then to enable that teamwork,” he said.
“You also need people in the office as well and people are seeing that. With complete remote working, you miss out on that office interaction, interacting with colleagues and training up juniors so there’s certainly a balance that needs to be struck.
“It’s about building that overall model into your organisation,” he added.
Mr Maguire explained that the tools and technology are already available for this hybrid model to work efficiently, and encouraged businesses to make use of them.
“All the tools and technology for the new way of working are there — it’s about making the best use of them,” he said.
“I don’t think we’re ever going back to the way things were in terms of having everyone back in the office — that day is gone.
“The hybrid model is here to stay. The pandemic has accelerated the shift and with broadband being rolled out across the country, people can work from different places almost anywhere,” he added. “But you have to balance it because some people working from home are working too much, there’s no balance and they can’t train up juniors.
“It’s about thinking differently and enabling that digitally to ensure there are collaboration tools and security to match your environment because cyber attacks are also happening more frequently as well.”
Ray O’Connor, Aruba Ireland country manager, HPE Aruba, highlighted the need for employees to be catered for whether they are in the office or at home.
“It is absolutely crucial that every employee feels engaged and has the same workplace experience, whether they are in the office or not,” he said. “Equally so, each company must ensure that these connections and its network are properly managed and secured. Failing to do so could be costly from both a people and business perspective.”