Wellbeing solutions hidden in network technology
Published: 3rd May 2023
It has often been the case that a technological solution built to fix one problem has, inadvertently, ended up solving a different problem altogether. Take the modern computer as an example. First invented to simply automate mathematical calculations, the science behind these led to the creation of the many electrical devices we use today – forming the backbone of our connected world.
More recently, virtual private network (VPN) technology showed its hidden advantages. Following on from peer-to-peer tunnelling protocol, VPNs were initially designed as a security solution to hide internet activity and protect users from hackers. Yet, alongside the security benefits they provided, additional uses were found including accessing geographically restricted content, finding faster internet connections, and even booking cheaper flights.
Now, with the world embracing hybrid working models and staff demanding more flexibility from their employers, there are new technologies demonstrating unique qualities that can help to solve a problem they were never intended to fix.
The hidden wellbeing benefits of SIEM and ZTNA
Security information and event management (SIEM) and zero trust network access (ZTNA) tools continue to be widely adopted, offering stronger security for organisations, particularly to those that have adopted hybrid or remote working and are reliant on cloud networks.
While neither were created with the intention of providing wellbeing benefits to staff, it is an added benefit they can provide. And as the increase in remote and hybrid working has shown to have some negative impacts on health and wellbeing, these benefits are well worth paying attention to.
For SIEM tools, it is simply a matter of changing the information being fed in and the reports being generated. These tools work by ingesting logs from network and security devices, de-duping them and then prioritising any events that require attention. In doing so, they quickly reveal any issues or areas of concern in the security environment, saving Security Analysts’ valuable time and highlighting weaknesses or potential breaches.
By ingesting logs from different applications, however, these tools can start to highlight issues or areas of concern in staff wellbeing. In fact, any tools designed to ingest logs – including those for monitoring network and application performance – can help. By taking information from the likes of two-factor authentication systems, internal HR systems and communications platforms, they can start to paint a picture of employee workloads, how many hours they are putting in and whether or not they are taking recommended breaks or requesting leave. This can then identify any staff that may be under sustained pressure or nearing burnout.
As the data in the UK Parliament’s report on ‘The impact of remote and hybrid working’ found, many of the negatives associated with flexible working come down to a blurring of work-life boundaries and a feeling of pressure to be always available. Therefore, any tools that could help provide insight into when and where this is happening, could play a key role in organisations’ attempts to improve working conditions.
ZTNA, on the other hand, is the next step up from access strategies like VPNs and works by assuming the network is hostile, only granting access based on a pre-defined policy. This means that for those using ZTNA, they can control who has access to applications and various parts of the network, as well as when they have access to them.
For the purpose of improving staff wellbeing, organisations using ZTNA tools are able to lock employees out of applications and the network at certain times and define exactly which members of staff to lock out. This means that if there was a particular employee that was frequently working overtime or skipping breaks, their manager could incorporate a system preventing them from accessing work files during certain periods which, alongside other measures to help alleviate the pressures of their job, can help enable them to restore a sustainable work-life balance.