Three Password Issues that Could Complicate your Post-covid-19 Return to the Workplace

Dawn Mallyon

May 8, 2020

The return to the office is coming. Some companies will bring workers back sooner, others later. Some will stagger the returns, others will open their doors to everyone at once. Some will have a smooth transition, others will find it just as disruptive as the sudden switch to remote working. 

There are plenty of variables to plan for, from checking up on devices that haven’t been used in months to maintaining security during the transition. As you put together a return strategy, don’t forget to plan for password snafus that could leave employees sitting around on their first day while the support desk scrambles. 

Password Issues are Likely to Effect a Return to the Office

Three password issues, in particular, are likely to arise and formulating a plan now will ensure everyone has access to the systems and applications they need once they’re back at their desk. Make sure you’re planning for all of the following. 

1. Changing forgotten or expired passwords. 

After months of working from home, getting back into the swing of things will be tough, especially for employees that haven’t used certain systems or applications remotely. Furloughed employees face an even steeper climb. 

No matter the circumstances, you’ll likely have users who have either forgotten their passwords or had their passwords expire during the crisis. 

To avoid overwhelming your IT support team on the first day back, it pays to plan ahead. Do the following: 

  • Estimate how many users will need help. Based on who hasn’t signed in for an extended period and who had been furloughed, you can get a sense of how many people will need help logging in on their first day back. 
  • Scale your password reset strategy. For example, you could provide users a one-time-only link with an embedded random PIN. When they click, they sign into the password reset system and select a new password. That way they can reset their password without having to guess at security questions they may have forgotten the answers to. 
  • Communicate the plan. Connect with the users you expect will need help, explain the situation and process, and advise on how they should change forgotten or expired passwords. 

2. Reactivating access for furloughed employees.

Millions of Americans have been laid off or furloughed since mid-March. If your company has a high number of furloughed employees, you’ll need a strategy for how to reactivate their access. Plan for one of these scenarios: 

  • Everyone returns on the same day. Like handling forgotten passwords, this can easily become overwhelming. Look to automation. By automating the reactivation process using a list of identities, you can get everyone up and running a lot faster and more smoothly. 
  • Employees return gradually. If only a handful of users need to get back online on any given day or week, it’s better to handle the cases one by one. Create a request and approval workflow that everyone can follow as they return. 

In either case, look to an IAM solution to more easily toggle users back into action when they return to work. 

3. Review who has access to what. 

A lot has changed since March, and everyone will be returning to work in a new world. Some people might have new or different roles and responsibilities. It’s time to review everyone’s access rights. 

I know, that’s a huge undertaking. Which is why this is one project where you should bring in managers to divide and conquer. 

Invite managers to review the data for each of their employees to approve their access levels based on their current job responsibilities. By turning to the people most aware of each user’s role, you can enlist them to make short work of this review process. 

Again, an IAM tool will help you efficiently review and update who has access to what and whether that access is still valid.

Returning to the workplace doesn’t have to be disruptive

The workplace we’ll return to will not be the workplace we left, at least for a while. There are plenty of logistical and IT challenges you’re probably planning for to ensure the return is smooth and keeps everyone productive. 

By including these three potential password issues in your plan, you can ensure everyone is off and running, with access to everything they need, as soon as they’re back at their desks.