May 12, 2022
It’s been over two years since companies in the U.S. and around the world sent employees home, initially thinking they’d bring them back in a few weeks. That didn’t happen, of course, because the Covid-19 pandemic was just getting started. What happened instead was a remote work revolution—one that’s still going strong.
The Ladders predicts that 25 percent of all professional jobs in America will be remote by 2023. And according to CNN Business’s analysis of a February 2022 Pew Research Center survey, “researchers said they found that 60% of workers with jobs that can be done from home say they’d like to work from home all or most of the time when the pandemic is over if given the choice. This is up from 54% in 2020.”
And it’s likely to rise even higher. Whereas once working remotely, whether from home or a nearby coffee shop, was considered a perk, it’s now the norm — particularly among so-called “knowledge workers.” Given the right tech, they can do everything they did in the office and take the dog for walks or pick the kids up from school or catch a mid-afternoon power nap. No wonder they’re significantly happier.
People have become so used to this high degree of flexibility and freedom, in fact, that employers are having a hard time luring them back to the office —even on a part-time “hybrid” basis — and (more worryingly) stopping them from jumping ship in record numbers. As Fortune recently noted, “A Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond survey found that a quarter of employers expect to have more remote workers next year.”
In light of this seismic shift, we decided to have a look at how things are going on various remote work-related fronts.
TECHNOLOGY & TRAINING
From video conferencing and cloud storage/computing to instant messaging apps and productivity suites like Microsoft 365, remote employees are supported by a plethora of tech tools that allow them to work how, where and often when they want. In fact, all of those things were already in place at many companies before the pandemic hit, enabling a much smoother and quicker transition to remote than if they’d started from scratch. According to this 2021 PwC survey, organizations that weren’t up to speed are scrambling to get there. “Companies that may have been slow to adopt technologies that support remote work — or to create clear rules and a secure structure around WFH — are playing catch-up. Optimizing the hybrid workplace requires accelerating investments to support virtual collaboration and creativity, as well as for scheduling and safety. Over 60% of executives expect to raise spending on virtual collaboration tools and manager training.”
As the Harvard Business Review pointed out, “the same tools that employees are currently using to work in a virtual environment will be used to assess the contributions that employees are making. For example, during virtual meetings, new technologies will be able to provide background information about the other people on the call. By knowing more about who is on the call, participants will be able to focus on the issues that are of the most importance to them.”
In a recent interview with MIT Technology Review, Faiza Hughell, RingCentral’s chief customer officer, had some good advice for companies that are evaluating new technologies to aid distributed workforces: Use the buddy system. Having two people learn new tech together, she said, not only helps the educational process, it speeds up adoption rates and lets companies know if the tech is producing their desired results. “I always tell my leaders to inspect what you expect,” Hughell said. “Don’t just buy a piece of technology, roll it out and expect miracles to happen,” she says. “You have to drive adoption and usage, and you might find that it was the wrong technology and it’s not serving your desired outcome or purpose, at which point, make that decision as a leader to fast fail and move on.”
With new technology come new vulnerabilities for bad actors to exploit. That’s certainly been the case throughout the pandemic, and it shows no signs of abating anytime soon.
In 2020 and 2021, Forbes explains, “Cybercriminals recognized that system networks lacked the security to safeguard against the cracks exposed by new remote workplace practices in three key areas. First, when employees became active on networks outside of normal hours, cybercriminals saw an opportunity. In-person security monitors were not active, so cyberattacks were less likely to be detected. Second, with our hyper-connected habits, we accessed shared networks from multiple devices, including personal ones that lacked the level of security our work computers had.”
A 2021 Forrester study found that because nearly all (98 percent) remote workers used personal devices for work on a daily basis, they were targeted by 67 percent of all business-impacting cyber attacks. Which is to say it’s no small problem— one that, as this comprehensive Gartner study reveals, requires no small solution. “Designing security for a remote-first workforce requires revisiting where and how security and risk management leaders, including CISOs, direct efforts,” the study’s authors write. “Focus on employees’ remote work practices, technology constraints, applications and data to build scalable security programs for remote workers.”
As always and in every scenario, the best security is proactive.
In a Flexjobs survey, 51 percent of respondents said working from home has made them more productive, not less. Ninety-five percent said it was the same as or higher than before, when they were on-site. Reasons included fewer interruptions, more focused time, a quieter work environment, a more comfortable workplace and the dearth of office politics. And employers have taken note. They now know that remote work works, and most rate it a rousing success. Which is why so many of them — including a number of tech giants — have adopted permanent work-from-home policies or, at the very least, hybrid options. “As we’ve moved to virtual work, we haven’t just coped, we’ve actually thrived,” Walmart CTO Suresh Kumar said. “We are more focused on the things that have the greatest impact for our customers, associates and the business. We are making quicker decisions and acting. Meetings are now more inclusive of people regardless of location, level or other differences. We have great momentum and need to figure out how to carry it forward.” Another “secret” productivity-enhancing benefit of remote work, as Basecamp founder and CEO Jason Fried noted, is that the work itself becomes the yardstick to judge someone’s performance.”
Contact us today to get help implementing a hybrid work policy.
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