Prior to March, working from home was relatively rare. Some businesses allowed for flexible schedules but, generally, most people worked out of some type of physical business location rather than their own homes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people working from home has skyrocketed to 42% of the total workforce. That is an absolutely staggering change that has absolutely altered the working landscape for millions of Americans.
Of course, with vaccines rolling out and hope on the horizon, things should go back to pre-pandemic normal soon, right? Not so fast. The work from home environment has been in full swing for months now. Many people spent more of 2020 working from home than they did from an office. Pandemic or not, working from home may be here to stay and businesses need to be ready for the new reality of remote work being the default, not the exception.
Some people may be excited for lockdowns and physical distancing measures to end so they can return to their office. However, surveys suggest that a majority of Americans prefer working from home. In addition, businesses may be the ultimate benefactors of work from home orders as productivity has increased 13%. And to all to all of that, many of the world’s largest companies have adopted permanent remote work policies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Spotify, and Salesforce. If it works for some of the most successful, rapidly growing businesses in the world then it only makes sense that smaller businesses will follow their lead.
Right now, in many businesses, remote work may still be a temporary thing. However, when lockdown orders and physical distancing mandates are removed, many businesses will need to take a hard look at that policy moving forward. If people are happier and more productive working from home, there may not be very much urgency to drag them kicking and screaming back into the office. In addition, remote work may become a competitive hiring advantage as people look to businesses with more flexible working options. Plus, some companies may be able to downsize office space and save money with much of their workforce logging in remotely.
How many companies end up moving to permanent work from home policies after COVID-19 remains to be seen but there are a lot of signs indicating this temporary solution could become a permanent feature.
Perhaps the most significant challenge posed by ongoing remote work arrangements is security. Companies take a lot of time and spend a lot of money on security. Ensuring physical locations are secure, monitoring network security, enforcing workplace policies; all of these become much more difficult with employees distributed across multiple locations that the business doesn’t necessarily have control over.
When working from home, many employees mix their personal and professional devices. Using a work laptop to do some online shopping after working hours isn’t necessarily a gross violation of policy but it could prove to be a security risk if employees are visiting malicious websites. On the other side of that, there is the risk of employees using personal devices to access work software and applications. These devices may not be patched in a timely manner or could be infected with malware that exposes sensitive company data. If remote work is to become permanent, companies will need to lay out clear policies about personal and professional devices.
There are also scams emerging that directly target COVID-19 related concerns. These scams have increased almost seven-fold in the past year and may use fake company security notices to try and capture employee login info or install malicious software. Modernized training programs and security monitoring applications can help protect against these threats but it’s ultimately up to companies to ensure these measures are put in place.
Physical servers were becoming outdated even before people moved to remote work. With a distributed workforce, cloud services are becoming more popular by the day. These services don’t require a physical server to be present and maintained by companies themselves but, rather, use remote servers accessed by the internet to make data and communication available to anyone regardless of where they may be. These services have helped enable communication, collaboration, and productivity as people increasingly work from home.
One of the most important benefits of cloud services is that it takes the burden off of businesses for managing and updating their locally hosted servers. Instead, cloud providers take on the task of maintaining the cloud servers, ensuring security, and providing product upgrades to remain competitive and scalable.
For businesses that look to make a complete transition to remote work, cloud services can help eliminate the need for physical offices entirely.
Transitioning to remote work can be daunting. However, there is help to make the process smooth and efficient. For information on how to become a leader in the work from home revolution, contact the experts at Virginia Business Systems today.