In the past year, we’ve witnessed an incredible transformation in remote working. Before the pandemic, remote work was often seen as an optional luxury and a very rare opportunity to find. Since COVID-19 changed the way business gets done, working from home has proven to be a necessity around the world. This fast paced transformation that would’ve normally taken years for most companies to accomplish was done in just a few months.
“It looks like working from home is here to stay. According to a survey conducted for CCS Insights, 60% of business leaders in Western Europe and North America expect at least 25% of their workforce, and in some cases all of their staff, to work at least partly from home – even when the pandemic is over.
Many big firms have already committed to homeworking. In October, Dropbox said all of its staff could work from home and Twitter has the same policy. Microsoft and Facebook have also said a significant number of their staff can permanently work from home.” BBC
We’ve watched as small businesses and large corporations reevaluate their entire IT infrastructure to accommodate this new world. We’ve even seen the rapid change in business communication as well. It is clear that this way of work is here to stay long term and it won’t be a short lived fad like some predicted. There’s no going back to pre-COVID work life, only moving forward!
There are many positives to be noted about our new remote work-friendly workforce…
Fast Company shares: “Amid the devastation of COVID-19, it’s worth pausing to reflect on what this future portends. Reduced commute times. Asynchronous communication. Less carbon in the atmosphere and more livable cities. A world in which employees are more productive, organizations are more resilient, and workplaces are more equitable.
Remote work can also help expand a company’s available talent pool, from those living within driving distance of the office to just about anywhere on Earth with internet connectivity. Murph says it’ll be a lot easier for companies to hire and scale up, given that they’ll be able to tap into a much more diverse population of workers.
In order to enjoy these benefits, organizations need to shed their “office mentality” and truly embrace a remote-first culture. That means not just allowing workers to continue operating remotely, but also providing them with the resources, policies, and training that will allow them to thrive in this new work environment.”
A study from FlexJobs Survey “Productivity, Work-Life Balance Improves During Pandemic” found: “51% of survey respondents indicate that they have been more productive working from home during COVID-19, and 95% of respondents say productivity has been higher or the same while working remotely. And though there are many reasons why performance has improved (in spite of the stresses of the pandemic), some of the top reasons respondents gave for their increased productivity include:
- Fewer interruptions (68%)
- More focused time (63%)
- Quieter work environment (68%)
- More comfortable workplace (66%)
- Avoiding office politics (55%)
This improved productivity may help explain why 61% of workers review remote work more positively and why 50% also say their employer views remote work favorably now.”
Let’s not overlook the risks posed to remote work…
Did you know that 90% of successful cyber attacks occur due to to employee (human) error? The “test run” era is over and now is time for fine tuning. Remote-working individuals and teams need stronger cyber security practices for protecting their organizations in the coming year.
“As employees move away from the corporate networks, the risk of cyber threats grows. Many companies attempted to reconfigure networks and systems to serve the needs of remote workforces, but the transformation’s success is often limited by less-than-optimal technology capabilities. 2020 has taught us that remote workers are a focal point for cyberhackers. Though most businesses have become more adept and stringent on their security protocols for remote employees, employees at home will still need to remain vigilant to threats, scams, and other phishing ploys that might come their way.” Tech HQ
What are the next steps for improving our remote work setup in 2021?
Now that working from home is widely accepted as the norm – eliminating the need for a shared public office – the next step requires businesses to take a more critical look at their setup for remote teams.
Ask these important questions:
- Within this past year, what systems and tools worked well for your team?
- Did they report any pain points or security breaches?
- How can you make your network security stronger as employees continue to use their private networks and own devices at home?
- How do you plan to protect your company from these daunting cyber security predictions for 2021?
“One thing the cybersecurity experts at Webroot agree on is that work from home is here to stay for 2021, or at least it won’t recede to pre-pandemic levels in even the medium-term. What is likely to change is how companies respond to their remote workforces. The security measures they take (or don’t), the educational opportunities they provide (or fail to) and their commitment to innovation (or lack thereof) will likely separate the winners from the losers in the year ahead.
Yes, cybersecurity for remote workforces will likely be a prevailing concern throughout 2021, even following positive news on the vaccine development front, according to Webroot experts. Another prevailing theme from the professionals here, when asked to make their annual predictions for the new year, is that a cybersecurity skills gap will continue to haunt businesses and pose opportunities for those looking to start their careers in the field or make the switch to it. As such, automation and the adoption of AI technologies will be critical to plugging the gap.
On remote workforces and the problem of personal devices…
David Dufour, VP of engineering, Carbonite + Webroot: In 2021, many businesses will continue to operate remotely as a result of the pandemic and there must be an emphasis on training employees on security best practices, how to identify modern threats such as phishing, and where company data is being accessed and stored. Phishing is going to remain one of the most prominent ways to attack users and will become more sophisticated as it’s tailored to take advantage of work-from-home setups and distractions.
Grayson Milbourne, security intelligence director, Carbonite + Webroot: The biggest change for 2021 will be securing remote workforces and remote perimeters, which include home networks and home devices, particularly personal devices. These all add their own challenges. Home networks and their configurations are diverse. Many use out-of-date routers with insecure settings. Personal devices are often used for work and, as we saw in our 2020 Threat Report, are twice as likely as business devices to encounter infections. If not addressed, this could have a serious impact on businesses in the coming year.
On the cybersecurity skills shortage…
Briana Butler, engineering services manager, Carbonite + Webroot: Moving forward, cybersecurity professionals will need greater data analysis skills to be able to look at large sets of data and synthesize the information so organizations can derive actionable value from it. In 2021, organizations need to start implementing programs to upskill their current cybersecurity workforce to focus on the skills they’ll need for the future such as analyzing complex data, developing algorithms, and understanding machine learning techniques.
David Dufour, VP of engineering, Carbonite + Webroot: The cyber skills gap will continue to be an issue in 2021 because companies continue to believe they understand cybersecurity and, as a result, tend to spend less on external cybersecurity resources. This leads to a feeling of false security and, unfortunately, inadequate security. Cybersecurity requires a financial investment to truly meet an organizations’ needs and to enact processes for securing systems. It’s much more effective to invest in a few, solid security processes and to address gaps at the outset than it is to implement an inexpensive, broad security solution that falls short in key areas.