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Workforce Enablement

Ready or Not, the Future of Work Isn’t in an Office

Remote work has become the norm, but most organizations are still unprepared for it

A pair of surveys out today offer a glimpse into the future of office work, and the reality is that for most it doesn’t involve an office at all. Remote work has now become the norm at the typical enterprise. The trouble is that many IT organizations are still unprepared for this not-so-new reality. The statistics show that most organizations struggle to provide frictionless and secure ways for remote workers to collaborate.

This is resulting in more security incidents and daily obstructions for remote workers trying to get their jobs done.

While the idea of telecommuting and telework has been around for over four decades now, it’s taken that long for the world of business to fully embrace the ideals of remote work beyond the fringe cases.  However, at this point we can now consider ourselves beyond a tipping point.

According to a survey of 250 IT managers released by OpenVPN today, 70 percent of employees now work remotely at least one day per week.  The incidence of remote work tends to grow with seniority, according to the 2019 State of the Digital Workforce. Conducted among 2,000 workers at midsize to large organizations, this second report released by Igloo showed that only about 45 percent of entry-level employees work remotely, compared to 61 percent of managers and 80 percent of those at director level and above.

These statistics are in line with telecommuting growth trends charted in the last few years. A study last summer from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com shows that regular work-at-home incidence among non-self-employed workers has grown by 140 percent since 2005. And approximately four in 10 U.S. employers say they offer more flexible workplace options than they did five years ago. In spite of the writing being on the wall with stats like these, IT organizations have nevertheless had a hard time scaling up the technology meant to support more regular remote work.

Both of today’s studies pointed to strains on this front. For example, the Igloo report found that over half of remote workers have been excluded from meetings or brainstorms because they didn’t have an easy way to run those meetings remotely. And 39 percent of workers said they are unable to access important documents or information when not in the office. Even in this day of collaboration suites, 69 percent of remote workers say they use email to share sensitive or private information, and half of them say they use unsanctioned apps to communicate or collaborate.

This is opening up organizations to a lot of risk. The OpenVPN study found that 90 percent of organizations believe remote workers are not secure. And 36 percent admit that they’ve experienced a security incident due to unsecured remote workers.

These latest studies reinforce two important trends that workplace and human resource experts have been warning about for years now. First, that remote work is never going away and it is only going to continue to grow rapidly–consider, for example, a study by Buffer last year of remote workers that 90 percent of current remote workers plan to continue to work remotely for the rest of their careers. The second is that if organizations are going to get the most out of these employees without adding undue risk to the business, their managers need to work with IT to get creative about how they provide better technology to enable collaboration and communication.

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