5 Remote Working Predictions: How to Prepare for August and Beyond
We’ve all had to adapt very quickly to the intense pace of change in recent months. Now is the time to proactively plan and prepare for the second half of the year. Here are my predictions for what is to come for remote working and, importantly, how you can adapt.
1. Remote working is here to stay
While the move to remote work was abrupt, the return to the office for many will be much more gradual. Many offices will adopt a hybrid approach of team A working certain days and team B working other days. Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, predicts that, ‘25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.’
Many companies have already decided to shift to a permanent remote working model, with some shutting their physical offices permanently. In fact, a recent survey from Gartner found that 74% of businesses plan to move their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.
A few examples of this are Twitter (offices may open after September but they are letting employees decide when they want to return), with Shopify, Coinbase, Upwork, Lambda Schools and others also embracing a remote-first model.
This means it’s time to assess the tools, systems and software you’ve adopted since working remotely, to ensure they’ve been set up properly and securely. No more workarounds or ‘this will do for now.’ I’d recommend a full IT audit to make sure you’re up and running in a sustainable way that will work for you safely and efficiently in the months to come.
2. Cases of shadow IT rise
Employees might not have the office productivity tools they require for their day-to-day work. This includes systems that aren’t cloud-based and need to be used from a work PC or the company’s internal network.
For systems that don’t work out of the office’s network, staff might have spent awhile using workarounds or simply avoiding the system altogether. Staff might now find new apps or tools to help them do their jobs – and if it’s not regulated or approved by your IT team, this is called shadow IT. Shadow IT can be a big problem for data security.
The way in which staff can be most productive and agile will be based on the tools that they are provided. For many, cloud SaaS productivity suites like Microsoft 365 and G Suite tick all the boxes. They provides the full range of tools and apps your workers need, delivered by the cloud. You can eradicate the need for workers to find workarounds using rogue apps and shadow IT.
But ensuring your data is protected and backed up should be a priority – a lot of companies aren’t aware that this doesn’t come as standard with cloud SaaS productivity suites.
3. Shortages in laptops and desktop hardware continues
Again, this is another problem I’ve seen companies use workarounds or hacks as a solution. Allowing staff to use their own devices is a cost saving exercise and very helpful if your office were desktop PC based (rather than laptops) and they weren’t able to take the hardware home to use.
But if you’re going to continue allowing staff to use their own devices – or even if it’s one of the company’s – there are ways to grant access to files and systems in a more secure way. Remote desktops allow employees to use their normal systems and access their files, but via the cloud. Policies and rules can be set up so they can access their normal desktop (as if logging into their work PC) or only to allow access to certain systems and data.
On top of this you can add conditional access and enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) and strict rules to protect data and prevent files being shared onto personal devices. That is one big GDPR problem you want to avoid.
Two of the most popular cloud based remote desktop solutions are Windows Virtual Desktop and Amazon WorkSpaces.
4. Cyber security attacks on the rise
We’ve seen already how cyber criminals are using people working from home on unsecured networks and devices as the perfect opportunity to hack, phish and scam.
For those using VPNs, you know how useful they are. The drawback is that they don’t enforce data security regulations and policies that were once in place within the safe confines of the office network. All it will take is one breach or near-miss for a business to review how data security is enforced for remote workers.
I’d recommend a cyber security audit of your IT. Also it’s a well known fact that your staff are your biggest threat to cyber security. Think – who clicks on risky email links, opens dangerous attachments from unknown senders, or downloads unsafe programmes? You’re not around to help them, they are at home alone. User awareness training can assist with keeping staff aware, informed and on high alert.
Better to be prepared before a cyber attack, than try to recover after your company is attacked.
5. Remote customer and partner meetings continue
Of course, social distancing isn’t going anywhere fast. Even once we’re back in the office, what about the customer or partner facing appointments, meetings, conferences and events?
Online meetings are going to be the go-to for an extended period before we start jumping on a train or plane for the 1 to 2 hour meetings that used to take place.
Twitter have stated: ‘There will also be no business travel before September, with very few exceptions, and no in-person company events for the rest of 2020. We will assess 2021 events later this year.’
The emphasis on secure, online meeting rooms with quality audio and video conferencing capabilities will only increase. That means you need an efficient, easy to use communication solution that enables external users to get involved with meetings and conferences.
Box Inc’s CEO said virtual meetings are beneficial as, ‘Things are faster, more action-oriented with remote workers. With videoconferencing, I can check in on customers in the U.S., Japan and Europe in 1 day. Our salespeople meet 5-8 customers a day now [via videoconferencing] versus the one it took them 3 days [to see in the past] because of travel.’
High-end, easy-to-use communication solutions no longer cost thousands to implement. They can be as cheap as a few hundred pounds for a quality setup.
Microsoft Teams is a prime example. As of 14 June, use of Microsoft Teams grew by 894% compared with its base usage during the week of 17 February – far surpassing its main competitor, Zoom. Teams, the popular Microsoft communication platform, is evolving all the time based on customer demand.
Recent studies have shown that many of us feel less connected since moving to remote work, and experience more fatigue during video meetings than during in-person collaboration. To combat this, Teams have developed new features such as:
- Together mode – coming soon – a new meeting experience that uses AI to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting.
- Large gallery view – coming August – see videos of up to 49 people in a meeting simultaneously.
- Virtual breakout rooms – coming August – split meeting participants into smaller groups for things like brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions.
- Reflect messaging extension – coming soon – to help wellbeing by providing suggested check-in questions and the ability to add custom questions.
- Live reactions – coming August – react during a meeting using emojis that will appear to all participants.
This is the next step towards closer, more meaningful interaction with your customers and partners.
Here is my wrap up of what you can expect in the second half of the year, and how to prepare:
- Remote working is here to stay – conduct a full IT audit to ensure the viability of your tools, systems, software and hardware for the coming months
- Avoid the data security issues of workarounds and shadow IT with powerful SaaS productivity suites like Microsoft 365 and G Suite
- Hardware shortages may continue, so ensure you have a robust remote working solution in place that enables staff to securely use their own devices
- Cyber security attacks are on the rise so make sure your systems are protected and that staff are trained and on high alert – before an attack
- Remote meetings, conferences, events, and appointments are going to continue, so make sure you’ve set up a high-quality communication solution.