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Remote Work Trends for 2020 (COVID-19 Edition)

By: Ernest Sampera on September 24, 2020

Although remote work was already becoming quite commonplace in the lead up to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to radically alter their approach to implementing work-from-home and distributed office arrangements. Now that companies have been managing remote workplaces for six months, data is beginning to take shape to give them an idea of how remote work trends shape their future business and IT decisions.

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Remote Work Trends During the Pandemic

88% of organizations encouraged or mandated remote work in response to COVID-19.

According to a Gartner survey of 800 global HR executives, nearly nine out of ten companies have transitioned to some form of remote working arrangement for their workforce. They also significantly cut back on work-related travel.

67% of businesses have increased spending on online conferencing software.

When the history of COVID-19 technology trends is written, it will undoubtedly feature an entire chapter on Zoom, which exploded into the public eye seemingly overnight when organizations went in search of a video conferencing solution for their remote employees. Although the company had been building steady support for some time, the pandemic created a huge demand for its core technology, as evidenced by the major increases in software spending on remote-based tools.

Overall productivity has declined by only 1%.

One of the biggest concerns about the sudden shift to remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic related to workplace productivity. There is a longstanding debate over whether or not work-from-home arrangements affect productivity due to somewhat inconclusive data, but recent research conducted during the pandemic has found that the impacts may be negligible. This is somewhat surprising given that 84 percent of remote employees report losing access to key applications at least once a week, with 11 percent losing access on a daily basis.

46% of businesses have had at least one cybersecurity scare during the pandemic.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 business decision makers, many organizations have realized that their cybersecurity measures and training were woefully inadequate to the challenges of shifting to a remote workplace. Part of the problem comes to poor policies and controls pertaining to personal devices, as well as cost pressures that are making companies make tough decisions when it comes to their cybersecurity budgets. Concerningly, a recent IBM report found that although 80 percent of employees remained confident in their company’s ability to manage and mitigate cyberthreats, less than half of them had actually received additional security training for working remotely.

Almost 40% of employees have had to spend their own money to facilitate remote work.

Although organizations are spending quite a bit to implement remote work environments, some expenses are falling directly upon employees themselves. Webcams, second monitors, and headsets are all common purchases, but larger pieces of hardware, such as printers, laptops, and wireless routers, can quickly increase the costs of working from home. Even if an employer covers all of these technology costs, there are related expenses like comfortable chairs and adequate desks that make working from home much more palpable. According to survey data, the average worker has spent $273 on their remote office, with US-based workers spending much more than that ($348).

2021 and the Future of the Virtual Office

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a dramatic experiment in both the viability and the desirability of the remote workplace. While the full implications of the results may not be clear yet, it appears almost certain that telecommuting will remain firmly entrenched in 2021 and beyond. A June S&P Global survey found that 67 percent of IT decision-makers expect remote policies to stay in place either long-term or permanently, a substantial increase form the 38 percent who said the same at the onset of the pandemic.

There are two big factors driving this shift in expectations. First and foremost are the economic benefits. By eliminating office space and its associated overhead, organizations could be saving an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter every year. Cost savings could also come from lower salaries given that 62 percent of American workers indicated they would be willing to take a pay cut in order to work remotely.

Employees, of course, are the other key factor driving virtual office trends. Although about three-quarters of employees surveyed in the UK felt that their company should still maintain an office, 86 percent of them wanted to have the options to work remotely at least one day a week, and just over 90 percent claimed to have developed more positive views about working from home during the pandemic. Parents, in particular, expressed quite strong feelings about the change, with 86 percent of them now wanting to have remote flexibility, compared to just 46 percent pre-pandemic. One report even found that 78 percent of employees would be willing to take a five percent pay cut in order to work remotely at least some of the time, with 20 percent willing to take more than a 10 percent cut for the benefit. Given those attitudes, organizations that want to compete for the best talent will need to think about how they can offer these flexibility benefit.

How Data Centers Can Deliver Remote Access Security

As organizations shift to remote work environments, they must continue to take steps to ensure that their IT infrastructure is up to the challenge of managing cybersecurity threats and delivering secure remote access to employees. While VPNs have long been the standard solution for the remote workplace, many companies are transitioning to far more sophisticated zero-trust network access to keep their essential applications and data secure and protected from hacking and malware threats.

For IT managers, it’s also important to think about physical access to servers and other equipment. Especially during the pandemic, remote hands services through colocation data centers have been instrumental in keeping networks up and running without compromising critical social distancing guidelines. Thanks to data center management tools like vXchnge’s in\site platform, they can also manage who comes and goes in the data center as well as who has access to key infrastructure assets.

Colocation facilities also offer the extensive connectivity options organizations need to build dynamic hybrid IT environments capable of meeting the diverse needs of the remote workplace. Rather than the “set in stone” capabilities of an on-premises data solution, they deliver access to scalable cloud platforms that can serve whatever needs remote employees might face. Thanks to strong security and compliance standards, data centers are the perfect foundation for the future of the remote workplace.

At vXchnge, we’re always looking for opportunities to help our colocation customers keep their business on the edge of the latest trends facing their respective industries. To find out how our award-winning colocation services can bring you closer to your business objectives, talk to one of our data center experts today.

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