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Future of work: How will work continue in post-COVID offices?

Jun 16, 2020

working from home and office

As millions of workers are still working from home and waiting until they are summoned back to the office, some companies promise more remote work possibilities. While the discussion is led by major tech companies, we must also consider a small company's perspective.

For remote work to be secure, we must answer some important questions first. For example:

  • Can small and medium companies follow the lead of tech giants?
  • What will work look like when we do come back to our open space offices?
  • Is remote work secure when you’re on a tight budget?

Big companies make big pledges

You may have already heard that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and many other companies have announced big workplace changes. At the beginning of May, three tech giants came out with statements about more lenient working from home policies.

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai said their employees will be able to work from home until the end of the year. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg made a similar statement, while Twitter's Jack Dorsey went a step further by announcing that anyone who can do their work effectively from home can do so indefinitely.

But that was just the beginning. Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify, followed suit by letting his 5,000 employees stay at home even after cities reopen. He also announced plans to turn Shopify into a completely remote workplace. A more recent statement from Mark Zuckerberg reveals his plans to let 50% of Facebook employees work from home by 2030.

The trend seems to be clear. After this impromptu remote work experiment, businesses have realized the benefits of more employees working from home. But does it mean more remote work for everybody? It’s complicated, and here’s why.

Why do companies want you to stay at home?

Dozens of companies, commercial banks, and governments have followed the example of tech giants and eased their work-from-home policies. Before, CEOs were hesitant about remote work. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that both employees and employers can benefit from embracing this new work model.

First of all, employees are happier. They spend more time with families, save time on long and mind-numbing commute, and have more control over the flow of their day. Some get an extra hour of sleep, others finally have the time to work out, or even sneak in a quick power nap to reset their productivity in the afternoon.

Of course, companies benefit as well. Potential savings from downsizing or moving online completely are enormous. And instead of searching for the best candidates in the same area, now recruiters have the whole world as their hunting ground.

The instability of the post-COVID world may also play a part in how companies will continue to work. Even in areas where COVID has been declared defeated, fears over subsequent waves of the disease are very much alive. So to resume office work, companies will have to adjust the office space for social distancing, adhere to the rules their government imposes, and guarantee a safe environment for everyone.

When you consider the benefits, it seems easier to let everyone stay at home, at least for now. But that’s not what’s going to happen.

Why returning to the office is inevitable

No matter how many CEOs see the workplace of the future as remote, too many questions are left unanswered, making it a distant possibility.

Individual conditions differ

Not every employee has appropriate conditions for working from home (WFH). For someone who lives in a small apartment with 3 kids, daily conference calls can be quite turbulent. Such employees will be itching to come back to the office as soon as possible.

Managers don’t trust their employees

Some employers don’t have complete faith in their employees. The home is a hub for distractions, which can draw workers like a moth to a flame. Without any supervision, those distractions might eventually take over.

Company culture

A decade or so ago, we got to see how Google started to cultivate company culture through their workplace environment. Now, lots of companies try to replicate Google’s success by building modern offices providing employees with everything from snacks to nap rooms. Because it works. A positive company culture increases productivity, encourages collaboration, and reduces employee turnaround, all resulting in higher revenue. That’s why managers who invested in workplace culture won’t be keen on losing it.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is another compelling reason why remote work is not here to stay just yet. This is especially true for small to medium businesses that don’t have adequate budgets to secure their networks. As Kaspersky reports, 73% of employees have not received any cybersecurity guidance for WFH.

Money's not the only issue — it’s important to have processes too. If a business didn't have any security practices before COVID-19, establishing ones that stick may be even more difficult now. With more people working from home, each network is a unique vulnerability.

We must not forget the most important factor in data security, ourselves. Permanent WFH status might loosen employee mentality, which can be harmful to the company’s security. Imagine you were asked to be careful with email attachments for a day. You’d be diligent and successful. But followed for longer, most rules fall into the background, making us more likely to make mistakes.

Hackers have been exploiting this flaw in human nature since the very beginning of COVID. According to a recent article from The Guardian, cyberattacks on Brits working from home have increased from 12% to over 60%.

The balanced workplace

While we’re not ready for a fully remote workplace, the benefits of WFH are too good to pass on. We are currently stuck somewhere in between the office and our homes, and we had better get comfortable: to use the #1 COVID cliche, this is the new normal.

In the meantime, for the workplace of the future to be secure, businesses of all sizes will have to make cybersecurity a priority. It doesn’t require an expensive, tailor-made digital security package. Start with the following steps and adjust them for your company’s needs.

How to stay secure when employees work remotely

  • Educate yourself. Regardless of your position in the company, knowing the risks and the ways to prevent them increases your value as an employee.
  • Cultivate cyber hygiene habits daily. It’s an excellent start for any company trying to take cybersecurity more seriously.
  • Use file encryption like NordLocker. These tools are easy to use and provide data protection from a number of cyberattacks.
  • Help your employees secure their home networks with a VPN service.
  • Educate your employees and coworkers. Make sure they understand that reusing passwords is very dangerous. A password manager is an excellent solution which does all the heavy lifting.

A 5-day, 40-hour in the U.S was adopted almost 100 years ago, Some argue that it’s time for change. In recent years, the idea of 4-day workweeks has emerged and was even tested by several companies. But maybe more work-from-home opportunities could be the change that significantly benefits all parties involved? But this can only happen if we can make sure that remote work doesn’t lead to more cybersecurity risks.

John Sears

John Sears

Verified author

John believes that the best things in life are simple. He uses the same approach when he’s writing about online security. John says that his #1 pet peeve is phishing scams. Ironically, his favorite non-work related activity is fishing.