You may have seen the headlines over the last few weeks:
My company was behind some of these headlines due to a large survey we conducted on what we call the “everywhere workplace.” And the data from that survey made it clear that the everywhere workplace is here to stay, with two-thirds of employees saying they’d choose the ability to work remotely over getting a promotion.
Even if you are getting sick of the headlines, here’s an angle you likely haven’t read yet:
As an employer, you should embrace a remote work policy even if you don’t have to. And if you do it right, that policy can deliver a huge advantage and solve one of the biggest looming problems in modern business.
What is this “looming problem,” and what do we mean by “even if you don’t have to”? Perhaps no one on your team has threatened to quit, at least not in so many words. Maybe you have an office setup that’s conducive to social distancing and/or everyone is vaccinated. Or you’re really convinced that the Ping Pong table, bring-your-pet-to-work policy, unlimited PTO, and kegerator you installed in 2018 are enough to keep everyone happy. (Spoiler alert: they’re not.)
Many employers are, understandably, clinging to the notion of a return to normalcy. And yes, things are opening back up, and that’s great. But that doesn’t mean everything should go back to what we used to call “normal.”
Normal has changed in many ways. One of them: Your team does not want to go back to work. Even with the kegerator.
That’s a generalization, of course. We can’t speak for everyone, and there are a lot of jobs (especially frontline workers) who don’t have the option to set up shop from the couch.
Yet there are millions—literally millions—of workers out there who just discovered that their jobs can, in fact, be done from anywhere. And they’re determined to keep it that way. In our survey, only 12% of U.S. respondents said they wanted to go back into the office full-time, and nearly half of those would even take a pay cut to be able to work from home.
WHY THIS ISN’T A DISASTER
Remote work opens up a world of opportunities. You can tap into talent from around the globe. You can reduce overhead costs. You can still encourage people who thrive on in-person connection to meet up in real life—and you don’t have to lease a 15,000 square foot building to do it.
Even if your team hasn’t threatened to quit, you can bet your top talent is going to be tempted by offers of remote work, especially as a larger cultural shift makes permanent remote work the norm. After all, you can only ignore so many Instagram photos of people making full salaries and delivering full productivity while lounging poolside—or at least somewhere that doesn’t require a commute.
It’s hard to beat “retaining top talent” as a reason to embrace a remote work policy. But there’s one reason we haven’t even touched on yet, and it might be the biggest reason of all.
WHY EMBRACING A REMOTE WORK POLICY CAN SAVE MORE THAN TOP TALENT
Remote work was happening long before the pandemic hit. It’s just that it wasn’t (always) sanctioned. People accessed work information on personal devices, and personal information on work devices. They’d do a quick check of work email on the way to work, before bed, or on vacation. They’d have multiple tabs open on their corporate-provided device—one with work email, and one with personal (and another with a Zillow search while they daydreamed of better places to be working right now).
If you think your team didn’t do it, think again. Even when it’s technically not allowed or you’re supposed to be within a perimeter, there are workarounds. And they are exploited.
This blurring of the personal and the professional has been a major component of the digital transformation. The pandemic just accelerated things.
The problem: When you act like you’re in the everywhere workplace but you don’t have the right infrastructure or an enforceable policy in place, you’re extremely vulnerable to threats. Although malicious threat actors are a serious concern, inadvertent exposure from well-meaning employees is also a major contributor.
The solution is obvious: Embrace the everywhere workplace, and do it right. Stop trusting that your data will stay tucked behind your perimeter. Stop relying on password-based authentication that is antiquated, cumbersome, and ripe for compromise.
Even if you’re not inclined to set everyone free to work from everywhere all the time, the reality is that the lines are going to become increasingly blurry. It’s up to you to make sure that this blurring is safe, secure, and productive.
How? The simplest approach, and one that more and more companies are adopting to smooth out the permanent shift to the everywhere workplace, is zero trust, edge-to-edge security. This approach ultimately aims to eliminate passwords and to secure every user, every device, and every application on every network, everywhere, at any time. It’s a philosophy-turned-strategy that assumes bad actors are always present, so continual authentication, threat detection, and remediation are must-haves. Although it may sound aspirational, hyperautomation makes this achievable. Coupled with a clever user design, your team can have the same access and experience whether they’re down the hall or around the globe.