The government has just released its road map out of lockdown, but what does this mean for organisations and their staff? Will employees start returning to their offices, or is remote working here to stay?

Before the pandemic, forward-thinking businesses had already begun offering remote or flexible working as an option for their staff, but when lockdown was imposed and business continuity was on the line, the vast majority of businesses had to rush to implement an unfamiliar working style. Although we’re not exactly out of the woods yet, as restrictions start to ease in the run up to June 21st, where does that leave remote employees?

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the way we work has drastically changed; maybe we’ll see employees return to their desks en-masse over the coming months, or perhaps this really is the new normal – and there’s no going back now.

Adapt or Die

When lockdown was initially announced, UK businesses quickly jumped into action and did a stellar job of reshaping their set-up to fit in with the new working landscape. At the time, many had no choice – the only way to sustain the business was to embrace and quickly adapt to remote work. Granted, there may have been a few bumps in the road along the way, but a year later, it’s safe to say that employees have settled into working from home pretty well.

Businesses have thoroughly acclimatised to this new way of working; they’ve have moved data and systems to the cloud, embraced VPN’s, and got more than accustomed to Zoom/Microsoft Teams meetings at this point. Even though employees have adjusted to remote work, we could see a shift right back to traditional working models if employers deem it necessary. Now that we’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and working from home is no longer a must, what will the way we work look like?

The New Normal

Over the last year, your business has invested in the technology, and your staff have found their groove; there are a number of reasons to continue with this model of working post-lockdown, here’s just a few:

  • Less time spent commuting – one thing employees definitely didn’t miss last year was the dreaded commute. Not only have people been able to spend extra time with their families, exercising, or under the covers, but they also saved money on petrol or train/bus fare. A win-win situation.
  • Increased staff satisfaction – with this extra time, comes a 75% rise in staff happiness; resulting in a positive impact on mental health, working culture, and employee productivity.
  • More autonomy – a relaxed and flexible approach to working means that staff members have been able to work from the comfort of their own homes (read: in their pyjamas), prioritising tasks and working to a timeframe that suits them best.
  • Lower costs – at a time of increased business uncertainty, saving money on office space and staff utilities will have been one of the few pluses of this period.
  • Better hiring opportunities – before the pandemic, a company’s pool of potential job applicants was confined to a commutable distance from their office; now, that pool is far wider. Organisations are offering more and more remote working opportunities, meaning they can take their pick of the best and brightest applicants from across the UK and beyond.

Despite there being a whole host of positives, there are still some less than savoury aspects to remote work. For example, employees with young children may find the home too much of a noisy and distracting environment to work from, or people who live alone may find working from home extremely isolating and bad for their mental health. Employees with housemates may be an inadvertent security risk if other members of their household overhear or gain access to sensitive information. With decreased visibility inevitably comes a lack of relationships amongst co-workers, so your office culture may suffer as a result of permanent remote work. Overall, it’s clear that the novelty of remote working is quickly wearing off for some.

A Flexible Future

So, what is the solution to this organisational dilemma? Like Miley Cyrus, your business can enjoy the best of both worlds; the answer is flexible working. Rather than being 100% in-office, or 100% remote, employees are given the choice to determine for themselves how present they’d like to be in the office. As for any employees that live outside of a commutable distance; co-working spaces are here to provide the collaborative environment they may need to avoid feelings of isolation.

In the future, we expect to see attitudes towards working shift significantly, where work is no longer seen as a place, but an activity that can be done from anywhere. The Modern Workplace is a concept that brings together cloud-based tech, BYOD, work collaboration tools, and flexible working for staff, and we expect to see many businesses adopting this model in the long-term.

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of flexible working:

  • Focus on communication and collaboration between remote and in-office employees as a large part of your office culture.
  • Refine internal comms to ensure that office staff and remote workers are kept up-to-date simultaneously.
  • Evaluate your induction process, making sure both remote and office-based staff feel welcomed into the business.
  • Set expectations and targets for remote employees, and acknowledge when they do well. Training and progression opportunities should be available to your whole team, not just the ones you see in person.
  • Work out when in-person meetings are essential and ensure all staff are able to attend when this is the case.
  • Schedule in regular online events for staff – be it a relaxed group chat to round off the week, or a monthly quiz with prizes – that will give staff some downtime and allow them to build relationships with each other.
  • Improve business security by investing in security training that’s tailored for remote and in-office workers, and implement regular penetration testing as part of a strategy to fortify your business against threats

Secure Remote Working

As a cybersecurity company, you can expect us to preach a security-first approach to business. With that said, we understand why security wasn’t at the forefront of your mind when lockdown first began. Now that your organisation has had time to adapt and business continuity is no longer on the line, it’s time to double check that your organisation is secure against threats.

Your workforce is the first line of defence for your business, and whether your teams are working within your office-perimeter, or far outside of it, they need to be kept up to date on the latest security threats. Knowing how to spot the difference between a legitimate email and a sophisticated phishing scam is getting harder and harder these days, and don’t expect your spam folder to do all the work. The threat of ransomware looms larger than ever before as well, but an informed workforce is an empowered one, so invest in security awareness training to ensure your staff can identify and defend against a whole host of cyber-threats.

Offensive security is a vital part of your security strategy, as it allows you to locate and fix vulnerabilities within your system. Regular vulnerability scanning is an automated solution that can run 24/7, but penetration testing requires human intelligence and gives you a hacker’s point of view of your business environment. By demonstrating how vulnerabilities can be chained together, leading to a large-scale attack or even full business compromise, you’re able to plug any security gaps and mitigate risks going forward.

If you don’t have the budget for a dedicated security manager, you should take a look at our vISM service, which provides an experienced security professional that can handle cybersecurity as an extension of your IT team.

What’s Next?

After lockdown, your business is free to embrace remote working wholeheartedly, return to the office completely, or apply a working model that’s somewhere between the two. Although there haven’t been many positive takeaways from the Covid-19 pandemic, one encouraging fact is that businesses throughout the UK realised how agile and adaptable they can be, and are now more than ready for whatever the future may hold.

If you’d like to know more about keeping your remote workforce secure throughout lockdown and whatever comes next, contact our experts today.

 

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