The benefits of flexible, mobile and remote working on employee engagement are indisputable but adoption has not always been a top priority for organisations. This changed in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic was a catalyst for change, making the ability to work from home an absolute necessity rather than a fringe benefit.
It comes as no surprise that our survey shows a steep change in remote working capability. The percentage of businesses with a majority of the workforce capable of working remotely has risen from 50% before Covid-19 to 88% during the pandemic. However, this significant increase in adopting and implementing home working solutions at short notice and on a large scale comes with severe challenges.
Tactical solutions designed for the office often lack flexibility, scalability and longevity. Our survey shows that businesses can, and must, do more to unleash the full potential of the digital workplace by rethinking the strategy, technology and support that underpin it.
Unleash the full potential of the hybrid workplace
Building a hybrid workplace that provides an outstanding employee experience can result in higher productivity and employee retention rates, creating strategic advantage and competitive differentiation. However, implementing technology that meets the changing needs of employees and addresses the growing and evolving security risks is challenging. Heterogeneous device landscapes, numerous integrated technology solutions and rapid innovation cycles create a complex working environment.
Shift the focus from endpoint management to employee experience
Of those that have implemented, or plan to implement, a remote working strategy, employee-related objectives were the key drivers. Employee experience and productivity were both rated in the top three by 81% of respondents, well ahead of the next most important factor, security (38%).
The business case is straightforward: providing an outstanding employee experience leads to more engaged, productive and loyal employees. 89% of respondents said that they are as productive (43%) or more productive (46%) when working remotely than when working in the office.
Technology plays a vital role in enhancing the employee experience, but our survey shows that businesses can and should do more in this area. For example, fewer than half of the respondents (42%) follow best-practice by tailoring employee device choice to the demands and context of their role. Additionally, user-friendly security measures, such as conditional access, which can speed up employee authentication, are still not widely deployed (40%).
Besides, 44% of respondents indicates that issues with the user experience are also a common challenge when looking to adapt to remote working, second only to broadband connectivity issues (48%).
Organisations should make employee experience a major strategic priority. Initiatives such as the regular tracking of KPIs on employee experience and the appointment of a Chief Employee Experience Officer (CEEO) could be catalysts for a mindset shift from simply managing endpoints to truly enhancing employee experience.
The modern workplace calls for modern security
Our survey shows that confidence in data security is high, with almost three-quarters of respondents either very or fairly confident in their ability to secure sensitive corporate data on remote or mobile devices. However, a closer look suggests that this confidence may be misplaced. Against a backdrop of growing and evolving cybersecurity threats, organisations need to review their security measures for remote and hybrid working.
Only half of the respondents have a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology in place, fewer than half (42%) restrict access to third-party app stores; a common source of malware, and only 37% have a mobile threat solution in place. These results suggest that teams are applying less stringent controls on mobile devices than laptop or desktop devices. Additionally, one-third of respondents have not provided any kind of mobile security awareness training to their employees.
On an optimistic note, our survey clearly identifies security as a key future priority. 45% of respondents are ranking it as their number one remote working priority in the coming year and 88% is putting it in their top three priorities for the coming year.
Security has traditionally been viewed as a barrier to providing a good user experience. However, modern security does not require a trade-off with ease of use. Organisations should adopt Zero Trust security principles – never trust, always verify – wherever possible and should consider modern security tools such as data classification and control, privilege management and risk-based conditional access.
These tools, when implemented correctly alongside clear security policies and regular security training, can enhance the employee experience and provide a robust security posture to support future hybrid and remote working models.
The untapped potential of your current technology
Our survey shows that the existing technology solutions are not used to their full potential. Almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents have a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) platform in place but many organisations are not using this solution to manage devices other than mobiles and tablets. Only 57% use their UEM platform to manage Windows laptops and even fewer use it to manage MacBooks, desktops and other device types.
Furthermore, respondents are failing to take advantage of the more advanced features of today’s UEM platforms. Almost half (43%) are not using features that can streamline the deployment and retiring of devices and over one-third are not using fleet management or advanced security features. As a result, opportunities to enhance the employee experience are missed and additional workload is placed on already stretched IT service desks.
IT professionals should evaluate their existing technology stack against their organisation’s strategy and objectives. Our study clearly shows quick-win opportunities to deploy more features on existing solutions, demonstrating rapid return on investment through operational cost savings.
In the medium to longer-term, organisations should adopt an integrated Unified Endpoint Management strategy, enabling configuration of management profiles, device compliance policies, application policies and data protection policies for multiple device types and operating systems through a single console.
Fast-track digital workplace success with external expertise
Our survey shows that digital workplace technology is predominantly managed by internal IT teams. Only one-third organisations surveyed are using external providers. This may explain why many of the more advanced features of digital workplace technologies are not more widely deployed.
The pace at which UEM solutions, devices and operating systems are evolving and the rapid shift to supporting a remote working model during COVID-19, are putting a lot of pressure on IT teams. Lack of time (55%), lack of skills (45%) and a need to focus on more strategic IT projects (48%) were the three most important reasons for using external expertise.
Businesses should objectively assess their capability to deploy, support and optimise modern workplace technologies and react quickly to changing workplace conditions. External providers may bring additional costs but the benefits in terms of operational efficiencies, reduced risk, greater flexibility and enhanced employee experience can make a compelling business case.
An experienced modern workplace expert can free up internal resources so they can focus on their core business, help to avoid false starts and significantly speed up project delivery, enabling the benefits of digital workplace projects to be realised more quickly and efficiently. They can also offer greater flexibility to scale resources to cope with unexpected developments.
The new reality is lurking around the corner
The rapid adoption of remote working practices during the COVID-19-pandemic, and the positive results in terms of productivity, have proven to organisations that a hybrid working model is the most likely to be the future. This seems like a win-win situation. Employees are increasingly demanding the possibility of working from home as they enjoy the benefits of less commuting time, lower travel costs and increased flexibility. Organisations are persuaded by more satisfied employees and lower real estate costs. However, this brave new world of work must be underpinned by the right technology. Our survey indicates that current solutions need to be adapted to provide the necessary levels of resilience, security and manageability to support the hybrid workplace.
Hybrid working is a strategic priority
Unsurprisingly, our study shows that, driven by the pandemic, there has been a sharp upward trend in the adoption of hybrid working. Pre-pandemic, on average, only half of organisations surveyed were able to work remotely. This increased to 75% post-pandemic. Besides, the proportion of organisations surveyed who enabled more than three-quarters of their employees to work remotely increased from just 28% pre-pandemic, to 64% post-pandemic.
Remote working before and after the pandemic
COVID-19 has pushed remote working and the digital workplace firmly up the strategic agenda. Prior to the pandemic, only 30% of respondents rated the adoption of remote work technologies as very or extremely important. Post-pandemic, this has risen to 91%.
A future-proof digital workplace strategy pays dividends
Adapting to a remote working model has resulted in an increased investment in technology for the majority of organisations. 58% of respondents reported either a slight or significant increase in technology spend.
However, those who already had a digital strategy in place were much less likely to have seen an increase in spend (51%) than those with no digital strategy in place (72%). This suggests that those with a clear strategy were better prepared to deal with the changes required to support a rapid adoption of remote working.
Workplace technology needs to catch up
Remote working adoption has increased significantly and quickly. However, almost half of respondents (46%) indicated that their current solution is not suitable for the long-term. It is clear that further investment is required in this area.
Productivity in the driving seat
Our respondents feel that a decentralised workplace is not only possible, but in many cases more productive than the traditional office-based model. A staggering 89% of respondents say their productivity when working remotely is either higher than, or the same as, when working in the office. Almost half (46%) claim to be more productive.
While a small minority of respondents (11%) experienced a drop in productivity, it is clear that organisations can no longer cite productivity concerns as a barrier to making flexible working options available to their employees.
A majority of organisations have enabled most of their workforce to work from home. The technology solutions that facilitated this were, in many cases, deployed rapidly with limited time for planning. We recommend organisations should invest to future-proof their digital workplace technology and provide a satisfactory employee experience. In short, they should:
- Identify user personas to understand where and how employees in different roles want to and will work in the future.
- Optimise the technology stack for each identified persona.
- Invest in upgrading or replacing technologies that are not suitable for the mid- or long-term.
- Consider the working-from-anywhere workplace, rather than just offering employees the possibility to work from home, to support future hybrid work models.
Read the full report
Ready to unleash the full potential of the hybrid workplace? Download the full report to learn how to implement technology solutions that meet the changing demands of employees, address the growing and evolving security risks and offer an outstanding employee experience.