OPINION: Cultivating a secure work-from-home culture can help Canadian businesses thrive
By Ed Rodriguez
By Ed Rodriguez
As lockdown measures across Canada begin to relax, the prospect of heading back to the office — even just on a part-time basis — still seems many months away. Meanwhile, Canadian businesses continue to juggle protecting employees from increasing cybersecurity threats and offering them the digital tools they need to be productive at home.
It might seem like a challenging position for businesses, but it’s actually an opportunity – embracing a work-from-home arrangement while leveraging security technology now can give Canadian businesses a competitive edge over the long term.
Optimizing and protecting the home workspace
As we shift to an extended work-from-home phase, executives and managers are realizing the positive impact remote work can have on employee productivity, work-life balance, mental health, costs, and the environment. Savvy companies are planning to make flexible and remote work models a more permanent part of their cost- and workforce-management strategies, and unique security considerations will play an important part in that.
Security is understandably a big concern when it comes to remote work. At home, employees might be tempted to access work files on their personal computers and phones more often, which gives attackers an opportunity to steal user credentials through devices that may not have the same security protections as corporate devices. Malware on an employee device could collect sensitive information like a company’s intellectual property or personal data like passwords or credit card info using tactics like harvesting information through keystrokes or screen captures.
The good news is, employers can invest in security measures to address these unique threats, enabling remote work to become a more feasible long-term plan.
With security locked in, remote work becomes your competitive edge
By investing in solutions that deliver continuous security without affecting productivity, smart organizations can take advantage of all of the benefits of remote work.
If you’re still not convinced, here are a few more reasons to seriously consider making work-from-home arrangements a permanent part of your business plan:
Working remotely boosts productivity — In a recent Citrix-One-Poll study of 10,000 global employees, 69 per cent of respondents report that they are more focused and productive when working from home than they are in the office. Without the stresses of commuting, complex systems, and idle watercooler interruptions, remote workers have the space to succeed. In addition, 72 per cent of survey respondents said they work the same or more hours when working from home than they did when working in the office. The reason: employees working from home typically start their days earlier because they can avoid commute time and are more apt to work later into the night as their “office” is always just a few feet away.
A WFH model reduces your overhead — Remote work can significantly reduce IT and real-estate costs, and enable companies to secure and engage skilled talent in less competitive and lower-cost locales. This one benefit is so compelling that a recent Gartner Group study revealed that 74 per cent of CFOs plan to make remote work a permanent part of their workforce- and cost-management plans — long after the current crisis subsides.
It can also save your employees money — A study into the remote work practices of more than 2,500 U.S. knowledge workers conducted by Citrix and the Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that enabling employees to work remotely just two days per week would save employees over $107 billion — including reduced fuel costs and commuting fees as well as the added value of time back.
Remote work enables a healthier work-life balance — Overall, remote workers say they are less stressed and can focus and get their work done faster as a result. Because they have greater flexibility to manage their time, 83 per cent of workers responding to the Citrix-OnePoll survey say they have a better work-life balance working from home. On average, they take about 27 minutes a day in breaks (compared to 24 when working in an office). During this time, 46 per cent said they manage needs for their family (such as homeschooling projects); 41 per cent do chores; 34 per cent work out; and 35 per cent meditate.
It also unlocks new opportunities — Technology-enabled remote work models have opened businesses’ eyes to the potential of hiring the best talent — wherever it is. Prior to the global pandemic, businesses were struggling with a shortage of medium- to high-skilled workers. This was exacerbated by an overarching workforce management approach that relied heavily on hiring talent within commuting distance of the physical workplace.
The Cebr study found that companies offering virtual/remote work options can better compete in the battle for talent by dipping into untapped pools of workers, including those in rural locations; and those outside the conventional workforce, including stay-at-home parents; those caring for aging relatives; retirees; and gig workers. According to the study, 69 per cent of people currently unemployed or economically inactive said that they would be encouraged to start working if given the opportunity to do so flexibly.
Reduced commuting is better for the environment — Allowing employees to work from home may help lower your organization’s carbon footprint. Citrix-sponsored research conducted at the University of Warwick Computer Science Department found that allowing employees to work from home just two days a week would cut carbon dioxide emissions generated by staff commuting by 40%. By some estimates, such flexible work plans could reduce carbon emissions by 214 million tons annually.
It may not seem like it right now, but there is light at the end of the lockdown. Smart organizations will realize that the very same approaches and technologies that have helped them keep their employees safe and connected and their businesses running during the COVID-19 crisis will provide new levels of agility to capitalize on new opportunities and thrive in the future.
Ed Rodriguez is General Manager and Vice-President at Citrix Canada.