The benefits of flexible, mobile and remote working on employee engagement are well-established but adoption has not always been a top priority for organisations. This changed dramatically during 2020 as 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 is no surprise, therefore, that our survey shows a steep change in remote working capability. The percentage of organisations with a majority of the workforce capable of remote working has risen from 50% before Covid-19 to 88% during Covid-19. However, this significant increase in adopting and implementing home working solutions at short notice and on a large scale has created challenges.
Tactical solutions that rely on applying technology designed for the office in a home environment often lack flexibility, scalability and longevity. Our survey shows that organisations 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 a Truly Digital Workplace.
Building a modern 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 solutions that meet the changing demands of employees, address the growing and evolving security risks and can be supported in a streamlined way is challenging. Heterogeneous device landscapes, many integrated technology solutions and rapid innovation cycles create high levels of complexity.
Focus on Employee Experience, Not Endpoint Management
Of those respondents who 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 factors driving a remote working strategy by 81% of respondents, well ahead of the next most important factor (security, 38%).
The business case for this is straightforward; providing a better employee experience leads to more engaged, productive and loyal employees. 89% of respondents said that their productivity was the same (43%) or better (46%) when working remotely compared to working in the office.
Technology can play a key role in enhancing employee experience, but our survey suggests that businesses can and should do more in this area. For example, fewer than half of respondents (42%) follow the best-practice approach of 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%).
Issues with user experience were also cited as a common challenge to adopting remote working by 44% of respondents, second only to broadband connectivity issues (48%).
Organisations should make employee experience a major strategic priority. Initiatives such as the regular tracking of board-level Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on employee experience and the creation of a cross-functional Chief Employee Experience Officer (CEEO) role could be catalysts for a mindset shift from simply managing endpoints to truly enhancing employee experience.
A Modern Workplace Needs 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 corporate data on remote
or mobile devices. However, a closer look at the data suggests this confidence may be misplaced and that, against a backdrop of growing and evolving cybersecurity threats, organisations need to review the adequacy of their security measures for remote and hybrid working.
Only half of respondents have any kind of 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, suggesting that security teams are applying less stringent controls on mobile devices than laptop or desktop devices. Additionally, one-third of respondents have not delivered any kind of mobile security awareness training to employees.
On an optimistic note, our survey clearly identifies security as a key future priority, with 45% of respondents ranking it as their number one remote working priority in the coming year and 88% ranking it in their top three priorities for the coming year.
Security has traditionally been viewed as a barrier to providing a good user experience, but modern security does not require a trade-off with ease of use. Organisations should adopt Zero Trust security principles wherever possible – never trust, always verify – and consider modern security tools such as data classification and control, privilege management and risk-based conditional access.
These tools, 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.
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Learn how to implement technology solutions that meet the changing demands of employees, address the growing and evolving security risks and unleash the potential of a fully digital workplace.
Exciting Technology has Significant Untapped Potential
Our survey found that the existing technology solutions in place to support remote and
mobile working 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 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 leaders should evaluate their existing technology stack against their organisation’s strategy and objectives. Our survey clearly shows that quick-win opportunities exist 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.
External Expertise Can Fast-Track Digital Workplace Success.
Our survey shows that digital workplace technology is predominantly managed by internal
IT teams with only one-third organisations surveyed using external providers. This finding
goes some way to explaining 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 creating difficult demands on IT teams. Lack of time (55%), lack of skills (45%) and a need to focus internal employees on more strategic projects (48%) were the top three reasons cited by organisations for using external expertise.
Organisations should objectively evaluate their capability to deploy, support and optimise modern workplace technologies and react quickly to changing 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 external provider can free up internal resources to focus on their core functions, help to avoid false starts and significantly speed up project delivery, enabling the benefits of digital workplace projects to be realised more quickly. They can also offer greater flexibility to scale resources to cope with unexpected surges in demand.
Remote & Hybrid Working Are The New Reality
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 remote or hybrid digital workplace is the most likely model of future work. This seems like a win-win situation. Employees are increasingly demanding work-from-home options as they enjoy the benefits of less commuting time, lower travel costs and increased flexibility. Organisations are enticed by the advantages of more satisfied employees and lower real estate costs. However, this brave new world of work must be underpinned by the right technology, and our survey found that current solutions need to be adapted to provide the necessary levels of
resilience, security and manageability to support the future digital workplace.
The Digital Workplace is Now a Strategic Priority
Unsurprisingly, our survey shows that there has been a sharp upward trend in the adoption of remote working, driven by Covid-19. Pre-pandemic, on average, only half of organisations surveyed were able to work remotely. This increased to 75% post-pandemic. Furthermore, 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.
Comparison of Remote Working Pre and Post Covid
This has pushed remote working and the digital workplace firmly up the strategic agenda. Prior to Covid-19, only 30% of respondents rated the adoption of remote work technologies as very or extremely important. Post-Covid-19, this has risen to 91%.
Having a Digital Workplace Strategy Pays Dividends
Adapting to a remote working model has required some increased investment in technology for the majority of organisations. 58% of respondents reported either a slight or significant increase in technology spend.
However, those respondents 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 cope with the changes required to support a rapid adoption of remote working.
Digital Workplace Technology Needs to Catch Up
Remote working adoption has increased significantly and quickly but almost half of respondents (46%) indicated that their current solution is not suitable for long-term or permanent remote or hybrid working. It is clear that further investment will be required in this area in the next 12 months.
The Remote Working Genie is Out of the Bottle
The overwhelming experience of our respondents during Covid-19 is 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 of all respondents (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 broad productivity concerns as a barrier to making flexible working options available to their employees.
Our survey shows that 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 in short order with limited time for planning. We recommend organisations should invest now to future-proof their digital workplace technology and provide a satisfactory employee experience by:
- Identifying user personas to understand where and how employees in different roles will want or need to work in the future.
- Optimising the technology stack for each identified persona type.
- Investing in upgrading or replacing technologies that are not suitable for the medium-to-long-term.
- Considering work-from-anywhere capability, rather than just work-from-home capability, to support future hybrid work models.
The workplace – no matter where it is located – must offer a consistent positive experience to be able to provide high levels of employee satisfaction, motivation and productivity.