Welcome to the latest installment of This Week in Remote Work. As usual, there was no shortage of new coverage, reports, and data about the current state of remote work and the future of work as a whole. But here are five of the resources and reads that we found particularly useful and interesting this week.
1) Forrester’s 2021 Predictions – “Remote Work, Automation, And HR Tech Will Flourish” (Forrester)
There are a lot of great insights to unpack in this report, which is available for free download at the bottom of the Forrester post. But specifically related to remote work, Forrester goes a great job of going beyond the general “remote work technologies will surge in 2021” prediction and instead digs deeper into the longer-term repercussions that working from home will have on people’s productivity and growth.
“In the future, most companies will employ what Forrester calls an “anywhere-plus-office hybrid” model in which more people will work outside the office more of the time. While there is no clear end point to the pandemic yet, the number of employees working remotely will begin to dwindle, eventually settling in at 300% of pre-pandemic levels at the minimum. With that many people working remotely long-term, companies will need to rethink what that experience is like — not just from a technology and environment perspective but from leadership, change management, and career-growth perspectives, as well.”
Again, I highly recommend downloading the free Forrester “Predictions 2021” report (link at the bottom of the post here). From the opportunities CIOs have to be disruptors in 2021 to the uptick of insider threats due to remote work – it’s a great overview of key themes to keep an eye on as we head into a new year.
2) IDC’s Technology Trends For 2021 (Forbes)
I don’t want to steal the Forbes article’s thunder and prevent you from clicking through, but here’s a teaser related to remote work. Three of IDC’s 10 predictions include 1) a shift to cloud-centric models, 2) digital workspaces, and 3) the pandemic’s IT legacy.
Rick Villars, group vice president of IDC noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that the ability to rapidly adapt and respond to unplanned/unforeseen business disruptions will be a clearer determiner of success in our increasingly digitalized economy. A large percentage of a future enterprise’s revenue depends upon the responsiveness, scalability, and resiliency of its infrastructure, applications, and data resources.”
I find it particularly interesting that they call out how critical and strategic the “responsiveness, scalability, and resiliency of infrastructure, applications, and data resources” are for any organizations’ success in a post-pandemic world. Read the full Forbes post here.
3) Experience Parity for the Hybrid Workforce (IDC)
Speaking of IDC, they were on fire with the remote work predictions and insight this week. Putting it in no uncertain terms, IDC said:
“IDC research shows that while there is significant variability across regions (as well as industry and point in time) in terms of the number of workers who are remote versus in a company facility, the one thing that we can say definitively is that there is no turning back – we will not return to the remote work profile of 2019.”
We’re hearing the “there’s no turning back” message from all directions these days – analysts, customers, other vendors. There’s no doubt that the future of the workplace will look different for every organization, but it’s clear that most people are beginning to align around the fact that remote work will be at least PART of the ongoing working experience moving forward.
“In IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Future of Work 2021 Predictions, we project that by 2023, 75% of the G2000 will make a commitment to providing technical parity to a workforce that is hybrid by design rather than by circumstance. We define “technology parity” as the requirement that all workers have secure access to the resources required to do their jobs no matter their preferred device or if they are local, remote, in the field, or switching between locations.”
You’ve gotta love the “hybrid by design rather than by circumstance” line. I’ve got a whole additional blog post coming on why simply giving remote workers access isn’t enough, and why experience parity is critical for the ongoing productivity and success of remote workers. In the meantime, read IDC’s excellent post here.
4) The 2021 State of IT Report (Spiceworks & Ziff Davis)
Ready to go down a 90-minute rabbit hole of great data on everything from COVID’s impact on digital transformation plans to the key areas of concern for remote workers? Yeah, I wasn’t ready for that either (and frankly, I could have spent a lot more time in the data), but it was worth it. Spiceworks teamed up with Ziff Davis for an incredibly in-depth opus that has something for everyone.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but one of the key insights towards the front of the report – which establishes a theme repeated throughout the report – was:
“Among all businesses, 64% enabled a remote workforce in 2020 and more than half of all companies plan to retain flexible work policies even after the pandemic ends — which will necessitate additional technology investment. Because the remote work revolution wouldn’t be possible without modern communications technology, many decision-makers increasingly view tech investments as essential for maintaining productivity levels and business continuity… even when businesses cut back in other areas.”
If you’re looking for source material and stats regarding the future of work, you’re going to love this report. Read the full thing (if you dare) here.
5) Dr. Strangenet—or, how I stopped worrying and embraced the WFH IT apocalypse (Ars Technica)
Let’s end this week’s edition with an article that achieves the rare feat of credibly discussing a lot of really important issues when it comes to remote work security – while also balancing it out with a solid amount of tongue-in-cheek snark (see headers like “Who is your daddy, and what does his computer do?” and “Damn the firewalls, full speed ahead!”).
In all seriousness, though, Sean Gallagher (threat researcher at Sophos and former editor at Ars Technica) does a great job of outlining issues ranging from the issues with VPNs, the massive spike in RDP-based attacks, the need for Zero Trust security models, and more.
“We’ve passed the days long ago when organizations could completely protect themselves by only focusing on the network perimeter. But to adjust to truly distributed operations—with people working remotely as a norm—a few things are going to have to change. IT resources have to be configured to support remote work at a level that is at least comparable to that of in-office networks in terms of application performance, availability, and security. We need to turn IT architecture inside-out.
Instead of starting from an assumption of having a trusted network, organizations are going to have to figure out how to operate without trusting the network at all—what has come to be called the Zero Trust Model.”
Gallagher also discusses the shift to virtual apps and their role in enabling remote productivity, while also identifying how this shift exacerbates the need for a Zero Trust security model. This is a great post to end your week on, providing a thought-provoking look at key issues we all need to think about when it comes to securing the future of work, while also throwing in a few chuckles. Read the full article on Ars Technica.
We’ll see you back here next week. Stay secure and productive until then!