In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic prompted organizations to swiftly pivot to remote work arrangements. Some speculated that distributed work would spiral into a spectacular failure, while others anticipated a seamless and sustainable work structure. The latter appears to have won out, as a small fleet of CEOs have announced ‘work-from-home-forever’ policies or other long-term distributed ecosystem set-ups.
Yet, despite Google’s new flexible work policy, the company is continuing to expand its physical footprint. In October, the company announced that it would increase its real estate holdings in San Francisco by nearly a third. Major developments in Mountain View and Sunnyvale would also continue as planned.
Like Google, Facebook is also filling out its office spaces. An internal company survey suggested that the majority of employees eagerly anticipate a return to the office. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, also states that a full transition to remote work could take ten years (although why this would be the case has not been clarified).
Isn’t the death of distance making cities less relevant? Yes. At the same time, there are plenty of reasons as to why Google and Facebook may want to retain or expand physical office spaces. Office spaces encourage interactions and innovation, the thinking goes, especially if they’re well-designed and offer social spaces.
Does the data support this often deeply-held belief? Workplaces can measure the effect of their environments against output and productivity. Research shows that the office can be used as a strategic tool for growth.
For example, in study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, when a salesperson’s interactions with co-workers in other departments increased by 10%, his/her sales increased by the same percentage. Strategically placed coffee machines may also help.
But the future really is flexible
Post-pandemic, the number of fully de-centralized organizations is expected to spike by 40%. The benefits to organizations are numerous. Organizations that offer flexible employee schedules routinely see reduced levels of absenteeism, increased morale and expanded opportunities to hire top-tier talent.
For Google, flexible is a challenge in-part due to the sheer volume of employees that the company maintains; a number that surpasses 200,000. Says CEO Sundar Pichai, “No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid work force model — though a few are starting to test it — so it will be interesting to try”. Google’s approach does include a clause asking employees to live within commuting distance of their physical, non-home offices. For Facebook’s part, employees will have 100% remote options post-pandemic.
With remote work, cyber defense is imperative
For many organizations, one of the largest challenges in restructuring ecosystems to accommodate remote work is cyber security. The rush into new models of connectivity led to a four-fold increase in select types of cyber scams between February and April of 2020. As the pandemic wore on, phishing scams pinched employee information and healthcare groups reported a barrage of ransomware attacks.
In 2021, organizations need to prioritize visibility into network environments and “secure by design” models, and Secure Access at the Service Edge (SASE). Without the right cyber security planning, organizations are planning to fail.
As famed American thinker Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Organizations that suffer preventable cyber incidents may be on the hook for fines and other legal sanctions. Getting a head start can help reduce future headaches.
A cyber pandemic remains a top global concern, according to the World Economic Forum. A computer virus can spread further and faster than a biological virus. In the past, experts have witnessed 75,000 devices infected in the span of a mere 10 minutes. The future of work is flexible, but our remote access policies and practices must be rigid and unyielding. Rethinking cyber security for remote workers can improve overall business outcomes. Why not reconsider remote cyber security architecture?