IT security issues are a blocker to remote working

Despite pressure to go “remote”, the risks to business and customer data for some employers is too much to bear.
16 September 2019

A safe place for employees to work? Source: Shutterstock

Thanks to cloud-based software, productivity, and time-logging tools— as well as an endless choice of messaging and conferencing applications now available— remote working is becoming an increasingly accepted way of working. 

Earlier this year, for example, it was reported that web development firm Automattic’s 930-strong workforce was entirely “remote”, working across 70 countries in total, without any central office.

The company is, therefore, able to access a global talent pool— that’s a benefit every business could take advantage of, while companies, especially startups, can save sizeable overheads in office space and utility bills. 

Meanwhile, employees enjoy an added sense of freedom and work-life balance, and the cost-saving and environmental perks of no longer needing to commute. 

According to a new report, The State of IT – The Employee Verdict— based on a survey of 2,000 workers in the UK— employees now rank the ability to work remotely as the third most important factor (61 percent), behind salary (86 percent) and holiday entitlement (75 percent). 

In comparison, the desire for flexible working options came ahead of health insurance (21 percent), share options (12 percent), and a company car (10 percent).  

Changing expectations

“Today’s workforce is increasingly demanding the ability to work wherever and whenever they want,” said Joe Hemming, Executive Officer, Capita IT & Networks, the firm behind the report.

“In the long run, an inability to offer remote, flexible working could leave an organization watching some of its best employees heading for the exit.”

But despite the pressure to offer remote working to employees, less than a third (32 percent) of workers said their employer gave them the option to do so whenever they want. 

Behind the reluctance, security concerns were cited as the main concern and, with 92 percent of workers thinking security is their employer’s responsibility, they are perhaps right to tread carefully. 

However, just over half of employees (52 percent) are allowed to use their own device for work, while just 14 percent are encouraged to. The result is that 42 percent of the workforce say their company’s security policy is a blocker to flexible working. 

“At a time when employee retention and productivity is front of mind for many organizations, it is imperative that they have the policies in place that encourage rather than hinder flexible working practices,” said Hemming. 

Providing a “great IT experience” is central to ensuring productive remote working, read the report, with many workers preferring to use their own personal devices. Yet in the GDPR era, the financial and reputational risks of having unprotected business and customer data on such devices are huge. 

The research reveals that many organizations are still wary of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Meanwhile, wi-fi related security issues are common; research by iPaaS found that 62 percent of wi-fi-related security issues occurred at cafes or coffee shops.  

“Employers who decide to implement remote working need to find the right way to roll out and manage the process in practice. Undoubtedly, remote and flexible working poses a multitude of potential security threats – the challenge facing organizations is being able to mitigate the risks while meeting employees’ remote working expectations,” added Hemming. 

“The onus is on organizations to provide an IT experience that is fit for today’s workforce, with the key requisites of flexibility, security, and self-service.  

By equipping employees with the right tools businesses— and security policies that can accommodate flexible approaches to working— businesses could drive workforce productivity, help ensure retention, and attract a younger generation of workers who will increasingly take it for granted. 

One survey found that 68 percent of millennials would be more likely to favor a business if remote work was an option for them, while retention rates could be increased by 10 percent