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Remote Work is Here to Stay

When the novel coronavirus pandemic sent the global economy into a tailspin in early March, Jon Hirschtick, president of the SaaS division at the computer software company PTC (NASDAQ: PTC), said the transition went smoother than most expected.

PTC has always had some employees working remotely from different cities, and even employees that went into the office almost everyday were allowed to work remotely one day per week. The Boston-based company went fully remote on March 11, 2020.

Although the adjustment has not come without challenges, it is clear that the remote economy is here to stay, even once the public health crisis from the virus dissipates.

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“I’ve learned we can all work 100 percent remotely and do fine, and we can work faster and a bit more agile than I ever imagined,” Hirschtick told Advisors Magazine. “Our CEO Jim Heppelmann says, ‘the remote work genie is not going back in the bottle.’ Definitely, remote work will be more of a common practice for our company and others.”

It’s clear that Hirschtick is not the only executive with this belief.

The social media giant Twitter made a splash when the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey told all employees that they could continue working remotely permanently if they would like. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg followed suit, publicly saying that he anticipates about half of Facebook’s entire workforce could be remote by 2030.

The new world of work will likely result in many companies offering a remote option or at least a partial work-from-home schedule, said Kristen M. Shockley, Ph.D and associate professor of psychology at the University of Georgia.

“I think most people are going to want a mixed arrangement,” said Shockley, whose research focuses on understanding the intersection of employees’ work and family lives. “Some flexibility to work from home, but still the option to go into the office a few days so that they can have face-to-face meetings for topics that seem really important or just general social interaction with colleagues.”

To be sure, the swift transition to a fully remote work style has not come without obstacles.

“If they didn’t have the tech in place pre-COVID, that was a big stumbling block,” said Cheryl Kuchler, founder and president of CEO Think Tank, a company that partners with small and mid-market CEO’s and executives to create more valuable and sustainable companies. “For those who were prepared, it’s dealing with the isolation and distractions -- only about 30 percent of people are ‘wired’ to work in a less structured environment.”

Hirschtick agrees that structure has been a challenge, saying most employees surprisingly feel busier than ever and have a difficult time drawing a line between work and personal life because they are essentially always in their office now.

work homeHirschtick also said that the home office presents other structural challenges, depending on an employee’s situation.

“For employees who have to care for young children, it can be a real challenge. They are not just working from home, but they have simultaneously lost their childcare or school options for their children,” he said.

“Another possible employee-specific challenge is home work spaces – particularly for people whose partner or spouse or roommates also work at home. If there are more people than rooms, then there can be challenges.”

Another challenge that Kuchler said has loomed large for her clients is cyber security, an area that many IT professionals still have lots of concerns with.

More than two-thirds of respondents in a recent May survey said they are concerned with remote security risks including low user awareness training, insecure home and public wifi networks, use of at-risk personal devices, and sensitive data leakage as prime threat contributors.

The survey was part of the 2020 Remote Work-From-Home Cybersecurity Report produced by Cybersecurity Insider, which polled more than 400 IT security decision practitioners across many industries and companies between 500 and more than 5,000 employees.

The survey also revealed that while 78 percent expressed enforcing the same level of security controls and data management for on-premise and remote users, 65 percent of respondents also allowed access from personal, unmanaged devices.

Two-thirds of IT security professionals expect malware, phishing, unauthorized user and device access and unpatched systems to be the most exploitable areas of remote work. Another 63 percent indicated that remote work could impact compliance mandates that apply to their organization such as the General Data Protection Regulation and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

But despite all of the concerns, employers on the whole have been impressed by the results they have seen from their employees in a remote environment.

Through this forced experiment brought on by the coronavirus, Hirschtick said he has learned that not only can PTC work well remotely, but that many of PTC’s clients have also been able to work faster and more efficiently than ever before.

He also said he was impressed by how well the cloud and internet have stood up against the huge increase in demand.

“I can conjecture that most companies are probably surprised at the output of their employees during this time,” said Shockley. “My guess though is that once the economy recovers people are going to be more forceful in wanting to work from home as an option, and companies will need to adjust to keep top talent.”

 

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