If you’re not looking at the hybrid workplace as a permanent solution, it could be time to reconsider. Many Fortune 500 companies saw their hybrid work policies as a path to repopulating their offices, but they are now revising their plans.
Google was an early leader in remote work during the pandemic. In April 2021, they announced a plan to get people back to the office for two or three days a week, but after September 1, 2021, employees would need to apply formally to work remotely for more than 14 days a year. Around the same time, Amazon announced a similar return to the office: “’Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline. We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”
The Ford Motor Company took a different approach from Google and Amazon. In March 2021, announced a hybrid work-from-office (WFO) and work-from-home plan (WFH) for all non-place-dependent workers, giving up to 30,000 employees in North America the option to partially work from home forever and going to the office only as needed.
It took just a month for Google to reconsider its back-to-office plan and opt for a hybrid workplace. In a company email, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that they expect 60% of Googlers to come to the office for a “few days a week,” with 20% working in new office locations and 20% working from home. In addition, they will offer “work-from-anywhere weeks” in which Googlers can temporarily work from a location other than their main office.
Amazon, too, rethought its back-to-office policy and decided to offer Amazonians “a mix of working between the office and home” with three non-specific days in the office. VP-approved exceptions were also possible, but approved employees would receive only an “agile workspace” rather than a dedicated one.
Deloitte’s UK branch skipped the zig-zagging entirely and on June 18, 2021, announced that all of their 20,000 UK staff could indefinitely work from home (or wherever they want in the UK), even after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. They are also considering whether staff can work abroad for a period.
The decision by Google, Amazon, and a few others to corral people back to the office was quite surprising considering that study after study revealed both the productivity of remote work and its popularity. A May 2020 McKinsey survey found that 41% of employees reported that they were more productive remotely than in the office. In its analysis of 2,000 tasks and 800 jobs in nine countries, McKinsey concluded that more than 20% of the workforce could work remotely 3-5 days a week as effectively as from an office.
But it wasn’t just McKinsey. Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey found that 87% preferred to work remotely at least once a week, and 68% said that the ideal workplace model was a hybrid model that included both WFH and WFO.
More importantly, a May 2021 survey found that 39% of US adults would rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full-time, including 49% of Millenials and Gen-Zs—who comprise more than half the workforce.
Talk may be cheap, but employees place a significant monetary value on the new flexible workplace. Although working from home saves only an average of $5,000 in annual expenses, 64% prefer working from home or hybrid work over a $30,000 annual raise.
In a 1000-person survey by the anonymous professional network Blind, only three out of 45 leading companies had more respondents who choose the $30,000 raise over working from home: 53% at JPMorgan Chase, 56% at Cisco, and 58% at Qualcomm.
As companies come to grips with the new permanent hybrid workplace, their IT infrastructure must be prepared—whether it’s on the cloud, on-premises, or a combination of both. The risks to networks from ransomware and other attacks by cybercriminals have multiplied as more of the workforce moves beyond the company’s internal network.
Companies may initially want to take the easy approach to remote networking by relying on Remote Desktop Services and the RDP protocol. But in that case, they could very likely find themselves the victims of ransomware attacks—like an Australian healthcare company that suffered from monthly attacks until they used Perimeter 81 to secure their remote access.
A robust secure access solution does not necessarily require a significant investment in infrastructure. A cloud-based solution can be easily deployed and scaled by businesses of all sizes without the costs of hardware or the worry of software updates.
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), a framework of solutions for secure access, enables network access through identity-driven permissions rather than locations. Access to data and other resources is strictly controlled based on relevant attributes, such as user and group identity, application access, and the data’s sensitivity. With SASE, remote employees no longer have to tunnel into the corporate network, only to exit and access cloud-based resources. Instead, they use the nearest public Wi-Fi or PoP connection to access a worldwide mesh of secure physical and cloud resources.
It offers unified cloud management, zero-trust networking as a service, and firewall as a service to protect site-centric and cloud resources. Most importantly, SASE is also self-updating and ensures endpoint compliance, which will avoid the risks of working with outdated, insecure software.
As Josh Bersin, a leading HR consultant, notes, “We are not ‘going back’ to the office, we are ‘going forward’ to a new, hybrid work culture.”
It’s time to get your network ready.