'Work from home' is here to stay and should look like this: Silicon Valley CEO

Remote employees are often more productive than in-office employees

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An unprecedented workplace shift has taken place during the coronavirus crisis as 62 percent of employed Americans currently say they are working from home during the crisis. And this trend will likely increase given that big companies Twitter, Square, Nationwide, Google and Facebook recently announcing permanent work from home options for their employees even after the pandemic is over.

With this sudden workplace transition, businesses are facing the challenge of keeping employees both productive and engaged.

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Instead of viewing this disruption as a setback, we should view this change as an opportunity.

Remote work isn't just a short-term fix, but rather will open up new opportunities and test the long-term resilience of a business.

Case in point, Gartner recently found that 74 percent of CFO's intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently post COVID-19. It's up to C-suite leaders and IT executives to implement the right technology, processes, and culture needed to succeed while working from home. Here’s what employers and managers need to know:

The future of work is flexible, but employees still need boundaries

This pandemic has forced many parents to function as teachers, cooks, caretakers and everything in between. So, how can companies ensure employees are driving the same business results, while also providing them with the flexibility needed to manage these new working conditions?

The reality is that after COVID-19, many companies will make remote work a permanent solution. Zillow just announced it will allow over 5,000 employees to work from home for the rest of 2020. With remote work opening as a permanent option, we no longer need to tie work to time, but rather to productivity.

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At the end of the day, all that matters is getting the job done, not restricting employees to a rigid work schedule. In fact, remote employees are often more productive than in-office employees, with estimates showing they log an average of 1.4 more days per month.

Security shouldn't be an afterthought, but a focal point

As evidenced by recent 'Zoom-bombing' attacks and Microsoft Teams’ impersonations, remote work is bringing unprecedented security threats into the spotlight. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has seen a fivefold increase in cyberattacks since the start of the pandemic.

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However, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are mission-critical for organizations to continue working at the same pace and scale. Businesses can use their favorite software (e.g. Slack, Zoom, etc.) in a virtual workspace that functions as a single, secure "container" – versus a risky web-based URL.

Peter Jackson, Bluescape CEO

In this way, the container hosts all content and apps, where only designated users can access critical content. With the right approach to security, businesses can have peace of mind no matter where their employees work.

The right technology is about inclusion and collaboration

Perhaps the biggest challenge of remote work is providing employees with the tools necessary to make remote work effective in the first place. But in a rush to set up a reliable remote work infrastructure, companies often implement ineffective tools and apps that don't work together.

Having separate apps on different platforms stalls productivity, leaving employees frustrated, stressed, and feeling isolated as they try to transition to remote work at scale. While loneliness and depression remain pain points for remote workers, the right technology can bring people together in new ways.

Employers must trust their workers, and if an employee can’t be trusted to use their remote work time responsibly, then there is a much bigger problem at hand – one that no technology can solve. 

Virtual collaboration tools allow for group interaction and can give overlooked individuals, like introverts and junior staff, a chance to contribute and take charge.

Remote work also brings a new level of loyalty and transparency to the workplace. While some employers decided to install spyware or monitoring applications on employees’ devices when stay-at-home mandates first went into effect, productivity gains from these technologies remain unclear.

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Furthermore, this can backfire, by breeding resentment from employees that they’re being "nannied" and ultimately, make them less motivated and productive.

Employers must trust their workers, and if an employee can’t be trusted to use their remote work time responsibly, then there is a much bigger problem at hand – one that no technology can solve.

It's hard to predict the course of a rapidly changing pandemic, but employers and managers must consider remote work as a mainstay option -- one that is approaching faster than we could have imagined.

We already know that employees want to work remotely, remote employees are more productive, and 83 percent of companies are open to increasing remote working options.

COVID-19’s impact on the economy has not been kind, but companies that are adapting permanent remote-work strategies to maximize productivity are those with a better shot at survival, while those that don’t will likely struggle to keep up.

Peter Jackson is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of Bluescape, a virtual collaboration software company. Based in Silicon Valley, Peter has founded and led several start-up tech companies to acquisition and IPO exits. He has also served on the Boards of Eventbrite, DocuSign, and Kanjoya.

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