The Future of IT is Remote – How Are Companies Handling the Challenges?
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 impacted the business world across the board. And while the IT industry is not on the frontlines of the pandemic, it will nevertheless be changed long-term, and possibly forever.
The switch to remote work was one of the immediate responses to the spread of the virus, and one of the most impactful measures. Luckily, those working in this industry already rely heavily on the use of technology, so this is not unfamiliar territory.
Additionally, this switch to remote work is in no way a novelty, and studies show that remote work benefits both companies and employees, yielding higher productivity levels and higher satisfaction, as well as cost reductions.
Companies may expect a permanent change to remote work due to the benefits some are already experiencing – particularly financially. And with almost 61.4% of the world population using the internet every day anyway, the transition makes sense, but it does not come without some intrinsic challenges that companies can help mitigate.
What Are the Challenges to Be Faced?
Any transition – even a positive one – will encounter some hurdles along the way. For remote work, these range from workspace to motivation and even an increase in security vulnerability. Can IT companies do anything to help smooth the transition
1. Inadequate Workspace
One of the first issues employees face when transitioning to remote work is that they do not have an adequate dedicated workspace. That is to be expected since most people have not previously needed to make this a priority in their homes.
However, the lack of this space can make work unproductive, at best, and impossible, at worst. Since working from home means cohabitating with families, partners, children, or pets for most people, there is an endless stream of distractions that can render them ineffective. That can impact the overall productivity of a company.
How to solve it: Some IT companies are already tackling this issue head-on by helping their employees make a smooth and successful transition. Here are some of the things companies are doing:
- Paying for or supplying co-working spaces or office furniture for employees to use remotely.
- Offering employees a monthly stipend meant to be used to make the remote working experience better. That can pay for a co-working space, to rent a separate office space, to cover the cost of working in a coffee shop or library pass, etc.
2. Inadequate Equipment
Also, recent remote workers often do not have all the necessary technical equipment to be able to continue to do their work as normal.
Especially for employees who use multiple monitors, special or expensive software, or state of the art devices, they may not have the same set-up at home or be able to afford it. That can significantly slow down or entirely hinder their work capacity and productivity.
According to a study conducted by Buffer, 75% of companies don’t even cover the cost of the internet their employees need to do their jobs remotely, let alone the cost of co-working spaces or coffee shops. Obviously, that is an outstanding issue.
How to solve it: While most remote employees do not have equipment provided by their workplace, that is the best way to ensure that their needs are being met and that they are motivated.
- Companies can provide laptops for all the employees who are currently working from home and should arrange for all the necessary equipment (such as multiple screens) to be delivered from the office or otherwise supplied.
- Should the transition become a long-term solution, companies can choose to also supply accessories such as headphones, cameras, microphones, etc. to aid with video-conferencing.
3. Security Issues
Employee negligence, error, and misinformation is the leading cause for breaches, according to one study on cybersecurity. The other large risk factor is represented by remote employees. Small businesses are particularly at risk when it comes to cyberattacks and overlooking security measures can have significant consequences.
Moving one’s entire workforce remote is likely to increase the level of vulnerability IT companies already face. Unsecured Wi-Fi, lack of strong passwords, and device theft can all be contributing factors in compromising company security.
How to solve it: There is a need for an increased focus on security for all companies, large and small. That entails a few different measures:
- Providing protective security software for all company devices and all employees, including VPNs, anti-virus software, anti-malware detectors, etc.
- Renewed and comprehensive security training can reduce the incidence of data breaches and other attacks. This should include setting effective passwords, recognizing phishing scams, security etiquette for working in public, the physical safety of the work device, who can have access to it, etc.
4. Difficulties with IT Support
IT support teams typically resolve outstanding issues in one session, but it takes around 24 hours for them to intervene. That is because support teams tend to be too small for the workload they are given, or they do not exist at all. 27% of small businesses do not even have dedicated IT support employees, while 39% rely on a limited number of external contractors.
And with more employees working from home, the technical issues are bound to multiply, and the help will come even slower and with more difficulty.
How to solve it: One of the most effective solutions to this issue, and one that some companies have already adopted, is switching to self-support, at least for commonly encountered issues.
- Training can be provided for all employees for self-support, from rebooting computers to installing software. Some companies have set-up an online resource for frequently encountered questions and answers, with step by step solutions.
- The other crucial adjustment is to expand the IT support team, especially for the transition period, when numerous employees may be experiencing issues getting set up. Companies that do not have dedicated IT support employees or teams may take this opportunity to expand this department.
5. Difficulties with Communication & Teamwork
One of the major issues with remote work, in general, is the difficulty people encounter in communicating with co-workers. Co-working may not be the easiest even at the best of times, but it becomes increasingly difficult when everyone is in a different place, and perhaps working on a different schedule.
Teamwork is particularly difficult because different employees need to liaise and work efficiently together even from far away, which requires constant and effective communication. Unfortunately, people are not always effective communicators, especially in fields like IT, where the focus is put on technical ability.
How to solve it: A focus on communication is the most effective solution, but it is by no means a quick and easy fix:
- Companies might prioritize communication and training workers on methods of effective communication. Oftentimes patience, reading comprehension, and a focused effort to convey messages clearly are needed for effective communication.
- Audio or video conferences with multiple team members can be helpful tools because they make communication imperative, but also easier. Every team member has a chance or an obligation to communicate with others.
- Adequate tools and software can significantly contribute to the quality of communication that is achieved within a company. Conferencing software should be provided to employees, as well as channels and avenues that facilitate clear communication, messaging, updating, etc. Platforms like Slack, Zoom, or Skype are excellent tools for both one-on-one communication and group communication.
IT companies are potentially more prepared for the move to remote work compared to other industries, simply because this has been the reality for IT workers for years. However, it does not mean this work style does not come with challenges, or that the transition to permanent remote work is entirely smooth.
Challenges appear related to security, work devices, communication, and even physical workspace. Especially for employees who have never worked from home before, it can be a difficult change.
The good news is that IT companies can and should aid their employees in this transition. From supplying necessary equipment to providing professional training and even covering some remote work expenses, working remotely can ultimately become a very positive, productive, financially savvy change for both companies and employees.
Written by Paul from broadbandsearch.net