Making the change to remote work?
We're happy to help you stay connected

Learn more

3 Lessons Learned About Remote Work in 2020

2020 will be remembered for a lot of things, but the big shift in the business world was the mass adoption of remote work. With more people working from home than ever before last year – an October 2020 Pew Research study found that 71 percent of US adults whose job responsibilities allowed them to work from home were remote – we’ve all had the chance to take stock of what a more flexible, more location-agnostic work world would look like. Let’s dive into the lessons learned about remote work to identify the key takeaways managers and business leaders should be mindful of moving forward.

1. Remote employees are surprisingly productive

One of the most important revelations about remote work is that people can be just as if not more productive working from home as they are in the office. This lesson has turned the traditional mindset upside down. No longer do we assume the physical office is an essential hub for work. Depending on the industry, the nature of work tasks, and the individual, being tethered to an office may even be counterproductive.

Research has shown that those who work from home, on average, are 47 percent more productive. They spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive and work one more day each week.

Why is this, and what can managers and business leaders do to support remote worker productivity?

According to a large study published in 2015 by Stanford University, the productivity boost comes from having a quieter environment. Also, more minutes are devoted to focused work because remote employees tend to take fewer breaks and sick days.

To empower your remote employees to keep productivity and performance levels high, encourage them to create a quiet space at home – a dedicated home office that’s free from distractions. Offer advice on what ergonomic furniture to use, as well as tips on lighting, ventilation, and functional design. Also, provide guidance on forming a routine and managing time wisely. With these tools, your workforce can be effective no matter where they are located.

2. Security shouldn’t be overlooked

Another major lesson learned is the vital importance of cybersecurity best practices. Remote work is, in itself, not risky. What does open up your business systems and data to vulnerability is changing work styles without changing your approach to cybersecurity.

A report released by HP Inc. uncovered some interesting issues with remote work:

  • Remote office workers aren’t generally using technology safely on their own. Seventy percent use their work devices for personal tasks, and 69 percent use personal laptops or printers for work activities.
  • Globally, cyberattacks increased during the pandemic by 238 percent. Over half of IT decision-makers saw an increase in phishing attacks, and 44 percent saw compromised devices being used to infect the wider business. Also, the FBI issued a warning in 2020 about new attacks targeting both new hires and remote workers.
  • The HP Inc. report also found that the blurred lines between home and office are creating new vulnerabilities. More employees are using work devices to download apps from the internet, play games (or allow their children to play games), and watch online streaming services.

What can business leaders do to ensure better cyber hygiene with a remote workforce?

There’s a lot your company can do. Step one is to make sure the cloud communication and collaboration software providers you work with offer air-tight security.

Also, train your employees to recognize attacks. Teach them what they need to do to keep their devices and company data safe such as using multi-factor authentication, keeping personal and work devices separate, and relying on their employer’s VPN (virtual private network) any time they log on using a work device or access work-related tools or information.

3. Lack of human interaction is a problem

Who doesn’t appreciate flexible scheduling, less time commuting to and from work, and the convenience of being able to work in the best location for you? However, not everything about remote work is a walk in the park. One of the potential downsides that work-from-wherever organizations need to address is the lack of human interaction.

Interaction is important both for every individual’s mental health and for cultivating company culture. As David Niu, CEO of TINYpulse explains, “There’s invisible social capital that is built up over hundreds of personal interactions that gets drained as everyone is working remotely. These interactions are so critical to company culture and employee happiness that you have to find ways to instill virtually.”

So, what can companies with a remote or hybrid workforce do to ensure humans can keep being human?

Make a deliberate and ongoing effort to provide opportunities for face-to-face interaction. This can include virtual meetings – both group collaboration sessions and one-on-one’s – as well as non-work-related events such as virtual coffee breaks, accountability groups, and happy hours. A good mix of formal and informal can help every type of personality find their groove with co-workers.

With today’s technology, your employees can interact, socialize, and form bonds from wherever. This can help them thrive personally and professionally.

High-quality video conferencing software and unified communications enable co-workers to easily stay connected. It’s through video meetings, virtual chats, and other communication channels that your company culture and values can flourish. Inclusiveness, innovation, trust, passion, fun – whatever your values are, they play out through every conversation, action, and intention that occurs between individuals.

Learning from 2020 to Create a Better Future

The unprecedented rise of remote work in 2020 did come with challenges. But, through mass adoption, we all have learned the pros and cons of remote work, as well as what we can do to enhance the benefits and solve the problems.

Learn more about how small to medium-sized businesses navigated 2020 and what they learned from remote work and a year of disruption. Browse our Business Innovators series and get inspired.

About Darcy Mekis