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The Future of Remote Work: Anywhere and Anytime Information Access

Since the coronavirus outbreak, social distancing has impacted just about everybody. Schools, businesses, and most government offices have closed. As many people as possible have been encouraged to work at home by the government and their employers. In that respect, the current crisis might accomplish what plenty of workers have wanted for years. Formerly the privilege of the lucky few, the coronavirus may make working remotely accessible to millions more employees. In turn, companies in a position to enable their employees to work from home can enjoy some surprising benefits.

How Common Was Remote Work Before the Coronavirus Crisis?

According to Pew Research, only about 7% of the country’s 140 million civilian employees had access to any sort of telework at their jobs before the outbreak. A greater percentage of managers and skilled professionals typically had access to this benefit. Larger companies appeared to offer working remotely more commonly than smaller companies. Businesses in the industries of insurance, professional services, and computers provided telework most often.

Obviously, not every job lends itself to remote work. Some examples could include construction, food service, and plumbing. Still, more European companies appear to offer the option of working from home to their workforce than American ones. For instance, 23% of Danes, 21% of Dutch, and 18% of Swedes reported working from their homes at least a few times a month.

Is America Ready for a Working-From-Home Workforce?

Suddenly, the government and all kinds of businesses have had to adjust to a large remote workforce. Some businesses had better infrastructure in place to support these millions of new work-at-home employees than others did. Chenxi Wang, Managing Partner of Rain Capital and former Forrester analyst, said that large, tech companies like Google had already developed remote work as part of their company culture. Other businesses have had to adjust on the fly, and they will experience more challenges. For instance, they may have established security within their own company perimeter, but now people are taking devices and connections away from that security zone and into their own homes.

The head of cyber security at Check Point, Yaniv Balmas, said that businesses should also focus upon the likelihood that online criminals will gravitate towards the types of Shadow IT apps that employees may turn to the most frequently. Common examples include Zoom for video meetings and Slack for collaboration. During an overall decline in such stock market indicators as the S&P 500, you can look at the stock prices of these two companies to gauge their spike in popularity. As of the publication of this article, Zoom shares have increased over 3.5%, and Slack has risen over 6%. Just before the coronavirus began generating stay-at-home orders, Check Point had discovered a flaw in Zoom that let intruders listen to meetings. Since these kinds of apps have attracted more users lately, they’re also likely to attract more attention from hackers. At the same time, it’s prudent for businesses to question how robust these applications really are when it comes to meeting their security and governance requirements.

Getting Ready for the Work-From-Anywhere Workforce

Right now, some companies have had to act quickly to allow their employees to work from their bedrooms and kitchen tables. To really benefit themselves, it’s important to look beyond the next few weeks and realize this urgent situation may have generated a tipping point that will make working from home much more common, even after people can return to their offices. To avoid short-term problems and truly provide an attractive telework alternative, businesses should look beyond the quick fix to a solid, lasting strategy.

Good solutions to consider should include:

A reduction or elimination of shadow IT: The IT department must take responsibility for security and compliance, but they have no control over third-party solutions. That’s why they should adopt business-grade document management and communication solutions and not apps that were never really developed to handle enterprise business requirements.

Better workflows: Most remote jobs deal in documents. M-Files not only offers intelligent document management, it also helps automate workflows. Just a few examples include automatic alerts, routing invoices, and asking for signatures. Even working from home, many employees can do their jobs more efficiently with automation than with manual processes.

Improving security: Businesses can employ both governance policies and technology to shore up security. Examples might include requiring the use of specific hardware, offering VPN connections, and of course, having a secure document management platform.

Both large and small organizations can access solutions like M-Files. With its intelligent document management features, employees can find everything they need to do their jobs, from documents to workflows, when they turn on their laptops. M-Files was entirely developed with the concept of serving the anywhere, anytime workforce.

While it can help perform a vital, urgent function today, M-Files can also keep improving information management and business workflows for years into the future. Certainly, plenty of companies must struggle to cope with rapid changes right now — but those who can develop a workable, long-term strategy to persevere will certainly emerge better in the future.