Working From Home or the Office? 

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 Our take on productivity and security concerns 

Reaching as far back as the working class can remember, the traditional nine-to-five job has been the norm in most countries. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the pandemic has forced the global population into isolate working conditions. This has reignited the contentious debate over which one is more productive – working from the office or your pyjamas?  

In the pre-pandemic job market, employers expected their hours to be worked in office, and there are several valid reasons for this. But there are additional advantages to WFH that seem to be overlooked, by large employers especially. Below we outline why a combined work approach is the answer anwhat new challenges this brings to securing your business online.  

1. A disciplinary environment

We are trained from our schooling years to comply with strict tea-break guidelines, to pay attention in class, to line up for roll call on time, and to be a productive member of society. This prepares us for the workplace and its expectations. As a result, for many it feels natural to be within this disciplinary structure. If, one day, a pandemic was to appear and suddenly this structure dissipates, can an employee really perform at the same capacity? 

Obviously, this is difficult to say. Some job performances are easily measurable, and others aren’t. But over time you may view differences in their output and a conversation can be initiated. For some people, working from home simply isn’t viableOffice discipline plays too large part in pushing their productivity and that’s perfectly fine. For othersit may not negatively impact their work ethic at all. It may help to improve it.  

What about security? 

Productivity improvements can occur from the home being a more relaxed working environment. But with this comes security concerns. At home you’re relaxed, but you’re also less vigilant. As businesses have transferred to WFH models, so too have cyber threats increased as criminals seek to capitalise on new IT infrastructure and human inefficiencies. 

Maybe you get an email from a colleague with a link to a new project (strange – he mostly uses Teams). You’ve got your hot chocolate and the heater going on a cold day with no one next to you to ask about the project – what could go wrong? Once you click the link it’s too lateYour organisations servers are breached, and sensitive data stolen. Suddenly you aren’t so relaxed anymore (and a bit hot).  

2. Distractions in the office versus home  

Office space environments may be disciplinary, but on the other hand they cause a lot of distractions for employees. How many colleagues do you know that are at full work capacity for 8-9 hours a day? Probably not many – they go for coffees, extended lunch breaks, for appointments, or strike up a conversation for an hour with their best work mate.

But within a quiet home environment there aren’t as many distractions (provided you don’t have Netflix playing on the second screen). Commuting no longer takes time and energy out of your day, you aren’t running errands because of lost time, and technology allows us to be constantly connected and available. 

Unfortunately, there’s the risk you may use this free time in other ways. Having your personal computer next to your workstation is common at home. There is always the temptation to move between the two which brings its own avenues for potential security lapses. If someone forgets they’re on a personal computer and use a work email/password, this could have serious consequences which can take months to fully recover from.  

3. Control over your investment  

At the end of the day, the worker is an investment for the employer. Businesses view any market through the lens of risk to reward. If you make an investment, you want to have as much information as possible towards increasing the probability of the desired outcome. This is the fundamental reason most businesses want their employees at work – control. 

Control over the workplace provides a sense of security on their investment. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this idea is not supported by the data. The return on investment through working from home is much larger than businesses give credit for, both financially and administratively. A more valid argument would be risks involved in sacrificing full control over your intellectual property and where your data is being transferred and stored. This is something all businesses need to keep in the forefront of their minds.  

4. Productivity and employee welfare  

Despite WFH being stigmatised pre-pandemic, evidence has consistently shown significant increases in productivityIn 2012, a study spanning 9-months tracked travel agency employee’s productivity both in the home and the office. The results showed that the WFH employees were 13% more productive than their counterparts. This was attributed to less distractions, eliminating commuting, shorter lunch breaks and less sick days. 

The following year saw a 20% increase in productivity for the WFH employees from the previous year. Clearly, this shows a link between WFH, employee satisfaction and their productivity levels. But it must be considered that the study required these employees to have no children, an office and high-speed internet to participate. As such the results cannot be generalised to every employee’s home situation.  

The disadvantages

But it’s not all smooth sailing. Several WFH participants reported feelings of isolation and disconnection after prolonged periods of remote work. The virtual world will not replace the social aspect of workplaces, especially those that require a lot of collaboration. Socialising is an important factor in employee welfare and career progression. Arguably, this would be lost through a permanent virtual workforce.

Keeping this in mind, it’s very important that businesses find every opportunity to test your employees WFH productivity with various strategies tailored at an individual level. Combining the two will provide more positives towards employee satisfaction, output, work/life balance and cost reductions than many businesses think possible. 

However, as the rapid pace towards WFH models continues, the negatives surrounding cyber security need to be addressed in the same fashion. The financial advantages of WFH could be easily wiped out by disregarding your remote security. If you are considering shifting towards a WFH model but are concerned about productivity and security, then please get in touch with us. We’re happy to help.