Is remote work here to stay?

There’s no doubt COVID-19 set the remote work revolution on a fast track. And on that fast track, VPN usage soared to new heights with no signs of it slowing down. Companies had no choice but to close up shop and send their workers home, and just as quickly had to figure out how to secure that workforce.

remote work here to stay

But just how big is the spike? In a study conducted by OpenVPN, 30% of employees polled say their company recently implemented remote work capabilities for the first time. 61% already had remote work rules in place.

The accelerated need for virtualization also meant a massive uptick in VPN usage — but not just any VPNs. Business VPNs are booming, according to the study.

“VPNs are critical to our remote minset and provides us with flexibility of being remote.” – a survey participant.

68% of employees say their company expanded VPN usage as a direct result of COVID-19, and 29% say their organization started using a VPN for the first time.

But remote work is not completely new — in fact, it’s been on the rise for some time. Consider these stats:

From 2005 – 2017 there was a 159% jump in remote work. In 2015: 3.9 million U.S. workers were already remote. Today? Over 5 million. And there’s no sign of the surge slowing down now, or ever — especially in the current climate.

The study surveyed workers from 300 different companies across sectors such as technology, energy, education, healthcare, engineering, and construction, and explored how companies are handling the new remote era, during the pandemic.

The study explored how organizations are handling the new COVID-19 remote era — and how they are securing their teams. The study seeks to answer the question: “Is remote work really the future?” If the numbers are any indication, the answer is a resounding YES.

Business VPNs are essential

Businesses are recognizing a layered approach is always the best approach for combating cyberattacks — and a necessary component of this approach is to invest in a reputable business VPN.

Even if every cell phone and laptop comes equipped with a personal VPN in the future, businesses will still need a secure way for workers to access a private network, and they will need an enterprise VPN to do so.

A personal VPN provides you with secure, private access to the internet, which is valuable in its own right — but a business VPN gives you the ability to remotely access private network resources, often essential for completing work, and to securely connect your company’s branches and locations worldwide.

Nearly 70% of employees polled say their companies expanded business VPN usage, and 29% say their organization started using it for the first time. That’s a big boom, mostly due to COVID-19… but is it here to stay?

Surprisingly, not all companies are on board.

Of the 21% of polled employees whose companies have never used a VPN, 71% went on to say their companies are still neglecting to utilize this essential security tool, despite switching to remote work. This suggests many companies still do not have a network security plan in place for remote work, despite the current crisis.

The good news is the companies that have started with secure remote access are almost unanimously in favor of maintaining that protocol: 99% of surveyed employees whose companies use a VPN believe those companies will continue usage after the emergency phase of COVID-19 is over. This encouraging percentage suggests that business VPNs will continue to be an essential part of secure remote access for years to come.

“We have always used VPN for remote work, with 2FA. It would be absolute lunacy to not do so, and there is not a chance on earth that we would discontinue use of our VPN.” – a survey participant.

Is the pandemic pushing organizations to finally go remote?

Employers that have the ability, but have still chosen not to offer their employees remote work capabilities during this time, are falling behind. Those polled describe their employers as uncaring and reckless — willing to risk their health and safety rather than make necessary adjustments.

“My company informed us remote work would be implemented soon. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that so many were furloughed due to lack of preparedness.” – a survey participant.

This illustrates an important point: companies must be prepared, or people will suffer.

Organizations that take the time to establish a secure remote strategy will be far ahead of competitors who choose not to. Offering flexibility can have an enormous impact on companies and the future of their business.

Remote employee: “I have worked from home for five years. Working remotely has given my company and me an edge over other companies that had to suddenly pivot and learn to work remotely. While they still struggle to learn, we have become the leaders and teachers for those who have never done this.”

Office-bound employee: “I think when the economy stabilizes a bit, I may consider finding a different job with a company that provides a safer work environment.”

remote work here to stay

People have mixed feelings about remote work during this stressful era

According to the study, only 5% of employees claim their company willfully chooses to prevent remote work, despite having the capability to provide it. Of that 5% still working at the office, 53% were worried about increased exposure, 29% claimed more stress and anxiety, and 18% had difficulty procuring childcare, suggesting that working in the office during a pandemic can have immediate and serious consequences for employees’ well-being.

Increased stress and anxiety have been found to have a direct effect on performance at work, which means those few employees still forced to go into the office are likely unable to perform at the level their employers would hope for.

In contrast, 30% of employees report that their company recently implemented remote work capabilities for the first time, while 61% already had remote work capabilities in place.

Of those 91% currently working from home, many report positive impacts on their work: 65% enjoy the flexibility, 40% claim fewer distractions, 36% say working from home lowers their stress and anxiety, and 33% have noticed an increase in their productivity.

Companies that have made this change have happier, less stressed employees — and, of course, the ability to continue operating during these unprecedented times.

Remote work should include secure access

“VPNs/remote access is key to allowing people to work when they can. This is the cornerstone of our business continuity plan.” – a survey participant.

Remote work and business VPNs go hand-in-hand; for your team to have secure access to the resources they need, a business VPN is critical to creating an infrastructure safe from breaches.

Will remote work become the norm? Only time will tell— but COVID-19 has certainly revealed that remote work capabilities often make-or-break a company’s success. Those without the ability to pivot often fall behind — and quickly.

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Is remote work here to stay?