How COVID-19 affected remote work, customer engagements, and return to the office plans

Top-tier enterprises were 2.6 times as likely to have grown revenue, 2.5 times as likely to have reached profit goals and 2.1 times as likely to have high employee satisfaction numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Catchpoint survey of 200 enterprise CIOs and 200 enterprise work-from-home (WFH) managers.

COVID-19 affected remote work

Effects of COVID-19 on enterprises

Before COVID-19 hit, 33 percent American enterprise employees worked from home at least some of the time. During the pandemic, this increased to 74 percent.

In terms of engaging with customers, prior to the pandemic, 43 percent of customer engagements were face-to-face. During the pandemic, this dropped to just 13 percent.

The pandemic has been tough on most enterprises. The survey shows that the three biggest impacts on businesses were profitability, revenue growth and productivity. Within IT departments, the biggest impacts were security, app reliability and network availability.

“When it comes to today’s Digital Workplace, reliable performance is critical for employee productivity and morale, and with a fast-increasing number of employees working from home, systems are more prone to reliability, availability and performance issues affecting remote workers,” said Mehdi Daoudi, CEO at Catchpoint.

“The ability to measure, visualize and proactively react to outages and slowdowns can deliver a 1st class digital employee experience.”

Lessons from top-tier enterprises

Not every enterprise had the same experience and some did surprisingly well during the pandemic. To see the differences, responses were devided into three tiers.

Top tier are organizations that performed the best in terms of business and IT metrics and bottom tier performed the worst. Then the top and bottom tiers were compared to explore those differences and what the top tier was doing differently.

Four keys to top-tier enterprises’ impressive results were found:

  • Focus on reliability. The top tier is fully committed to reliability. 91 percent of the top tier has implemented a formal site reliability engineering methodology (SRE). This compares to just 69% of bottom-tier organizations.
  • Focus on work-from-home tech stack. The top tier is committed to making Work-from-Home (WFH) employees as productive as possible. For example, the top tier is 33 percent more likely to train their employees on work-from-home technologies. The top tier also does a better job of equipping their WFH employees—nearly three times as likely to say their employees’ collaboration tools are extremely effective.
  • General networking initiatives. Top-tier organizations are more engaged with cutting- edge initiatives that optimize remote work. For example, top-tier are 1.8 times as likely to be involved with robotic process automation.
  • Security initiatives. Finally, top-tier organizations are also more engaged with cutting-edge security initiatives. Top-tier reported being 1.4 times as likely to be involved with better security management and working with software-defined perimeters.

COVID-19 affected remote work

“In the report we found that these security initiatives stand out. My interpretation is that this is mostly around the challenges of securing people and apps that are outside the firewall. SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is the biggest initiative in security today, and zero trust networks and software-defined perimeter are part of SASE. So it is fair to say Top-Tier CIOs have doubled down on SASE to make sure they can securely connect their work-from-home workers,” Daoudi told Help Net Security.

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