“Working 9-5, what a way to make a living.” While the words of this Dolly Parton song hit home for many, the 9-5 workplace is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Whether it is flexible hours, remote working, or perks such as gym memberships, small businesses now have to accommodate new expectations when it comes to the workforce of today.
With SMBs facing an uphill battle to attract the best talent, it is easy to see why these demands might be easily met by an employer. However, small and medium businesses owners would be wise to consider the wider impact this will have, and the challenges they will have to overcome.
What is the New Normal?
A recent study of 1,850 employees from small- and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. and U.K. has uncovered the expectations when it comes to mobile working – with some surprising results that demonstrate just how much attitudes have evolved.
Mobility over Money: More than half of those surveyed (52 percent) stated that they would prefer to take a pay cut rather than being restricted to always working in an office! To add to this, a further 12 percent would choose the flexibility of working from home over the office even if they were offered a salary increase of 25 percent.
A Happy Workforce…: When asked about the benefits of being allowed to work remotely, one-third (34 percent) said it made them happier and 32 percent claimed that it makes them enjoy their job. With job satisfaction and work-life balance becoming increasingly important for employee retention, this is definitely a factor that modern businesses need to consider if they want to keep their best workers from seeking greener pastures.
…Is a Productive Workforce: Not only does this flexible approach to working increase employee satisfaction, it can also have a positive impact on quality of work. In fact, the largest proportion of small business staff (38 percent) claimed to be the most productive when working from home. Visibility in the office does not necessarily equal productivity — from commuting to unnecessary meetings to water cooler chat, interruptions in an office setting affect workers more than the distractions at home.
New Ways of Working = New Challenges
The benefits of granting employees flexible and mobile working are clear, but there is a dark side to all this freedom: the potential danger that employees bring upon themselves and their employers when connecting remotely to internal systems, or by accessing the internet out from behind the corporate firewall and the cybersecurity protections within.
While one in five employees state that they are the most productive when working in public spaces like a café or library, only 18 percent are concerned with the cybersecurity implications that this could have.
If staff access sensitive data or log into corporate accounts via unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, they are putting the business at risk of an attack. There is also risk of a data breach should an employee save private information to a device that then gets stolen, especially if passwords aren’t unique and complex. Not to mention the fact that many tools businesses use for additional security are only effective when the employee is in the office, for example web protection or advanced firewalls. Once an employee is out in the world, they are no longer afforded these additional layers of protection when accessing the web from home or a coffee shop.
While the lack of employee concern is worrisome, business owners also have a role to play here. The research found that 38 percent don’t receive the technological support or expertise they need when working from home or in a public place. If employees are going to be working remotely, they need the same level of protection they would receive at the office.
The Need for a Holistic Approach
The trend toward mobile working has increased in recent years, but businesses should not rush into it blindly. As much as this is becoming a popular request, the research found that there is still a significant number of those who prefer the stability of basing themselves in an office.
The study also found that levels of stress and anxiety in the workplace did not differ wildly whether an employee was office or home-based, suggesting that there should not be a one-size-fits all approach to mobile working.
Effectively small businesses have to fight the security battle on two fronts – in the office and any location their employees choose to sign on. End-users should be equipped with the tools they need to conduct business wherever, whenever, and from any device.
Tips for Managing the Mobile Workforce
Don’t make assumptions: Flexibility and mobility are becoming increasingly popular, yes; but that doesn’t mean that this is the case for everyone. While a significant number value remote working over a pay raise, it is not this cut-and-dry for your whole workforce. Engaging with your employees about their work preferences and style will not only make them feel like they’ve been heard, but it also gives you an opportunity to talk about security risks.
Educate your employees: In many cases, mobile working is expected rather than viewed as a “nice-to-have,” however workers need to understand the role they play when it comes to security. In any business, everyone is responsible – and the organization is only as secure as its weakest link. Employers need to educate their staff and emphasize how they can keep company data and IT property secure.
Provide the right support: Small business owners need to provide security measures for mobile workers such as virtual private network (VPN) solutions for use on open Wi-Fi connections, anti-malware endpoint software, and cloud-based web security solutions that follow the user no matter where they are. Now that the internet is the new corporate network, flexibility in security solutions is a requirement, not just an addition.
Those entering the workforce today are demanding increased flexibility with hours, location, and personalized benefits. Though proven in some cases to increase employee satisfaction, and even productivity, there are very real security issues that need to be addressed. Small business owners need to provide the tools that not only enable flexibility, but do so in a secure way.
By taking a holistic approach with staff, small businesses will be in a better position to address the growing demand for mobile working without compromising security or isolating those who still prefer working from the office environment.
Authored by: Gill Langston, Senior Product Manager, Avast Business
Gill Langston is Senior Product Manager, Avast Business, a division of Avast, the global leader in digital security products. In his current role, Gill is responsible for the strategy and roadmap as well as the feature and services definition for the CloudCare platform. In the past 12 years, he has worked with organizations of all sizes to secure their infrastructure and attain compliance goals through email security, network security, endpoint security, patch management, archiving, and event monitoring. Previously, Gill held multiple leadership roles in sales and product management at GFI Software and served as Director of Product Management at ThreatTrack Security, and most recently, Qualys. Gill lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a sci-fi nerd, plays guitar, bass and drums, and is raising a 10-year old daughter.