This time last year, the world began to brace for the pandemic. Businesses abruptly transitioned employees to remote work, many of whom had never worked from home before. What many business leaders hoped would be a temporary disruption has since evolved into the new normal.
Remote work is here to stay. It now plays a central role in budgets, project planning and the types of technology in which companies choose to invest.
As shown by a new new study commissioned by LogMeIn, most businesses are investing in and consolidating remote work tools in 2021. Even as it embraces a work-from-anywhere policy, IT continues to be challenged by facilitating employee access and mitigating the cybersecurity risks of employees working from home.
The unique challenges of securing a remote workforce
Bring your own device (BYOD) was common well before the pandemic. For many businesses, however, supporting an entirely remote workforce required a massive shift in daily work. IT transitioned from managing technology at one or a handful of physical office locations to essentially managing the technology of a standalone “office” for every single employee. Everyone needed a computer at home, reliable WiFi to connect to work, and access to required apps, data, web portals and more. In short, IT now handled everyday technology challenges of the office — scalability, user access, cybersecurity — within the wide variety of setups at each employee’s home office.
Cybersecurity is a challenge in the new normal. IT leaders have significant security concerns about remote work, with 79% of those in the US indicating that remote work expands cyber risk.
According to the report, “US respondents also city security-related issues among their most pressing current challenges as they plan for 2021. Top concerns for those surveyed include providing secure access to applications (28%), cybersecurity management (40%), [and] providing secure access to data (47%).” IT needs to ensure that employees have easy access without putting systems and data at risk. Tightening cybersecurity company-wide requires centrally deploying and managing employee access with single sign-on, centralizing oversight of password hygiene with a password manager, and adding protection to all virtual entry points with multifactor authentication.
Part of the challenge at this point is identifying which technologies to replace. According to the IDG study, 95% of IT leaders in the US admitted they deployed off-the-shelf solutions last year to cope with short-term needs. As they begin to plan for the coming year after seeing what’s working and what’s not, they can ensure the right technology is in place to address a remote workforce’s unique challenges. 90% of US survey respondents said they are planning to or are already working to consolidate their remote work tools for 2021.
Many technologies failed the pandemic stress test
Remote work tools proved hugely beneficial to businesses as they coped with the uncertainty and disruption caused by the pandemic. Respondents cited such positives as the ability to connect and collaborate from anywhere, engage with customers worldwide, support employees and clients worldwide, and secure employees no matter where they work.
But, “while survey respondents agree that remote tools generally do work well, they believe there’s substantial room for improvement. In the US, 43% of survey respondents note that the remote work tools and solutions their organization adopted over the years performed adequately, poorly, or very poorly in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown.”
The problem may, in part, have been an inability to deploy employee access to new or existing tools quickly. Without single sign-on (SSO) or a password manager to manage apps and logins, doling out access is time-consuming and difficult to track. It ultimately introduces cyber risk – especially when all communication is virtual. Administering employee access via SSO or a password manager ensures the right employees have access to the correct information when and where it’s appropriate, no matter where they happen to be working.
Preparing for the new normal
Remote work is not a fad, and for many businesses, many or all employees will continue working remotely even after the pandemic. Business leaders need to plan accordingly – and according to the IDG study, it’s a top priority. 87% of IT leaders say their companies are investing more in remote work tools. “Forward-looking companies are handling this in several ways,” says the report. “Working to get ahead of any security issues now by reassessing their remote work tools and processes; consolidating solutions wherever possible; and investing in best-in-class technology.”
Success in the work-from-anywhere world requires new thinking and new investments. The report recommends that businesses prioritize ease of use for employees, simplify IT administration, continue to invest in and standardize remote work tools, and focus on security. A solution like LastPass can accelerate a business’ ability to meet these recommendations.
With central administration, the ability to enforce policies across the business, and a better login experience for employees, LastPass offers a solid foundation for supporting a remote workforce. Secure access is core to security in remote work. The more convenient it is for employees to connect to data and tools, and the more protection is built-in behind-the-scenes, the easier it is for IT to reduce risk while supporting a productive workforce. LastPass makes it easy to pair complementary technologies – like password management, SSO and multifactor authentication – so that remote work is more secure and profitable.
To learn more about how LastPass can help support your remote workforce, click here.