The workplace has evolved beyond recognition for many people in recent years, with one of the most significant changes being that more and more people are now offered the option of working remotely.
This incentive is a result of a combination of changing attitudes, enhanced technology, and software solutions, all of which have been transforming the way that businesses of all shapes and sizes are run and how customers interact with them, as well as allowing employees to work outside of the office.
The TUC estimated that the number of UK people working from home has increased by a fifth in the 10 years to 2016, and with everything becoming increasingly digitised and technology enhancing at such a rapid rate, we can safely assume that this trend will only continue to grow. In fact, it is expected that 50 percent of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020.
For many businesses, the biggest apprehension around making the movement towards remote working is making sure staff remain streamlined and connected with colleagues and managers at all times, but one concern which is not being properly addressed is data security considerations.
While this incentive has been well received by employees, and it certainly makes a difference to that healthy work-life balance we are all searching for, it is vital to make your team members aware of the extra security risks that they face when working from home, on the train, or at a local coffee shop.
In this article, we are sharing actionable advice on certain risks that should be considered, and steps that employers should be taking, to ensure that they are educating employees on protecting company data from security threats.
Consider transfer risks
The way in which data can be moved around transferred is taken for granted by most people nowadays, as electronic communications are available on the go 24/7. When working remotely, it is likely that you will still be working with the same sensitive company information and customer data as you would be if you were on site – but without the digital privacy you are used to.
Transferring data can take many forms, whether it be over email via your domestic internet connection, through your mobile phone network, or on a physical medium such as a USB stick. Each of these methods have inherent risks that should be addressed:
Domestic internet, even with WPA2-PSK security, is vulnerable to various forms of hacking and malicious access
Mobile phone networks can be even more open to attack as information can be accessed without leaving a trail
Physical media can be lost or stolen (and could end up in the wrong hands)
Employers and remote workers should be working together to tackle this issue and potential cyber security threats; from enforcing security and implementing and remote working policy, to educating the importance of commitment to security best practises. Simple actions such as using a USB data blocker, encrypting sensitive data within emails and avoiding public Wi-Fi will make a huge difference.
Utilise the cloud to minimise risks
If your business take advantage of cloud hosting, then you are already one step ahead in avoiding potential security breaches. The ease of use that ‘anytime/anywhere’ password protected cloud access offers means that whatever device or platform your employees prefer, they can still connect with your work systems remotely.
The concept that digital information can be accessed instantly around the world actually becomes part of a security solution, rather than posing risks, meaning the cloud takes the flexibility of working from home to a totally new level.
In addition to being able to access files and documents and log into relevant systems safely, remote workers should also be encouraged to back up data frequently so that a lost device doesn’t mean lost data, and cloud storage solutions are a great solution for this. By migrating to the cloud, you can also ensure that applications are patched and updated regularly to maximise protection.
Whilst ensuring your remote workforce is protected and safe from security breaches is vital, your security policy shouldn’t add to employee’s workload; they should be simple and efficient. It is one of the most important investments you should make as the safety and security of your data and systems has to be a priority, and although it will take a bit of work, you will reap the benefits including reduced office costs, higher morale and increased staff retention as well as access to a wider talent pool.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become engrained in our day-to-day lives without us even noticing.
From basic voice assistants that can play music by just saying one word, to self-driving cars – there’s no turning back from the world of AI. Today’s tech-savvy consumers have grown to love AI so much due to its ability to improve overall Customer Experience and resolve issues in a timely way. As a result, businesses are jumping on board the AI journey at an unprecedented pace. There is little doubt in AI’s ability to dramatically transform CX, so why isn’t the same attention being given to the Employee Experience?
Today’s workforce has changed dramatically compared to that of previous generations. More employees are working remotely than in traditional offices, and recent research shows that by the year 2020 more than 50 percent of employees will enjoy the benefits of working someplace other than a traditional office.
In addition to where we work, how we work is also changing. While millennials have had access to cell phones and the internet for virtually their entire lives, even generations that have not grown up with this technology are embracing well-designed, easy-to-use applications. Employees across industries expect technology to make jobs easier and more productive, however, the bar for what companies believe is user-friendly technology is often far too low.
Even companies that are forward-thinking and want to move beyond antiquated systems, are struggling to implement technology that is as easy to use as Alexa, but also seamlessly fits into the current processes and workflow – and it’s having an impact on retention and employee satisfaction. Research suggests that a majority of employees that are looking for new jobs are doing so because of broken company processes, including being able to connect with support departments like IT and HR.
A direct correlation
One wrong Customer Experience can create a lasting impression. Therefore, businesses are now so focused on providing exceptional CX that Employee Experience becomes an afterthought. Businesses know that if they want to compete with the Amazons of the world, they need to go above and beyond to ensure a superior CX.
They have done this by pulling out all the stops and implementing new technologies that allow consumers to do things like virtually design homes with furniture they’re considering buying or try on clothing in a virtual dressing room.These innovations have changed the game when it comes to Customer Experience.But behind the curtain, employees are under constant pressure to provide this experience and are not equipped with the same flashy technologies to help them do their jobs.
In fact, the technologies designed to support the modern workforce often times do the opposite – they hinder employees’ productivity, efficiency, and, as some would claim, even the ability to produce meaningful work.
In a business-driven world where time is money, no-one should struggle to figure out technologies that are supposed to ‘support’ them and make their lives easier. The reality is that many existing support solutions today are outdated and actually work against the employee, inhibiting the ability to help them and the business thrive.
The workplace of the future
In what ways can businesses improve Employee Experience whilst also giving their employees the freedom to do the best work? We already know that workplaces of the future are likely to be increasingly more remote, as more companies choose to run their businesses from co-working spaces or have no office space at all. With the workplace becoming more fluid and dynamic, and employees working out of home offices or coffee shops, in varying locations, businesses need to be prepared to support employees across state lines and time zones.
We also know that future of the workplace will be increasingly more digital, as the technical innovations that alter the way we live outside the office will become expected in the professional environment as well.
Businesses need to reimagine the workplace the way they’ve reimagined the customer journey.Emerging technologies like AI-powered chatbots, for example, are helping with everything from onboarding and training, to providing assistance during meetings, to helping solve common employee questions that often plague IT, HR, facilities and other support teams at organisations.AI is helping businesses save time and energy – while still ensuring employees have help every step of the way.
Inundations of Help Tickets
A great example of AI in the workplace is in IT, which isn’t surprising with IT being the backbone of technology exploration and vetting at organisations.These teams spend a good majority of their days working through cluttered support queues full of repetitive tickets – whether its password resets, email access or printer setups. These are questions that can often be found in knowledge management systems or intranets, but when employees have questions – especially if those issues are hindering them from getting work done – they would much rather ask their IT buddy than go searching through a sea of URLs and documents to find the answer.
This endless onslaught of requests cuts down on the amount of time the IT team can devote to higher-value problem solving or long-term strategic initiatives. Not to mention, it must be incredibly frustrating when ten people in one day ask you how to access a remote server – copy and paste at its finest. IT teams, which are already stretched thin,are drowning in these requests day in and day out, and it becomes a problem for the entire business operation.
And IT isn’t the only one affected by this cyclical support queue. While the help desk team is busy working its way through tickets or dealing with an unexpected ‘fire drills’, employees who are waiting for support grow frustrated with resolution time.
Sometimes they even turn to unauthorised solutions that bring their own security implications. Employing an AI-powered support partner to help answer these questions removes the pain of searching through outdated and hard-to-read knowledge articles, empowers employees to self-serve and opens up the IT team to work with the employees who need them the most. Thanks to Google, today’s workforce is programmed to take a DIY-approach to problem solving and often prefers self-service, so organisations need to embrace and capitalise on this – and AI is one of the ways to help bring it to the workplace.
Time is money
The famous saying, “time is money”, must be remembered. However, if businesses don’t focus on Employee Experience, they will be diminishing their success in the long-run, creating lasting inefficiencies for the bottom line. Now is the time to start removing friction from the day-to-day by using tools that will enable employees to do their best work. Ultimately, these efforts will allow businesses to thrive as employees will feel motivated to become more productive and simultaneously more satisfied.
British Airways is among firms taking part in a new initiative to boost productivity by having staff go on a week-long “workation” to Lithuania.
The Workstation Vilinius programme offers firms the chance to send staff to the Lithuanian capital to work, with the change in environment believed to stimulate employee engagement. The scheme reflects a rise in remote working that could see as much as 50 percent of the global workforce not tied to offices by 2020.
Three international companies – Monese, British Airways, and Siemens – won this year’s Workstation Vilinius places, and three teams of up to 10 employees from each firm will travel to Vilinius in September for a week of working against an inspiring new backdrop. They will be welcomed by Go Vilinius, the official development agency of the city.
General Manager of Go Vilnius, Inga Romanovskienė, said: “During the first Workation Vilnius programme that took place last year, we welcomed teams from British Telecom, Expedia, and OrderYoyo.
“By having such high-calibre applicants for the second year in a row, we believe that Vilnius is able to position itself amongst Europe’s top capitals for doing business. This is not only due to the international mindset which is adopted by our city’s business sector. It is also a result of our emphasis on the establishment of a healthy work-life balance for our professionals.”
A British Airways spokesperson said: “As a global organisation, we seek to enhance our cross-market working environments. Having the opportunity to work from Vilnius would strengthen our teams’ relationships and empower our employees.”
Summertime may be fun for the kids when school’s out, but for home workers it can lead to days filled with noise and distractions.
With an ever-growing number of the UK workforce operating from home offices, the summer holidays can be a cause of stress instead of a time for rest and relaxation for working parents, a new survey has found.
The 2019 Global Workspace Survey, conducted by flexible workspace provider, IWG, has revealed that interruptions from children or other family members is the number one obstacle being faced by professionals who take advantage of home working.
The study of over 2,000 respondents from the UK found that 65 percent are distracted by family demanding attention when they work from home. The second most common complaint is having professional calls interrupted by children, family, and pets (49 percent).
The third hindrance is a slow or unreliable internet connection (45 percent), followed by problems accessing typical office equipment such as printers and photocopiers. The fifth problem for home-based professionals is the temptation to have a television on in the background to provide “company” during the day, leading to further distractions.
A spokesperson for IWG said: “Increasingly, businesses are providing their employees with the option to decide where, when and how they would like to work and there are benefits on both sides of the exchange. Flexibility not only makes workers happier and healthier, but it can also have a direct impact on the health of a business, with 82 percent of organisations reporting a significant increase in the productivity of their workforce as a result.
“Location is a key factor in determining how easily workers can pivot between work and home life – particularly for parents in the summer holidays. According to IWG, a rise in flexible working could save individuals nationwide 115 hours of commuting time per annum – the equivalent to 14 million days spent at work. With nearly half of Brits (41 percent) citing commuting as the worst part of their day, working closer to home is an increasingly favoured option.”
Over the last decade, there has been a noticeable change in the way society perceives the environment.
Having seen the impact pollution and carbon emissions is having on the ecological system, consumers and businesses alike are adopting new practices in a bid to sustainably manage the planet’s resources.
As a result, consumers are increasingly making the conscious decision to engage with companies that are actively supporting environmental initiatives, or who have adopted greener practices. According to a global survey by Nielsen, 81 percent of consumers feel strongly that companies should actively help improve the environment.
For a business, adopting greener work ethics isn’t just good for the planet – there are also cost-reduction benefits that arise when pursuing more eco-friendly objectives. As someone who has worked closely with companies large and small, I have seen first-hand that with careful planning, reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint can have significant cost-efficient outcomes and reduce unnecessary expenditures.
This might appear easier said than done, so let’s consider some ways that companies can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and reap the cost-benefits that could arise from this change.
What is a carbon footprint?
While the term is becoming more commonly used in day-to-day life, what exactly do we mean by the phrase ‘carbon footprint’ when applied to businesses? In simple terms, a carbon footprint is the best estimate of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced to directly and indirectly operate a business.
A business’ carbon footprint could therefore be the emissions produced in the manufacturing of a product, or the amount of electricity consumed by a company to facilitate its daily operations. Importantly, regardless of the product or service being offered, there are a number of simple ways that businesses can cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, this task has become much easier now thanks to technological innovations that can streamline and simplify operations.
Lowering a carbon footprint doesn’t have to be needlessly complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as switching to a renewable energy supplier.
Some widely used energy providers offer renewable energy solutions, with many of these backed by REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) certificates. To cut down on excessive energy usage and find a cleaner alternative, be sure to seek out solutions with REGO, which guarantees that the origin of the energy supplied is renewably resourced.
What’s more, besides helping businesses become more sustainable, embracing energy efficiency can also deliver energy cost savings. To find the best deal on business energy prices, be sure to compare tariffs on online comparison websites to find one best suited to your needs.
Re-evaluating daily practices and educating staff
Awareness is at the heart of change, so it’s important to ensure that all staff members are well-versed in the simple steps they can take at work to reduce carbon emissions. Holding staff education initiatives is a great way of spreading awareness about environmentally damaging practices, and the solutions available to address these.
Utilise existing and readily available tech
Did you know that the pulp, paper and print industry accounts for 3.1 percent of Europe’s total energy consumption? The environmental impact of paper is significant, even with growing recyclingefforts.
To combat this problem, businesses need to be aware of the impact printing and extensive hard copy record-keeping can have on the environment and be encouraged to reduce the amount of paper they consume. The advent of cloud computing has paved the way for this, allowing businesses to offer digital versions of documents in computerised management systems which can be accessed at any time, and in any place.
Reassess work commutes
It’s also important not to overlook the indirect contributions to an organisation’s carbon emissions, including those which arise from staff commuting to and from work every day using cars. Technological advances in connectivity mean than employees can now work efficiently from home, removing the need to venture into the office every morning.
Xerox recently followed this path and designed a Virtual Workforce Programme to use the benefits of working from home as a means to both run a productive company and benefit the environment. Through the programme, 11 percent of its workforce work from home full-time. But how does this translate to tangible results? Through ‘telecommuting’, Xerox managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40,894 metric tonnes.
Alternatively, if possible, staff should be encouraged to cycle or walk to work – not only will this reduce potential carbon emissions, it will also encourage a healthier lifestyle for employees. So, for businesses keen to make the necessary changes to reduce their carbon footprint, promoting remote working should be high on the priority list.
Reducing a company’s carbon footprint doesn’t just have a positive impact on the environment – it can also deliver huge energy savings by helping to identify ways to reduce costs and consumption, and ultimately improve their operational efficiency. The above suggestions are but a handful of solutions that can be readily adopted. As such, I would encourage businesses of all sizes to explore ways that they can reduce their carbon footprint, and at the same time evaluate how they stand to benefit from the cost saving potential.