Published in The Business News on April 21st, 2023
As the pandemic moves to our rear-view mirror, many of the forced changes that came about during the pandemic, are still very much in our forward landscape. But, many businesses are starting to question the supposed “new normal”. Things that were going to be forever, are getting a shot of actual normal and not everything is going to pass the sniff test.
Working from home is the first real contestant in this game. People worked from their homes before the pandemic, were forced home during the worst periods of the pandemic, and people will continue to work from home long after the pandemic is forgotten. But not all of them. Most tried. Many succeeded. Many failed.
Elon Musk and Tesla
Elon Musk and Tesla were the first that I saw, to take real aim at remote work. Musk sent an all-company email, stating “Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week… If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.” When questioned about this on Twitter, he doubled down, by tweeting, “They should pretend to work elsewhere”.
Oh goodness, everyone is all worked up and rushing to the Internet, to get their opinion heard. To be fair, Elon Musk could sneeze, and it would be front page news, and the people rushing to the Internet to voice their opinion, are just as passionate about their opinion on the Kardashians.
Still, there is cause for discussion. Whether or not a person has the skills and discipline to work from home is for someone else to debate (on the Internet, no doubt). For me, the question is tech and risk. Why would a company choose to allow, or not to allow their employees to work remotely?
From a risk standpoint, there are many. Your home network is almost certainly not as secure as your businesses network. If business resources are on a server at the office, we now have to get employees setup with a VPN (Virtual Private Network), in order to access data and resources. In the past couple years, cyber insurance companies have started to require MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) for VPN connections. Now that employees can go back to the office, does the business want to invest in these new securities and take on these risks?
The business is probably already struggling to source raw materials, costs are way up and customer orders are starting to decrease. Is it worth the time and money to maintain the WFH balance?
How About The Tech?
It’s the tech standpoint that makes or breaks the case here. In previous WFH articles, we discussed a person’s working structure. “Don’t power through”, “Mix in breaks”, sound familiar? To truly take advantage of remote work, businesses should have already started to change the structure of their business network.
Do you still need a server in the office? Do you still need a classic phone system? Could these things have been replaced, with modern tech? If those questions haven’t been asked in your business, you probably shouldn’t be extending remote work. The business that wants to be progressive and modern in their employee policies, but remains archaic with their office technology, is going to fail at remote work.
I work remotely and most of my employees work remotely, whether exclusively or in a mixed structure. I prefer the mix, personally. As I’ve said before, you just can’t replace in person collaboration sometimes. But, we invested in modern changes to our network. Our data is online, secured with MFA and backed up. Our employees are trained to avoid security risks, like phishing and reused passwords on the dark web. We have no servers in-house and we use cloud-based systems and services, like Microsoft Azure and RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) to manage our accounts, devices to automate policies.
To paraphrase Spiderman, with modern and progressive HR policy, comes great technical responsibility.
Stay Remote, But Be Smart
If your employees want to keep working remotely, first make sure that your business technology is secure and that you have minimized risks. Then make sure that that they have the skills and discipline to do so.
The last bit is support and maintenance. IT companies are working to adjust and stay ahead of the oncoming technical landscape too. Is your IT company setup to support your technology and your working structure? The way we supported business in 2019 is not the way today. If your IT company is living in the past, they may be forcing you to do the same. Now is the time to look at your technology, employees and vendors, and map out a roadmap for your future.