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How 2020 changed the way we think about work

How 2020 changed the way we think about work
(Image credit: Future)

The pandemic ushered in unprecedented changes to everyday life in a matter of days, forcing us all to change the way we work. What is now clear is that remote working is here to stay, and IT management teams have been facing huge pressure to ensure day-to-day operations continue running as smoothly as possible, all while maintaining the highest levels of security.

IT teams were on the front lines when the pandemic began to spread across the globe, with drastic changes needing to be implemented in a matter of weeks to support a long-term hybrid working model. Recent research on the state of IT in a remote world has revealed how the role of IT professionals is now significantly different compared to before the pandemic. So what should teams have in mind for the new remote world?

Work-from-anywhere is the new normal

Prior to the pandemic, nearly 75% of employees worked in traditional office settings. As a result of COVID-19, this paradigm has shifted greatly. Over the span of a few months, 65% of employees shifted to remote only, while only 20% of employees continued to work in-office, and 15% worked a mix of in-office and remote. As 2021 begins, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay – with many companies making a permanent shift to remote work and others adopting hybrid models. This has had a significant impact on the priorities of IT teams.

Fewer endpoints, more control

The average number of endpoints IT is managing has decreased over the years, resulting in IT teams having better control overall. On average, IT teams were managing 750 endpoints in 2018, down to just 371 in 2020. In 2020, only 1 in 10 don’t know how many endpoints they are managing, compared to nearly 3 in 10 in 2018.

The tasks occupying IT teams’ time

With an evolving threat landscape and more prevalent BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) work environments, IT teams are spending more time managing cybersecurity threats and developing new security protocols than ever. Nearly 50% of IT professionals are spending 5 to 8 hours a day on security, compared to 35% in 2019. Additionally, IT is spending more time on virtual tasks. Team web meetings, remotely accessing employee devices, IT support calls and virtual events are among the top tasks occupying IT professionals’ time.

New opportunities are in abundance

Before the pandemic, IT teams assumed many tasks could never be automated or executed remotely, but many found they were able to adapt when forced to. Managing IT software and hardware, managing IT security, and employee IT development training and skill development are among the top tasks that were transitioned during remote work. This shift has opened up new opportunities for IT teams in how they are structured and how they operate moving forward.

Data breaches remain the top concern

The top IT security concerns continue to be data breaches. With cloud computing and adoption skyrocketing over the years, fear of a cloud data security breach has increased significantly. More than 50% cite cloud data breaches as a top security concern in 2020, up from 40% expressing concern in 2018. Other top concerns include malware (46%), and ransomware (40%). One concern that remains critical to IT teams is employee behaviors. In 2018 and again in 2020, 45% of IT professionals identify employee online habits and behaviors as a key IT security concern. In the remote work environment, it is more important than ever for IT teams to put in place new measures like security training and identity and access management in order to mitigate these ongoing risks.

Catalysts for change

More than a third of IT professionals cite the shift to remote work as the leading driver of change in the IT industry, up from 19% in 2019. While moving to the cloud and adoption of SaaS continue to be core focuses, a greater focus on IT infrastructure monitoring, and a shift from reactive to proactive IT support are seen as increasingly important trends.

Greatest challenges for IT teams

More than a third of IT professionals agree that a lack of budget is the biggest challenge their company is facing in trying to keep up with IT trends. IT training, lack of IT staff, lack of control over a remote workforce, and IT staff resistance to change are all seen as the most common reasons IT teams are struggling to adapt to changes in their field. With limited budget, IT teams must implement solutions that enable them to do more with less and prioritize implementing tools with security, automation, and monitoring functionality.

While many businesses will begin to reopen their doors as we recover from the pandemic, we’ll likely see many others continue the remote working journey – businesses must be prepared to support a long-term hybrid approach. 2020 underlined the importance of being able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Those businesses which ignore last year’s trends and find themselves unable to support a work-from-anywhere future will find themselves struggling to keep up with the new ways of working.

  • Ian Pitt, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, LogMeIn.