IT is the unsung hero of the remote work revolution

IT is the unsung hero of the remote work revolution

Jeff Shiner by Jeff Shiner on

We’ve spoken a lot lately about our experiences as a remote-first company and hope they’ve been useful to others making the change. Today I want to take a different tack, and provide an outward look at how companies are adapting to the sudden changes thrust upon them by COVID-19.

In recent weeks, we’ve been polling knowledge workers in the United States to find out how the opportunities and challenges of remote work are affecting companies and their employees.

The picture that emerges illustrates not only the mammoth scale of the change, but also the pivotal role that IT is playing in enabling it. That’s IT both in terms of the technology itself, and the professionals that make IT happen. In this post, I want to share some of the highlights from what we’ve discovered, and talk about the heroic efforts that we’re seeing in IT departments in businesses everywhere.

Though we’ve only spoken with workers in the United States, we’ve no reason to think the picture isn’t representative for businesses around the world.

Before we dig deeper into the results, I do just want to highlight a couple of particularly telling stats:

  • 89% of respondents had no criticism of their company’s IT team. Given the scale of the upheaval, that’s a remarkable testament to the incredible work IT teams are doing.
  • 68% of respondents prefer working from home either some or all of the time. And a large shift is also underway in terms of attitude, with a significant majority becoming happier with the idea of remote working.

A gigantic upheaval

Between April 15 and 23, we surveyed 1,000 desk-based knowledge workers in the United States, and the results show just how colossal the shift to remote working has been. Half of those surveyed were IT professionals. An enormous 89% of respondents have newly made the shift to remote work. “Revolution” may sound like hyperbole, but I think it’s justified when we look at the scale of what’s happening for the millions of workers who use computers for their day-to-day job.

Have you recently transitioned to remote work?

The results also speak to the massive transition those companies have made. Only 27% of respondents thought their company was completely prepared for the move, leaving a large majority that had to do some figuring out. That said, only 13% of respondents thought their company wasn’t at all prepared, suggesting that the vast majority of companies were already working in remote-friendly ways to some extent.

I’d love to learn more about the ways people think their companies were or weren’t prepared. Few could have predicted a COVID-19-like event. If some companies were more prepared than others, my bet is that it’s down to the flexibility granted by forward-thinking IT planning and policy. More than ever, we’re reliant on cloud-hosted or -connected services more than standalone software. Clearly, though, some have gone farther on that journey than others. Those CTOs and technology leaders should take a bow right now.

It’s ironic that, of the companies with a historical objection to the idea of remote working, many will have been gradually preparing for it all the same, simply by virtue of keeping up with trends in technology. The more you use tools and processes that work anywhere, the easier remote working becomes if and when you do it. Much of the infrastructure for remote work was already in place – where people sit is merely the last piece of the puzzle.

In short, recent events have seen a massive acceleration of a shift that was already well under way.

The IT challenge is huge – and complex

Digging deeper into the results, it quickly becomes clear the massive role IT is playing in this shift to remote working. “Facilitating” is an understatement – IT teams are enabling new ways of working, solving technical problems, and, frankly, saving the day right now.

Have IT departments strengthened security protocols in the move to remote work?

Unsurprisingly, security is a particular focal point for companies making the change, but it’s not a straightforward picture, with about a third of IT respondents saying their companies have strengthened some security protocols, and a third saying they have relaxed some. (And perhaps unsurprisingly, larger firms were more likely than small ones to have made no changes.)

In hindsight, our survey should have allowed that both strengthening and relaxing is simultaneously possible. On the one hand, companies may be seeking tighter security when it comes to password policies, two-factor authentication or access to data. On the other, they may seek to loosen policies when it comes to using a wider selection of apps and services to help remote workers get things done: in other words, bringing shadow IT into the light.

Indeed, a tightening of general security would help facilitate more relaxed IT policies. Half the respondents who are breaking their company’s policy are doing so in an attempt to be more productive.

Do IT professionals think security protocols are followed better or worse from home?

But, accordance with security measures has actually increased, according to 63% of IT professionals polled. This may be down to a greater awareness of security issues (no doubt helped by company guidance) and increased senses of accountability and responsibility when working from home.

Who knows? Perhaps just sitting in an office, complete with security guards, locked doors, and visibly-present IT and security teams lulls people into a sense of security – and one that may be to some extent false given the nature of online threats. Companies still dubious of remote working should take note: this survey suggests remote workers are taking security more seriously than ever. And their first priority is being productive.

Hero of the storm

Clearly, IT teams are performing a sort of administrative gymnastics in order to help companies and their staff get work done while simultaneously keeping everyone safe.

And that’s on top of the increased workload of supporting remote workers with their day-to-day IT needs. Respondents report the top IT requests are help resolving connectivity issues, setting up devices, and handling software updates.

A big 89% of people looking happy about their IT teams

And to return to that first stat, perhaps most remarkable of all: 89% of respondents had no criticism at all of their company’s IT teams. It’s clear that the IT industry – and more-so the myriad IT teams out there in the corporate world – are doing sterling work to keep the companies they support in business in these difficult times.

Where would you prefer to work?

It’s also clear that recent events are changing minds. Some 68% of respondents prefer working from home either some or all of the time, and 59% of respondents have become more favorable to doing so.

We’ve always been believers in remote work at 1Password. But the signs are that with recent changes, more and more people are becoming believers too. Our survey indicates that remote workers are happy, productive and security-conscious thanks to the technology – and people – that support remote work.

We’re also long-time believers in IT teams and the important work they do. We’re proud to have built 1Password into an app loved by many IT professionals. We understand the challenges they face, and we’re doubling down on making 1Password as easy as possibly to deploy, support and – above all – use.

A big thank you to everyone that took part in the survey.

Jeff Shiner

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