Locking Down Enterprise Communication in the Rise of Remote Working

The workplace disruption created by the coronavirus is escalating remote working worldwide. As this situation continues to unfold, HR leaders are being challenged to develop plans and provide collaboration technology that supports a distributed workforce and facilitates secure communication throughout the enterprise.

The unfortunate spread of the COVID-19 virus is increasing work from home directives from companies across the globe. With this shift in workplace norms, employees are leveraging a wide range of technologies – many of which are not company sanctioned – for communication and collaboration. The security risks and threats this practice can introduce to an organization make it critical for HR and IT leaders to partner in developing policies and providing digital tools that ensure a secure, productive distributed working environment.

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This starts with business continuity plans that ensure the organization continues to function at a high level in a coronavirus-driven unprecedented and challenging environment. A key consideration in this planning is to address strategies for smoothly managing the transition of employees to remote working while minimizing business disruption. These plans include providing the tools and infrastructure that support and connect a distributed workforce, help sustain productivity and empower more effective interaction and collaboration.

Accenture noted that “the greatest immediate impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is on people. Organizations are focused on caring for their workforces while rapidly managing the shift to new patterns of work.”

HR leaders are helping their companies and employees navigate the shift to remote working and adapt to new workplace norms. While remote working has been trending upward in the last decade, these programs are being exponentially accelerated by the current crisis.

A 2019 International Workplace Group survey found that globally 50% of employees work  outside of their main office headquarters for at least 2.5 days a week. Those numbers likely look a lot different today. A March 2020 Gartner survey of 800 global HR executives found that 88% of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home.

As remote working continues to escalate, organizations will need to quickly ramp up digital transformation to facilitate employee communication and collaboration. Many companies don’t yet have the infrastructure to support the transition to remote working. According to an IDC survey on remote working, 50% of employee respondents said they had difficulty communicating with and/or collaborating with internal colleagues, and 43% said that this difficulty extended to external stakeholders.

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As more employees find themselves working from home, they will look for digital tools that facilitate remote collaboration. This could escalate the already disturbing trend of employees using consumer-grade messaging apps for business communication, like the JP Morgan senior trader who was put on leave for improperly using the popular consumer app WhatsApp for internal communications. Without access to a company-authorized, secure enterprise mobile messaging platform, employees will turn to these consumer-grade messaging apps for collaboration. The issue with this practice is that these apps lack central management capabilities and don’t contain critical encryption and security protocols, opening the door to security loopholes and threats that can make enterprises vulnerable to data breaches and compliance issues.

The accelerated shift to remote working and increasing employee use of consumer-grade messaging apps for business communication, points to a growing need for purpose-built enterprise mobile messaging apps that ensure a secure employee collaboration environment.

Gartner vice president Aaron McEwan noted that “the first lesson learned from the coronavirus situation is to accelerate the development of a technology infrastructure that can support alternative types of working. HR leaders can leverage this opportunity to measure the impact on employee performance and productivity to build a business case for technology investment and more progressive policies for effective remote/flexible working.”

HR leaders recognize that access to secure messaging, video and other collaboration technologies is key to maintaining productivity and collaboration regardless of location or device. A recent Gartner snap poll found that 54% of HR leaders consider poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working the biggest barrier to effective remote working.

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To help break down this barrier, HR will need to partner with IT to develop a plan to support a distributed workforce. This should include a standard mode of communication through company-wide use of one communication platform. Training should also be a component of this plan. Employees should be educated on the company’s remote working policies and approaches including guiding them on the usage of company-sanctioned communication channels and emphasizing the importance of using secure messaging technology to protect confidential company information.

As the coronavirus continues to necessitate the social distancing of remote working, HR leaders are being tasked with supporting new workplace norms and helping ensure a collaborative, productive and safe environment for employees. Digital tools like purpose-built enterprise mobile messaging platforms can help employees productively adapt to remote working, boosting collaboration while securing sensitive business information and communication.