In today’s world of COVID-19, working remotely from home, presenting/hosting, or participating in online meetings are raising logistical and security challenges but also unforeseen expenses.
Let’s discuss some of these challenges and trends—Both the obvious ones and some that aren’t so obvious.
Information Need and the Speed in Which We Get It
Pre COVID-19, if a person needed something stat, they could just walk over to a person’s desk/cubicle and get the information they needed. Nowadays, we must schedule a day and time to have a remote web/video call just to get information we need to do our jobs. The speed in which we get the information needed from our coworkers has been severely hampered by the ‘remoteness’ of having to work at home.
I have talked to so many folks who all say the same thing: projects are getting delayed not just due to cutbacks on funding but due to the lack of attention from staff who are often working on too many projects and have a more difficult time getting the responses they need from other staff in the organization.
Communication Tools and Loss of Productivity
More and more of my customers tell me that now they’re often on video calls for six to seven hours a day—A far cry from the pre-COVID days when they were spending a fraction of that time on web/video calls.
Faced with the prospect throbbing temples syndrome until a vaccine comes out, companies are analyzing the communication and collaboration tools so that they can choose the right one for the job.
Some of the facts being considered, amongst others are:
Ease of Use
Stability and Quality of the Web/Video calls
However, the main complaint that is becoming a common trend regardless of the tool used, is that they are spending most of their working hours on video conference calls instead of performing the work needed.
This is leading to work fatigue since they are now having to work more hours than normal, yet not being compensated for this!
Working remotely and increased dependence on internet connectivity are creating and highlighting a growing need for improved cybersecurity solutions—Both for the employer’s systems and data now being used and accessed at home by workers, but also to protect the workers that could fall victim to phishing scams and other social engineering attacks.
As an example of this threat, Zoom, which has become a go-to platform for remote workers, and those who just want to stay connected to friends and family, saw a huge surge in cyberattacks. Remember the “Zoombombing” trend, where kids/hackers were hijacking Zoom feeds?
There is a growing concern amongst Cybersecurity professionals that these same groups will target businesses and individuals working from home via telework software vulnerabilities as well as from the education technology platforms. IT has to develop and deploy better tools so that its user’s data and devices staying safe and secure while online. However, on the plus side, increased awareness of these attacks has been a boom to cybersecurity solutions providers.
Hardware Purchases, Home Network Upgrades and Out of Pocket Expenses
Not only has COVID-19 created an increase in Wi-Fi and cellular traffic for a variety of reasons, (which in turn is increasing the demand for better quality and higher home network speeds as well as 5G cellular Wi-Fi hotspots), there has also been an increase in the purchase of computer hardware devices, such as webcams, monitors and even printers. Think about this, when the COVID-19 lockdowns started, hundreds of thousands of office workers brought their laptops from work home…but left their docking stations, their dual monitors, and office printers behind. Those workers, many of whose kids are learning from home too, had to go out and equip their home office with these devices.
This posed 2 issues:
A huge out of pocket expense on the worker
Lack of finding those devices in stores since there was not enough inventory on hand for all
The good news here is that more customers that I have talked to are now stepping up and reimbursing those employees with these expenses, which include the:
Costs of their cell phone bills
Cost of a Wi-Fi Hot Spot
Cost of upgrading their Home ISP network speed and paying their DSL bill
Cost of any hardware devices they had to purchase to perform their duties without missing a beat at home.
An important note here to consider is the trend of employees that will remain working from home after the initial lockdown/outbreak is somewhat in control. Many employers might want them to continue to telework from home and many more employees will want to prepare their home office for both future disruptions and for a future in which remote work is more common. I can see the surge in demand for desks, ergonomic office chairs, etc. So, the question on everyone’s mind is, will the employer’s pay for this as well? And if not, could this become an HR issue?
The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding, but it’s clear that it’s catalyzing major changes in the technology industry, which has already been called on in a big way to preserve social community and workplace collaboration yet safeguard systems and data, as millions of people are forced to stay home now.