Recent announcements by Twitter and Square CEO, Jack Dorsey, stating that all employees will be allowed to work from home indefinitely, have created an avalanche of media coverage pondering the future of our workforce. While not going quite as far, other companies – particularly in the tech space – are similarly weighing the cost savings of operating smaller, less expensive offices against the possible hit to efficiency, creativity and productivity that may result in a decentralized workforce.
While some of these announcements have been met with skepticism, the number of companies making similar decisions appears to be growing, suggesting that many employees will find themselves continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future. Looking past the current hype, it is important to understand the real impact that this sudden shift to remote work is having on enterprises, in particular as it relates to employee productivity, efficiency and security, and how companies can tackle the difficult task of managing remote access over the longer term.
Productivity takes a hit as remote workers increase video streaming on company devices
NetMotion recently aggregated internal data from its proprietary enterprise VPN technology and combined it with survey results from 281 enterprise employees currently working remote. The objective was to better understand how worker behaviors and device usage have changed now that more employees are working away from the traditional brick-and-mortar office environment.
These are the key findings:
- 74% of workers are using corporate devices to stream non work-related video content at home; primarily YouTube and Netflix.
- 70% of workers are streaming YouTube and almost 15% are watching Netflix for recreational purposes on their work-assigned devices. In addition, 10% of workers are watching Hulu, while 4% of workers are watching content from the Amazon or Disney platforms, respectively.
- 85% of the video content was streamed over Wi-Fi, compared with just 49% as recently as January. This indicates that employers are not footing the bill for extra data usage, likely because workers are streaming the content from their home networks and not from remote locations, like a coffee shop.
- 20% of workers report spending more than 10 hours per week streaming entertainment content on their work-assigned devices and 45% are watching between 5-10 hours per week.
- 29% of respondents admitted to streaming entertainment content on a company-owned device during working hours, while this number is likely higher when considering that work hours have expanded well beyond the traditional 9-5.
- Employers are actually saving an average of $15.44 per employee in mobile data charges per month due to the increase in WiFi connectivity but are losing much more in terms of productivity from their remote workers.
IT leaders lack visibility tools needed to optimize employee productivity and reduce risks inherent to remote work
While the shift to a work from home environment may result in tangible business benefits in the future, not least of which is the prospect of lower costs for office space, the change has brought new challenges for IT leaders.
The results of the survey paint an intriguing but worrying picture. With the majority of employees now working remote, IT teams appear to be struggling to gain visibility into how their devices are being used. If they aren’t able to see or limit the use of corporate-owned devices for relatively harmless activities like streaming YouTube content, then they also cannot determine whether employees are engaging in potentially risky behavior, such as visiting unsuitable or unsavory websites that may introduce malware into the network or even pose a legal liability.
Without the power to actively monitor and protect devices, there is no way for IT administrators to establish granular policies around their usage. There is no way to prioritize work-related application traffic or restrict the use of social media until after working hours. And there is no way to quickly identify and troubleshoot network issues for employees when problems arise.
The need for zero trust network access (ZTNA)
As enterprises around the world adapt to this new working environment, they find a workforce that is no longer tethered to an office. But given today’s risk landscape, IT leaders have a heightened need to know what’s happening on the network, all the way to the edge.
Rather than throwing out existing VPN tools, the least disruptive and most efficient way to gain network visibility is by adding a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) architecture.
ZTNA allows organizations to shift away from an office-centric, network-centric approach to data integrity, toward a decentralized user- and device-centric strategy. Instead of giving network access to any user who provides the correct credentials, ZTNA relies on a highly context-aware process that grants access to a network only after numerous criteria are met. This not only ensures that data can be kept safe, but also that suspicious activity can be flagged for immediate attention. This shift to ZTNA has been anticipated for several years, but with secure remote access becoming a more immediate priority, the timetable for many organizations has likely become much tighter.
*About this data: The analysis above is comprised from an anonymous survey of more than 280 people currently working remotely, as well as information derived from NetMotion’s internal sources.