Companies should plan their future workforce model now, so they have time to implement the necessary tools, including cybersecurity and seamless remote access, a Forrester report says.

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Following the pandemic, at least 70% of companies will permit a significant portion of their employees to work from home at least two days a week — requiring a revamped cybersecurity model, according to a new report by Forrester Research.

About 60% of organizations will move to a hybrid work environment, Forrester says. The analyst firm calls this "anywhere work" because it combines a significant amount of remote and office work. A small portion of businesses, about 10%, will focus on transitioning to a fully virtual work environment, while 30% will mainly head back to the office.

The mix of arrangements will require companies to focus their cybersecurity efforts on zero-trust frameworks, multifactor authentication, and endpoint monitoring, says JP Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester's Future of Work practice. 

"There are technology solutions out there that make it possible," he says. "From a cybersecurity perspective, if you are willing to upgrade to modern tools, if you adopt as much endpoint security as possible to manage devices and data, and if you are building a viable cloud infrastructure with modern design principles, you have a baseline for decent security."

The report underscores that one of the lasting legacies of the coronavirus pandemic will be its demonstration that companies can support a massive remote workforce when necessary. While analysts see most workers going back to the office much of the time following the pandemic, their ability to work anywhere gives companies the option to have a significant remote workforce.

While that could translate into companies having double the number of remote workers compared with before the pandemic, the end result will be they can decide on the best workforce structure for their business. Eventually, less than 12% of workers will work from home full time, Forrester states in its "Use The Lessons Of 2020 To Create Your Anywhere-Work Strategy" report.

Companies, however, have to prepare for a mix of different work arrangements, and part of that preparation will be offering the technology necessary to do their jobs in a secure way. 

"[That means] everything from the endpoint that you use, [to] a good management system for the devices, to understanding the different access points and peripherals used by workers, and connected devices. Down the line there may be more focus on things like camera security," Gownder says. "Many of the things that we have already been doing in larger companies needs to be beefed up."

Companies need to plan for the workforce structure they intend to pursue following the pandemic, Forrester stated. The necessity of remote work has shown many companies that modes of work they did not believe possible are actually sustainable. 

Yet decision makers are not the only ones wary of long-term remote work. While 70% of employees believe they have kept up their productivity while working remotely, 44% are eager to return to return to the office, according to Forrester.

The best way to focus on the future of working anywhere is to focus on people, the firm says. Security is a major part of that. In addition to hardware, remote access services, and collaboration tools, security is a foundational part of the technology needed to make remote employees productive, the report states. 

Companies that focus on ways to make workers productive as well as secure are much more likely to have customer-focused culture, Forrester says. 

"[C]ompanies won't need a centralized office to amass resources for employees if they invest in technology that makes it as easy to access those resources remotely as in the office," the report states. "[T]his includes respecting the devices and connection options that workers already own or can conveniently access."

The remote or hybrid model will not work for every company. Some businesses have argued that face-to-face collaboration is too valuable as a creative force, while other companies are limited by security needs, allowing workers to only access critical data from within company walls. For that reason, about 30% of companies plan to go back to mostly office-bound work following the pandemic, Gownder says. 

"If you are dealing with data that can only be accessed on site, then that will be a problem for any company with critical functions working from their home," he says.

About the Author(s)

Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline Journalism (Online) in 2003 for coverage of the Blaster worm. Crunches numbers on various trends using Python and R. Recent reports include analyses of the shortage in cybersecurity workers and annual vulnerability trends.

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