More than four-fifths of global workforce rule out return to office full-time

With workforces demanding increased – if not permanent – home networking, research reveals CIOs’ top priorities in planning for new everywhere enterprise, specifically securing mobile devices, apps and users

The new normal of increased remote working has emerged into a permanent shift in working practices, and a study from mobile security platform provider MobileIron is imploring CIOs to start planning for the new reality of the everywhere enterprise with a level of disparity when it comes to employees’ visions on how they’d like to work in the future.

The study polled 1,200 workers across the US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, and its top line finding was that more than 80% of global employees do not want to return to the office full-time, despite just under a third (30%) of employees claiming that being isolated from their team was the biggest hindrance to productivity during lockdown.

The report suggests that the clear lack of desire to return to the office could, in part, be put down to the fact that businesses around the world were extremely effective in enabling their employees to work from home at the start of the pandemic. In fact, two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents agreed that their employer had the right technologies and solutions in place for them to be able to work from home productively.

Yet as the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly changed the way people work and accelerated the already growing remote work trend, it has also created new security challenges for IT departments. This has been made more difficult as, revealed by studies into the uptake and usage of mobile video conferencing apps, employees are increasingly using their own personal devices to access corporate data and services.

Adding to the challenges revealed in the Everywhere Enterprise research, which scoped a world in which employees, IT infrastructures and customers are everywhere, was the fact that employees were not prioritising security. Indeed, the study found that a third of workers (33%) consider IT security to be a low priority.

Worrying, along with this finding, the current distributed remote work environment has also triggered a new threat landscape, with malicious actors increasingly targeting mobile devices with phishing attacks. These attacks range from basic to sophisticated and warned MobileIron were likely to succeed.

However, there were more fundamental changes that companies needed to get ready for. The study found that four distinct employee personas have emerged in the Everywhere Enterprise as a result of lockdown, with again mobile devices playing a more critical role than ever before in ensuring productivity.

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The first persona was defined as “Hybrid Henry”, who splits time equally between working at home and going into the office for face-to-face meetings; although this employee likes working from home, being isolated from teammates is the biggest hindrance to productivity. The persona depends on a laptop and mobile device, along with secure access to email, CRM applications and video collaboration tools, to stay productive.

“Mobile Molly” works constantly on the go using a range of mobile devices, such as tablets and phones, and often relies on public Wi-Fi networks for work. The persona relies on remote collaboration tools and cloud suites to get work done and typically views unreliable technology as the biggest hindrance to productivity as this individual is always on-the-go and heavily relies on mobile devices.

By contrast, “Desktop Dora” finds being away from teammates and working from home a hindrance to productivity and can’t wait to get back to the office. The persona prefers to work on a desktop computer from a fixed location than on mobile devices, relying heavily on productivity suites to communicate with colleagues in and out of the office.

Typically working on the frontlines in industries like healthcare, logistics or retail, “Frontline Fred” works from fixed and specific locations, such as hospitals or retail shops. This employee can’t work remotely and relies on purpose-built devices and applications, such as medical or courier devices and applications, to work. This employee is not as dependent on personal mobile devices for productivity as other personas.

Assessing the findings of the research, in particular the security threats presented by the new likely working personas, Brian Foster, senior vice-president for product management at MobileIron noted that with more employees leveraging mobile devices to stay productive and work from anywhere than ever before, organisations need adopt a zero trust security approach to ensure that only trusted devices, apps, and users can access enterprise resources.

“Mobile devices are everywhere and have access to practically everything, yet most employees have inadequate mobile security measures in place, enabling hackers to have a heyday,” he said. “Every company needs to implement a mobile-centric security strategy that prioritises user experience and enables employees to maintain maximum productivity on any device, anywhere, without compromising personal privacy.”

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