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Latest surveys on remote work security, workload, and hybrid workforce

The three most prominent themes coming out from remote work environments are issues related to security, increased workloads, and hybrid versus in-office environments

52% of security managers believe most of their workforce will be permanently remote or hybrid 86% of Middle East IT leaders agreed that the shift to remote working led to an increased risk 59% of employees in the UAE reported an increased workload since switching to remote working

The three most prominent themes coming out from remote work environments are issues related to security, increased workloads, and hybrid versus in-office environments.

We put together separate and recent surveys that tackled how organizations and their teams are evaluating and addressing these areas.

Remote work security

The State of Security in a Hybrid World recently revealed that with end-users working from anywhere, the attack surface is larger than it has ever been, and many IT organizations are struggling to defend it. The survey makes clear that 52% of security managers believe most of their workforce will be permanently remote or hybrid.

The Citrix study found:

  • 74% of security decision-makers say procedures and controls have become more complex as organizations transition to remote and hybrid work
  • 73% are fighting to keep up with the increased volume of security threats that the models create

Kurt Roemer, Chief Security Strategist, Citrix said: “Rather than traditional command and control-style strategies, organizations need to take a more intelligent, people-focused approach to security that protects employees without negatively affecting their experience.”

Among the top three challenges cited by workers who participated in the Citrix research:

  • Poor connectivity (43%)
  • Navigating technical problems virtually (34%)
  • Inability to get IT support quickly/easily (32%)

As for security decision-makers:

  • 58% say investments in security have increased over the last 12 months by an average of 40%
  • 71% say their company’s IT environment is now more secure than it was before the pandemic struck

Meanwhile, global cybersecurity leader, Palo Alto Networks, recently released their Internet of Things (IoT) Security Report 2021 which showed that 86% of Middle East IT leaders (global average: 81%) agreed that the shift to remote working led to an increased risk and vulnerability from unsecured IoT devices on their organization’s business networks.

91% of Middle East IT Leaders believe their organization’s approach to IoT security requires improvement.

Many difficult-to-secure personal IoT devices are increasingly being connected to corporate networks by remote workers, creating new opportunities for hackers to infiltrate organizations to launch ransomware attacks, steal data and launch crypto-jacking operations.  

Connected devices on an organization’s network in the past year included baby monitors, pet feeders, and gym equi­­pment. The top devices that Middle East IT leaders have spotted within their networks are connected pet devices (37%), kitchen devices (36%), and sports equipment (35%).

Top 3 Palo Alto IoT security tips for remote employees (WFH)

  1. Get more familiar with your router. All of your IoT devices likely connect to the internet through your router. Start by changing defaults to something unique. Then encrypt your network by simply updating your router settings to either WPA3 Personal or WPA2 Personal. 
  2. Keep track of which devices are connected. You can access your router’s web interface and look for “connected devices,” “wireless clients” or “DHCP clients” to see a list and disconnect older devices you no longer use, and disable remote management on the devices where you don’t need it.
  3. Segment the home network. You can segment your home network by creating a guest Wi-Fi network. The easiest way to do this is to have IoT devices use a guest Wi-Fi network, while other devices use the main network. This helps to logically group devices in your home and isolate them from each other.

Top 3 IoT security tips for the enterprise

  1. Know the unknowns. Get complete visibility into all IoT devices connected to the enterprise. An effective IoT security solution should be able to discover the exact number of devices connected to your network, including the ones you are and are not aware of, and those forgotten.
  2. Conduct continuous monitoring and analysis. Implement a real-time monitoring solution that continuously analyzes the behavior of all your network-connected IoT devices to contextually segment your network between your IT and IoT devices
  3. Implement Zero Trust for IoT environments. An IoT security strategy should align with the principle of Zero Trust to enforce policies for least-privileged access control. From there, look for an IoT security solution that leverages your existing firewall investment for comprehensive and integrated security posturing. Additionally, a point solution can extend a corporate network and bring unified security policy management and secure access service edge (SASE) to WFH employees.

Increased workload

According to a recent Kaspersky survey of 4,303 IT workers, 59% of employees in the UAE reported an increased workload since switching to remote working, with 24% describing the increase as significant. Only 9% noted a decrease in the scope of work due to new working conditions.

At the beginning of lockdown, 82% of managers were concerned that the rapid transfer to telework would lead to a decrease in productivity and 69% of workers claimed that remote work negatively affected their emotional state.  

The survey reveals that over 50% of employees experienced an increase in workload but did not feel any more exhausted at the end of a remote day. Indeed, 33% reported having more energy working from home.

When it comes to emotional stability, the remote format was well-received by employees: 51% report feeling more comfortable working remotely or have not noticed an increase in anxiety due to overtime, while 24% of respondents even felt more comfortable working from home.

33% reported they had more anxiety working from home.

One solution that is proving popular among employees is the hybrid working model. Another welcome solution is to implement corporate wellbeing practices. 93% of firms are investing in training courses to improve core skills, such as management and timekeeping (43%). Companies are also offering perks, such as additional paid time off or annual leave (45%), and providing online wellbeing consultations and courses (36%).  

Hybrid work

Riverbed and Aternity recently unveiled the Riverbed | Aternity Hybrid Work Global Survey 2021. It said that 84% of UAE business and IT decision-makers believe that at least a quarter of their workforce will remain hybrid post-pandemic with 38% saying more than half their workforce will be hybrid.

66% of UAE respondents agreed that hybrid work helps significantly with recruiting talent.

47% of UAE businesses believe they are completely prepared to support the shift to hybrid work, compared to the global average of just 32%; and while globally, 88% of organizations are concerned about digital disparity between in-office and remote employees, this figure is lower (52%) in the UAE.

98% of UAE businesses are planning to invest in technology in the next 12-18 months to support their hybrid workforce, compared to 89% worldwide.

Dan Smoot, President and CEO of Riverbed | Aternity said: “What’s very clear is to gain the maximum benefits from hybrid work, organizations must invest in technologies to modernize their IT environments and underinvesting can have severe consequences.”   

Looking ahead, the UAE’s business decision-makers reveal that their top areas of technology investments over the next 12-18 months are:

  • Better visibility of network and application performance (61%)
  • Investing in end-user experience and digital experience monitoring solutions (53%)
  • Investing in cybersecurity technology and software (47%)
  • Investing in application or network acceleration solutions (46%)
  • Updating company-wide hybrid workplace strategies and policies (44%)
  • Increasing the use of cloud services and software as a service apps (31%)