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May 5, 2021updated 06 May 2021 10:18am

Point Counterpoint: The benefits of home working versus return to the office

By Verdict Staff

It’s the big debate of the moment, for the many people who worked in an office before the pandemic: should we all now go back to the office, or should we keep on working from home some of the time – or even, most of the time?

Different companies and organisations have given different answers to this question. Today, we’ve asked people in the cybersecurity business to give us their take, one on each side of the debate.

“The shift to home working was inevitable, even without the pandemic”

Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist, ESET

Remote working has improved every aspect of my work life, home life and even my career prospects. The shift to home working, given the arrival of high-speed internet, was inevitable at some point, but it has been accelerated by Covid-19. The pandemic has shown all those non-believers that staff out of the office can work and can even be more productive for companies. Personally, I am able to speak to far more clients, colleagues and stakeholders around the world than ever before while easily fitting around everyone’s schedule. In fact, I feel more connected to the people I work with – although I miss the socials and the physical networking events which are likely to come back in the near future.

After a year of home working and the realisation that this mode of operation is here to stay, I recently transformed my garage into a home office (including a bar for after-work drinks) for my wife and me, and it has been life-changing. We don’t work for the same company, but that isn’t a problem. We both enjoy having our work physically away from the house, which makes our home feel like it’s ours again. As parents, the loss of the commute has has let us have more time with our children which has been extremely beneficial for all of us.

The security industry is booming which is fortunate for us as it seems we are the lucky ones benefiting from the shift to home working. As soon as the pandemic hit, more people required better protection for their devices outside the office and this instant demand was something we were able to take a hold of quickly.

Regarding life after the pandemic, the best companies are listening to their staff and asking what suits them. I appreciate that home working won’t be for everyone and might even have a detrimental effect on some people’s lives. However, when a company understands its staff’s wishes, the choice is in their hands and everyone gets the best out of the situation. I’d expect to see offices filled on one or two days a week leaving the rest of the week in the home office. I predict a better connected, hybrid approach where meetings gel together on and offline seamlessly. Commuting will be questioned but picking the kids up from school will not.

The infosec industry, along with the IT sector as a whole, was able to transition so easily that it would seem a retrograde step to go back to the methods of pre-pandemic times.

“Working in the office puts natural limits on working hours”

John Pirc, Director of Product Management at Alert Logic

The global pandemic has certainly changed the way we do business today. In order to remain viable, almost every industry has had to accommodate a virtual workforce to some degree. Unfortunately, a lot of industries that couldn’t go virtual suffered – you can’t serve food, build a house or service hotel guests over a Wi-Fi connection. However, we are very fortunate compared to those who went through the Spanish Influenza pandemic (1918 – 1920). Without modern technology they suffered more fatalities than we have seen with COVID-19.

Technology certainly has its advantages, but working from home can also come with a lot of disadvantages. The work-life balance has blurred, and people have spent even more time online for work, school, shopping, entertainment and socializing.

As a remote/virtual executive in cybersecurity, my average work week went from ~55 hours to ~80 hours. This became the new normal, working weekends and helping my children with school. I love my job and to me it’s like playing Xbox: however, 80+ hours is not a happy work-life balance. I feel the return to the office is a great thing for social interaction and collaboration. This will start to recalibrate the work-life balance as life starts to return to a sense of normalcy.

I think the return to office will also benefit those who choose to work remotely, as coming into the office occasionally will be productive and efficient with less interruption. “The return” is not just a return to the workplace, as a lot of us spent most of our time in our home with the occasional visits to the grocery store. The freedom to do other things as we resume normalcy will have a profound impact in the way we work, live, play and learn, an old campaign theme from Cisco that is still applicable today.

Given this freedom, I think individuals will push themselves harder at work knowing they will be able to disconnect after hours as we get back to a normal routine.

As a cybersecurity expert, I also see the downsides of remote work: the pandemic has made a lot of people complacent in using the same computers for personal and business use and this has introduced more risk to the organizations they work for. Enterprise grade security for remote users has been a challenge as corporations had to rely on end-point and cloud-based security. I believe the return to the workplace will decrease these security risks.

To execute the shift to a remote workforce, many organizations have also accelerated their transition to hybrid cloud infrastructures, complicating their efforts to maintain security against cyber threats. Protecting an on-prem environment is tough enough, but it’s less complicated than protecting remote workers.

The transition to remote work presented openings to bad actors, in effect stress-testing some organizations. Lessons learned securing data assets during the pandemic could serve to create a more secure hybrid environment when people return to the office, as more companies have deployed new best practices to accommodate a shifting workforce dynamic.

The Future of Work

As the world starts to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic into a new business environment of increasingly powerful technology tools and connections, the Future of Work is one of 11 mega themes tracked by GlobalData Thematic Research.