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Remote Work – The Technological and Political Shifts

How long have you worked remotely? The answer might depend on your industry. For some professions like manufacturing or skilled trades, remote work is often not an option. But for many industries, remote work – even prior to the pandemic – is nothing new.

JetBlue Airways is an excellent example. They started operations in the year 2000 and from the beginning, offered a work-from-home business model for their Customer Support team. JetBlue has 2100 employees in Customer Support based in Salt Lake City, of which 1,800 work from home.

JetBlue offered remote work as it provided flexibility to working parents, and they were able to save huge real estate costs by not needing to provide expensive working space in their New York City-based headquarters.

The history of remote work actually goes back further in time – A LOT further. According to an infographic on entitled “The History of Remote Work,” it begins back in the year 1560 when a central administration building for the Medici mercantile empire was constructed in Florence, Italy. This was the ancestor of the modern office. To put this another way, virtually everyone worked remotely before this time.

The benefits of a remote workforce are plenty. Employers save on real estate, reduce asset costs, and can hire from a broad and diverse talent pool. Remote workers enjoy reduced or no commuting time, better work/life balance, and a more flexible schedule.

What kind of cost savings can be expected? According to Global Workplace Analytics, a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time remote worker per year. Remote workers can expect to save between $2,500 and $4,000 per year by not commuting to an office just half of the time.

An ever-increasing remote workforce has a direct impact on the technical, economic, and political shifts of our culture. And the COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, further changed the landscape of office work for millions of people permanently.

Economic shifts give way to remote work

There was a time that a new job or promotion could mean relocation to a new city, state, or country. Many people moved to another location for better weather or a lower cost of living. And countless people moved just to find enhanced career opportunities that didn’t exist where they lived.

In 2018, over 32 million people moved, and every one of those people created economic change in two locations – the home they left and the one to which they migrated. Their spending shifted. Whatever they needed to support their families – from housing, healthcare, education, transportation, and food – amounted to billions of dollars spent in new locations. Conversely, that money wasn’t spent in their previous home area.

But the trend for work relocation has been trending downward over the past 20 years. In the year 2000, about 23% of all workers relocated for work. However, by 2018, the percentage of people who relocated dropped to about 10%.

Nowadays, mostly due to technology, people are no longer compelled to move to seek greater opportunities. Many can simply shift to become part of the remote workforce. Several companies have accepted this shift to enhance their talent pool. In fact, the growth in remote work has been dramatic, rising 44% from 2014 to 2019. And, according to the data scientists at Ladder, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022. Furthermore, remote opportunities are projected to increase well through 2023.

Political shifts opening doors to remote work

What do Maine, Vermont, Alaska, Tulsa, OK, and Chattanooga, TN have in common? At first glance, this list may not seem like the areas that you think of as the destinations of choice for companies relocating their workforce.

But something else is happening. All these municipalities are offering incentives worth up to $10,000 and more for remote working professionals, especially tech workers, to relocate to their city.

Besides the money, these locations offer a more affordable cost of living, outdoor recreation opportunities, more space, and less congestion. And many people believe that these add up to a better quality of life.

We used to see large corporations being offered large tax incentives to relocate their company. It wasn’t too long ago that Mercedes Benz, Hertz, and Tesla were given multi-million dollar tax incentives and credits to relocate their headquarters or plants.

The overall impact of these and many other large relocations created a shift in economic and political influence as populations tended to move from the northeast to the south and southwest.

The trend towards remote work can change this dynamic. In a report by Upwork, an online platform that connects businesses and freelancers, remote work can direct wealth away from the 15 most expensive areas in the United States to areas with a lower cost of living. They found that half of spending on their platform came from businesses located in these top 15 metro areas. In contrast, 72% of the earnings went to remote workers in smaller cities or more rural areas.

This trend can provide an economic boost to smaller cities that may not have the ability to attract a major corporate relocation. Regardless of where people relocate, the rising number of remote workers and their spending power can have enormous political implications that can take years to reveal.

Technical shifts encouraging remote work

It’s no doubt recent growth in the remote workforce and the adoption of cloud services go hand-in-hand.

According to the 2021 Digital Readiness Survey, 81% of IT professionals believe protecting remote workers has increased their security challenges. Additionally, 74% acknowledge that their company’s use of cloud solutions increased as a direct result of the recent shift to remote work. Furthermore, the report found that 96% of U.S. organizations intend to stick with their remote work models for at least the next couple of years.

It’s clear now that the shift to the cloud has enabled more teams to work from home and created an even greater demand for cloud adoption.

On-premises architecture and the tools built on it were born of a different era. It wasn’t too many years ago that corporate headquarters and campus locations housed all workers in a centralized location. And there were good reasons for this trend.

The company could achieve some economies of scale for real estate costs and some business functions. Having everyone in one location could enhance teamwork and collaboration, and provide a degree of physical security. Plus a centralized data center enabled the use of enterprise tools to manage and grow the business.

This is what a network architecture to support a large corporation looked like. Companies required many specialized skills and expensive resources to manage including system engineers, database administrators, network engineers, and telco specialists.

The modern agile workforce is no longer dependent upon legacy technical architecture to help run the business. In 2021, cloud computing had a tremendous impact on new business models built on remote workforces.

Cloud-native technology empowers a dynamic and remote workforce. IT workers can focus on key business objectives and value-generating activities, not their wonky, old managing systems.

Today, knowledge workers can leverage a multitude of mobile devices and collaboration software, regardless of location. And the ability to work anywhere with a potential for a higher quality of life can lead to increased employee satisfaction and greater productivity.

Work remotely with secure endpoints

Our entire mission supports the shift to remote work at its core by helping to keep your corporate endpoints secure. One of your most important considerations in today’s world is how to keep your remote endpoints secure from vulnerabilities.

Here are five questions to ask yourself when making sure your IT team has a solid strategy for keeping BYOD endpoints up-to-date and secure with the latest software, patches, and configurations.

1. Can you secure your workers’ endpoints without a VPN?

Make sure your VPN isn’t a critical point for securing your endpoints. Legacy patching platforms can only update systems and software on remote endpoints that are connected to the corporate network via VPN.

Not only are companies concerned if their VPNs can even handle the upcoming spike in remote traffic, but users often avoid connecting altogether to circumvent the tedious, frustrating, and time-consuming process of making updates over slow VPN connections.

Cloud-native endpoint management solutions seamlessly update and patch any corporate endpoint that’s connected to the internet, which means users are always current with patches and configurations.

2. Are you able to outmaneuver attackers when new vulnerabilities are announced?

Today, attackers are weaponizing vulnerabilities faster and more frequently than ever. In fact, the moment new critical vulnerabilities are reported, it’s a race to see if you can patch vulnerabilities faster than adversaries can exploit them.

To be safe, you need to remediate critical vulnerabilities within 72 hours of their announcement. Traditional, VPN-based patching solutions — which users are reluctant to utilize — will likely not allow you to remediate in time. Automox customers, on the other hand, meet this speed threshold thanks to automated vulnerability remediation.

3. Can you automate your endpoint and patch management on devices not connected to your network?

Patching can be a thankless, time-consuming task that’s easy to fall behind on. What's worse, IT administrators often can’t see which software titles on which systems are out of date and susceptible to attack.

Unpatched and misconfigured laptops are a huge concern for maintaining cyber hygiene. And an increase in remote laptops not connected to the corporate network for extended periods will only compound this problem. Make sure you gain visibility into the status of remote endpoints so you can customize and automate both OS and third-party application updates or patches to eliminate this threat.

4. Can you patch and update across operating systems and third-party software?

According to the CRA Third-Party Risk in the Era of Zero Trust survey, 95% of participants voiced at least some level of concern with IT security risks from third-party relationships. Moreover, 67% of those surveyed experienced significant increases in third-party-related security events during the past year.

On that note, managing and maintaining the latest software versions and configurations across multiple operating systems and myriad remote laptops clearly remains a huge hurdle for legacy patch platforms.

If you can stay ahead of attackers across Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms, access a library of third-party patching support, and secure remote laptops through a single cloud-native console, you’re ahead of the game – protected with all your endpoints secured.

5. Do you have visibility and control of all your remote endpoints?

It’s difficult to automate policies for remote laptops you can’t see. Look for cloud-native solutions to provide complete inventories of all hardware, software, patches, and configuration details for your remote endpoints.

Also, check out our “5 Considerations to Seamlessly Secure your Remote Workforce” infographic for a summary of key considerations. We outline the steps needed to manage all your newly roaming devices and, most importantly, how you can keep these remote endpoints secure. And keep checking in with our blog on the latest updates when it comes to technical and political shifts related to remote work.

Automox for Easy IT Operations

Automox is the cloud-native IT operations platform for modern organizations. It makes it easy to keep every endpoint automatically configured, patched, and secured – anywhere in the world. With the push of a button, IT admins can fix critical vulnerabilities faster, slash cost and complexity, and win back hours in their day. 

Grab your free trial of Automox and join thousands of companies transforming IT operations into a strategic business driver.

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