Lessons learned from pandemic: Work From Home

Working from home (WFH) or remote-work has been known only as exceptional practice in the workplace until the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the attitude significantly. From the point of view of employees, remote work is often associated with the perceived increase of job satisfaction, for example by working from any location around the world (freelancers), by having an individual work environment, or by having more trustful relationships inside the company. From the point of view of management, remote employees bring great managerial issues like loss of control.

Today top management is still skeptical about remote workers because they question the ability of their staff to handle remote infrastructure, take responsibility for confidential data, solve any situation independently and manage their time or work properly without supervision. But the latest developments in the Surveillance economy bring fresh solutions. Properly selected “Security as a Service” tools (SECaaS or SaaS) are able to cover distributed end-points into a single virtual dashboard, capture new kinds of productivity data, and thus allows better control and decision-making over a remote workforce.

The rapid increase of remote workers.
Coronavirus pandemic brings new challenges and shifted the attitude to the work process. Many employees were allowed to work from home. And now they don’t want to return to the office, arguing with COVID-19 issues and motivating with good productivity and outcome made from home. According to the latest Deloitte report, the number of people working from home has doubled in some countries, during the pandemic crisis.

Thanks to technologies like Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Teams, and cloud computing – it’s actually no longer necessary to present physically in an office full-time, you may contribute to the work process in the same way from any location. Academic studies [2,3] show that the productivity of remote developers, measured in “Lines of Code” (LOC), Meetings, or Agile Sprints time, was not all that different from the productivity of in-house developers in total. Where about 50% of remote developers demonstrated a bit increased outcome, the second half demonstrated a bit less outcome.

While these studies measured well-known production and activity patterns of software engineers, it is possible to come up with new activity patterns for other types of duties such as customer support operators, call center agents, designers, copy-writers, editors, etc. Digital products, services, software are made by humans, which are not fully rational, but it is possible to account for behavioral factors that allow managing product engineering in a better way when your team is working remotely. According to experts, business needs to respond to enable their employees to keep productivity level when working remotely.

Businesses need to take action.
However, as was mentioned earlier, remote work has challenges that affect employees differently. While some of them feel the productivity increase, some will suffer from new work conditions like family member distractions, technical problems, physiological issues related to social isolation. It means ways of working and daily patterns like workflow, meetings, start/end of the work may be changed. Top management needs to fully understand and measure how these new challenges are impacting the business by using employee monitoring tools and user behavior analysis.

The last decade brings significant development in the Surveillance economy [4] when big data is collected about customers, citizens, services, and even physical assets. Cloud-based computer monitoring tools such as Staffcounter allow recording computer session start and end time, user idle time, keyboard typing amount, communication messages and bring this data into a single dashboard. At the same time, remote workers are provided with the needed level of individual privacy, awareness indicators, and monitoring transparency.