The New Workplace in Europe: Reimagining Work After 2020

While the timelines for normal life resuming around the world remain unclear, one thing is certain: we’ll never look at office work the same way again.

To understand the technological and cultural challenges office workers have been facing over the last few weeks, and to identify learnings for businesses to emerge stronger than ever before, we surveyed 6,000 office workers across the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands and analysed the findings in our new report, The New Workplace: Re-imagining Work After 2020.

We’ve all seen the major technological leap businesses took in a matter of days to keep employees safe in their homes. This research suggests a massive cultural shift in how we now perceive remote work and its role in our working lives in the years to come.

As companies look into office re-entry plans when a treatment for COVID-19 is not yet available, do they really need to go back to the way things were? Our study points to an overall cultural readiness to embrace distributed workforces, and at Okta we’re embracing a new, dynamic way of working that goes beyond remote and distributed.

We’re productive at home

Despite the massive overhaul, only 31% of respondents said their productivity levels had taken a hit. Of those that are thriving in the new work environment, 62% of respondents said the increase in flexibility had helped them to focus more on work, and 55% said their productivity levels were boosted due to the additional free time in their day.

It’s not all good news. While 60% of respondents said they have been able to access the software that they need to carry out their day-to-day duties, some 24% of newly-remote workers said they couldn’t and were unproductive at the beginning of the pandemic.

Loving WFH, missing work buddies

The findings suggest remote working will surge in popularity even after physical distancing is relaxed: only 24% of UK respondents said they want to return to the office full-time and 35% said they’d prefer a flexible arrangement where they can work from home on a part-time basis.

Even in a flexible future, we’re not ready to completely give up the benefits of office environments. More than half (57%) say they miss having in-person conversations with their co-workers, while 49% miss the relationships they have forged with those in the office.

Security starts with trust

Most organisations weren’t given much time to prepare to send their entire workforce home, and in the UK, only a third (32%) of respondents said they were completely confident that the working from home online security measures implemented by their employer would keep them safe from cyber-attacks.

This level of preparedness varies between sectors; while 57% respondents working in the IT industry trusted that their employer was “completely prepared” from a security point of view, just a quarter of those in the retail and education sectors had a similar level of confidence.

Okta’s partner, Proofpoint also found that “Threat actors are actively using COVID-19 social engineering themes to try to take advantage of remote workers, health concerns, stimulus payments, trusted brands, and more. Initially Proofpoint’s threat intelligence team were seeing about one campaign a day worldwide, they’re now observing 3-4 each day,” said Richard Davis, International Cybersecurity Strategist, Proofpoint.

More than ever, it’s clear that the idea of a shifted security perimeter is now everyone’s reality. Many organisations were forced to quickly spin up remote work environments and security tools to enable business continuity during this time. While we’ve seen a lot of rapid success, for many this short-term firefighting approach isn’t sustainable. As businesses look to securely enable a long-term remote workforce, they need a future-proof security framework, keeping their people, their data, and their infrastructure safe. That’s where zero trust comes in.

A hybrid future

We all work differently and the results of our study speak to that. Some people perform better if they avoid their twice daily commute and head to work in their distraction-free home office. This is why businesses should look into introducing a dynamic hybrid of office and remote work, which means they can re-evaluate the traditional office space while providing employees with comparable benefits, flexibility, and experiential work environments in the location that best fits their needs.

As ever, these big changes will start and end with trust. Our mission will always be to enable any company to use any technology, anywhere. Especially at home.

Get in touch to see how we can help you enable a seamless, secure remote work experience.