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Digital Workplace Trends: Looking Back at 2020 and Ahead to 2021


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    It goes without saying that the digital workplace has gone through some drastic changes in 2020. Not only has the technology we use daily and how we share data changed, but more than ever people are using digital workplaces at home instead of in the office. According to a study done by Stanford in June of this year, 42% of the U.S. labor force is now working from home and another 33% are not working at all—which is a true testament to how much the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted worker’s daily lives in one way or another. This means that only 26% of workers, mostly essential workers, are still working on their business’s premises.

    This large percentage of workers doing their jobs at home is likely to continue even after the pandemic has slowed down, especially as organizations report increased workforce productivity. Here we’ll discuss some of the trends we’ve seen this year, and what we can expect to see more of in 2021. We’ll also take a look at how companies can be better equipped to handle all of the data protection and privacy concerns that increase as workers move away from a centralized location.

    Technology for the Digital Workplace 

    Having the most up-to-date technology in the workplace has always been a nice benefit, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, it is all but essential. Here are some of the newest digital workplace technology trends companies have adapted to this year and that we expect  to continue into 2021.

    1. New Work Nucleus

    The new work nucleus is defined by Gartner as a collection of SaaS-based personal productivity, collaboration and communication tools. These communication tools may include but are not limited to: email, messaging, file sharing, video chatting, document editing, and collaboration – all combined into one cloud office product. The new work nucleus has become a vital part of the digital workplace as work environments become more remote. These cloud office products are generally cost-effective and make it easy to share and collaborate with others.

    2. BYOD & IoT Connected Devices

    In 2020 Bring Your Own Device became a regular part of organizations’ remote working plans in order to make it easier for employees to do their jobs from home. The BYOD movement and the increase in employees accessing company networks and resources using their mobile devices and other personal devices, has increased the complexity and vulnerability of data and data security. As you build your data protection, security, and privacy framework, consult Virtru’s Data Protection Checklist to be sure you’re covering all the bases.

    3. Video Conferencing

    The popularity of video conferencing applications like Zoom and Skype has skyrocketed this year seeing profits double since the COVID pandemic, and this is expected to continue into the new year due to the move from in-person meetings to online. Video conferencing makes it easy to work together and conduct business outside of the office. Although Zoom states that all audio, video and screen sharing data is encrypted, it should be noted that conversations about sensitive information may be overheard by unintended parties if these conversations are taking place in public or in the presence of other people, a concern that wasn’t on business leaders’ radars when meetings took place in person at the office.

    4. Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

    As technology becomes more sophisticated and easier to access for the masses, organizations are turning to AI to answer frequently asked employee questions about new procedures. AI-powered chatbots can answer common questions that employees might have about new internal business applications or products, opposed to contacting an actual person and having to wait on a response. This shrinks the learning curve, gives employees a better experience, and lessens the chance of a data or privacy breach due to employee misunderstanding of a product or procedure. 

    According to KissFlow, “AI will stay as the key enabler of the digital workplace in the coming year. The greatest benefit of AI as part of the digital workplace is that it makes employees more capable and independent from the physical characteristics of their offices and infrastructures.” AI is also widely used as a customer service tool for support and sales, leading AI to automating jobs that would otherwise have to be done manually or in an office, which will eventually improve digital workplaces to be even more efficient than offices.

    Reliance on Data Sharing and Privacy in the Cloud

    Sharing data remains a key component of success in today’s omnichannel, globally-connected digital workplace. Data is shared across multiple platforms and environments in order to inform decision making at a faster speed than ever before. About 75% of IT decision makers believe that of all public, private, and hybrid workloads, over 95% will be housed in the cloud by 2025.

    The amount of data that is collected and stored is increasing exponentially, and the number of workforce applications this data can be stored on also continues to grow. That, paired with increasingly tight data privacy regulations, proves why it’s becoming more difficult to regulate data across multi-cloud platforms. 70% of organizations sharing and hosting data in the cloud had a security incident in the last year, reports Sophos

    Organizations using more than one cloud reported up to twice as many incidents as organizations using one, centralized cloud. With more companies using the cloud for data transfer and data hosting, it’s important to be prepared for privacy breaches or have systems in place to keep this information secure. Catch an on-demand recording of Virtru’s ‘Privacy & Compliance in the Cloud’ webinar to ensure your organization’s approach to data security in the cloud is up to par.

    Keeping up with Regulatory Compliance

    Compliance, governance, and data regulations aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they are increasing in number and in security. Because the switch to working remotely happened so quickly, it may feel like compliance fell to the wayside while more pressing issues moved to the forefront, but Help Net Security says “the number of data privacy cases brought before the courts will continue to rise” and “the California Consumer Privacy Act  has kickstarted a swathe of data privacy reforms within many states, with many calls for something similar at the federal level”. 

    Now is the time to focus on compliance, governance and data regulations. Use these resources on compliance from Virtru to learn more about  best practices for compliance requirements today and how to keep up with evolving regulatory requirements tomorrow.

    Data Privacy in the Age of Breach

    As data breaches make the headlines more frequently and privacy regulations tighten, the message is clear: maintain privacy and security or pay the price. According to IBM, The average time to identify a breach in 2019 was 206 days and the average total cost of data breaches in the US was over $8 Million. Organizations must be equipped to identify and respond to a breach quickly in order to avoid high volumes of data loss which in turn becomes company capital loss. 

    According to Accenture, security breaches have increased by 11% since 2018 and 67% since 2014. Mobile devices, wireless networks, and even inadvertent disclosure of data in public spaces all expose your business to unwanted vulnerabilities. It can be hard for organizations to navigate through this new work from home environment and to be sure you’re doing everything possible to avoid breaches. Use Virtru’s Data Privacy resources to find data protection checklists, guides, and case studies to help you better understand your company’s security posture, data protection strategy, and where Virtru fits in to help to prevent data breaches.

    A large remote workforce is inevitably the new norm. It’s estimated that 25-30% of the workforce will work from home multiple days per week by the end of 2021. While this percentage is less than how many are working from home currently, it’s clear that the at-home digital workplace isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

    As the digital workplace continues to rapidly change, companies must adapt current security strategies to meet the new standard of how data is collected, stored and shared. Organizations need a solution that protects and controls data shared via email, stored across multi-cloud environments and supports easy regulatory compliance. 

    Speak to one of our cloud security experts today to learn how Virtru can help boost your security posture in the digital workplace.

    Editorial Team

    Editorial Team

    The editorial team consists of Virtru brand experts, content editors, and vetted field authorities. We ensure quality, accuracy, and integrity through robust editorial oversight, review, and optimization of content from trusted sources, including use of generative AI tools.

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