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What Is the Value, Risk of Remote Employees? IT Surveys Search for Answers

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Remote employee working from home. Remote employee working from home. (Source: Shutterstock)

Are tech workers paid enough? What do IT leaders think are the benefits and risks of remote workers? Results from two different surveys provide insight into workforce happiness, security and benefits.

A survey, which ran March 14 to March 22, 2019, of 10,563 users of San Francisco-based Blind, an anonymous social network with a large user base of tech professionals from companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber, Intel, Apple, LinkedIn and Salesforce, revealed that 55.8% tech professionals feel undervalued.

Blind reported, “Tech workers are often paid more than the general population. It’s not unheard of for software engineers and other tech employees to make six figures and receive large signing bonuses. This made us wonder how satisfied tech employees are with their total compensation.”  The survey of its community of tech workers on the Blind app asked users to answer “true” or “false” to: “I am paid far less than the value I create.”

Blind also broke down the results by companies with at least 100 unique employee responses:

  • Uber led with 60.68% of employees answering true.
  • Rounding out the top three were LinkedIn (60.53%) and Intel (59.09%).
  • Facebook had the lowest percentage of employees answering true (31%).
  • The two other companies with the lowest percentage of employees answering with true are eBay (44.64%) and PayPal (46%).

In a separate survey, Pleasanton, Calif-based OpenVPN, which provides virtual private network solutions, surveyed 250 IT leaders, from the manager level through the C-suite, to understand their views on the potential of remote work and the quality of their organization’s security policies surrounding remote workers.

OpenVPN found remote jobs offers benefits across the workplace. Eighty-two percent of telecommuters reported less stress and 30% said it allowed them to accomplish more work in less time. The study also discovered remote work allows enterprise leaders to cut overhead expenses that come with sustaining a fully in-person workforce. The average business could save $11,000 per remote worker per year.

However, with so many employees out of physical reach of leadership — potentially working on public Wi-Fi and personal devices — there is too much room for new security vulnerabilities.

Overwhelmingly, IT professionals appreciate remote work is here to stay, even if they’re unyielding that remote workers generate risk. When asked whether the benefits of remote work outweigh the risks, 92% said they believe they do.

“They still fear that organizations leave themselves vulnerable to many risks. Their take? Organizations that haven’t taken the right steps to secure their remote workers need to do so soon, especially since workplace embrace of remote work is moving faster than ever,” the OpenVPN study revealed. Ninety percent of respondents believe remote workers represent a security risk in general, and 54% believe that remote employees pose a greater security risk than onsite employees.

Organizations are taking clear steps to assuage the remote work hazards, but according to the OpenVPN study they are missing the mark in some crucial areas.

Securing remote work should start with a formalized policy that applies specifically to remote workers. OpenVPN found 93% of organizations have one in place already. These policies should dictate what technology remote workers should and should not use. For example, tools such as VPNs and password managers prevent remote workers from carelessly using dangerous public Wi-Fi networks or relying on the same simple password for every account and device.

However, companies fail remote workers when they are often excluded from security meetings and trainings. But organizations seem to grasp the importance: 90% say their organization requires that remote workers take part in cybersecurity training. Organizations’ embrace of security policies and trainings for remote workers is proactive, but upon closer examination, some cracks emerge in their strategies. For one, 36% have experienced a security incident because of a remote worker’s actions.

“When we examine who’s leading the development of remote worker security policies, we uncover the importance of trusting IT to directly oversee the initiative,” OpenVPN suggested in its report. IT departments led security policy development for 57% of organizations without a remote worker-caused breach. By contrast, 49% of IT departments led security planning for companies with a remote worker-caused breach.

OpenVPN made another observation: Organizations are prone to developing a policy and then considering the initiative complete. They don’t make an effort to revisit it routinely, and yet the cybersecurity space becomes riskier all the time. “The modern work trend offers many benefits to organizations, such as greater access to talent and increased employee engagement. But it also creates unique security challenges — which organizations across the board aren’t yet equipped to handle.”