Masergy says two thirds of workers don’t want to return to office

A woman working remotely with her laptop on her lap
Network engineers still need to beef up security for their home-based workforce. (asiandelight/Getty Images)

About two-thirds of knowledge workers are happier working from home than they were pre-Covid when they had to commute to their jobs, said Masergy’s VP of Innovation Ray Watson, speaking today at a FierceTelecom virtual event.

Watson said the two-thirds figure comes from Masergy’s own internal surveys of customers and is supported by some surveys from third parties such as Korn Ferry.

Watson said that initially workers wanted to work from home because of concerns about their health and safety. But now that they’ve gotten used to it over the last several months, as many as two-thirds do not want to physically go back to the office. “Now, it has a lot to do with that lost productivity around commuting,” he said. “Also, they’ve learned new work habits based on remote collaboration on Slack, or with Teams, using Zoom or Webex.”

He said many of these workers would be okay with a hybrid model where they work part-time at home and part-time at an office. “Surprisingly, most corporations are very open to those ideas,” said Watson.

The Covid crisis forced a new paradigm, and the crisis has gone on for so long that it’s becoming accepted, and even expected, to work from home in the future.

Security

The members of today’s Fierce panel focused on network strategies for the work-from-home revolution, and probably the biggest challenge is implementing security.

Watson said when the pandemic first hit in March 2020 and companies were scrambling to get their workforces set up remotely, in many cases they made rapid changes without necessarily going through the full security audit process. “We saw two or three companies temporarily disable multi-factor authentication, which is absolutely vital to protecting corporate assets,” he said. 

Conversely, FedEx Technical Director Aryo Kresnadi said that the delivery company has gone gangbusters to make sure its workforce operates securely. It escalated the need for two-factor authentication. “We are actually beefing up security so fast,” he said. “That is probably one of the hidden blessings of all of this.” 

Often, the whole concept of security is challenging because employees just expect it to be implemented by their IT departments. They don’t feel that they should have to be security experts.

Pascal Menezes, chief technology officer at MEF, said, “I actually think most users don’t think about security. They expect it to just be inherently built in. They know not to click on links, and they still click on them. There are many penetration points and vulnerabilities. Whatever we do, we need to deliver on the promise that it’s frictionless and built in.” 

Kresnadi said, “Having a laptop with how many agents because of security and then you start working from home and you have more agents, it just doesn’t help.”

SASE

The panelists agreed that SASE has benefitted from the Covid phenomenon.

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The Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a term coined by Gartner, which posits that security will no longer be confined to particular boxes, but it must be cloud-based, scalable, and available on demand whenever and wherever it’s needed.

Mike Frane, vice president of product management with Windstream, said that with so many employees working from home, it means that there are many more points of entry for security breaches. “As we look toward the future, giving them a simplified model in which you gain visibility into and control over their networking, their remote access, their firewalls and their cloud access is going to be critical as the network perimeter expands dramatically and in some cases evaporates altogether.”

Menezes said SASE with its cloud-based security is like “all the stars are aligning just perfectly just at the time we need it.”

And Mike Lawson, manager for SD-WAN solution architecture at Lumen, said, “Covid was the perfect storm for SASE to really grab hold. Once the remote access piece and distributed workforce really took hold, that put SASE on a high-end trajectory.”