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Consultants embrace trend to work from home, if appropriate precautions are taken

The lack of on-site workers in downtown Oklahoma City is seen May 22 outside of Leadership Square. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
The lack of on-site workers in downtown Oklahoma City is seen May 22 outside of Leadership Square. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

America’s getting into the groove of working from home.

Moe Vela, the chief transparency officer of TransparentBusiness, said a recent study found 67% of employees working remotely expect those policies either to become permanent or to remain in place for the long-term.

Some tech companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google already told employees they can work from home until the end of 2020, for example. Other companies such as Gannett, owner of The Oklahoman, are still working on determining when they’ll be able to ask their employees to safely return to on-site offices.

Vela takes a positive view of the trend.

“My mom in Texas used to say when I was growing up, ‘From all bad can come some good,'” he said. “From such an extraordinary, tragic situation with the pandemic, the good that is coming out from it is that it is demonstrating that this remote workforce model actually works.”

Vela said research is showing the current trend is boosting employees’ productivity, while reducing employers’ costs to provide office space and related supplies at the same time.

Additionally, he said companies are having fewer issues with absenteeism because employees are happier, given they can enjoy a better work-life balance (they aren’t spending hours every day just trying to get to and from their jobs).

“That is a very large contributor to the increased productivity and the operational efficiencies,” he said.

There are other benefits, too, Vela pointed out.

If the nation’s businesses moved to adopt the practice permanently, Vela said he would expect the nation’s economy could benefit because workers could take the money they had been spending to get to and from their jobs and use it for something else.

The nation’s environment would win as well, given that reduced automobile traffic loads would help clear the air.

He said the switch also would provide more employment opportunities for young moms with kids at home and other disadvantaged persons who couldn’t get to a job location because of physical or income-related issues.

“Everybody wins,” Vela said.

With today’s virtual meeting and file sharing technology, Vela observed companies no longer have a reason to be reluctant about embracing the change.

“Employers should be using all the tools available in the marketplace,” he said. “If they do, there is no reason — no reason — that an employer should move back to a traditional workforce model.”

But while employees continue to do the majority of their work at home, companies face growing security threats from hackers and accidental insider sabotage.

Cybersecurity specialist Jerry Chen notes a recent survey conducted by IBM Security found that slightly more than half of remote employees are using personal laptops and computers to do their work.

The survey also found that more than half of people working from home haven’t been given new training or protocols on how to secure their laptops or handle personal identifying information of customers.

Chen said that could create critical issues for employers.

“There’s no question, working at home is better,” Chen agreed. “But the downside is the security risks that brings.”

Chen, formerly with Cisco, co-founded Firewalla, a tech company that works with clients to provide them with internet security through gear and associated software that provides a modern mobile interface for laptops and phones and functions as an intrusion detection and prevention system.

This week, he said companies of all sizes must be sure they adequately train and equip their employees to avoid potential data breaches, loss of proprietary information or other security catastrophes.

“When people are working from home all the time, the company becomes the home, and that extends the security threat far beyond the corporate walls,” he said. “You need to have policies that require your employees to follow certain procedures, then have ways for them to be able to follow them.”

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›

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