COVID-19 has accelerated the introduction of remote working by at least five years for 60 per cent of organisations in Australia, with the trend especially pronounced in retail, catering & leisure,  manufacturing & utilities ), and IT & telecommunications.

The figures are contained in a new study by Barracuda Networks.

The study says 77 per cent of business leaders plan to keep remote working in place for employee productivity and business continuity once the pandemic is over for a more flexible and hybrid workplace and this sentiment is by large and small companies alike.

“This is a significant shift in thinking among business leaders in Australia as they realise the positive impact a remote working model has had on overall business productivity,” said Andrew Huntley, regional director of ANZ and Pacific Islands for Barracuda.

“Many have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation and cloud adoption efforts to support this shift, which is putting them in good stead to recover from COVID-19, as well as create a new future for their business.”

Despite the positive impact the shift to remote working has had on organisations in Australia, it also presents multilateral security challenges, with many not aware of the risks involved in connecting remotely.

Accelerating transformation

According to the study, COVID-19 has been the catalyst for 58 per cent of organisations in Australia to accelerate digital transformation plans in the next six months to ease the burdens placed on the traditional business model by remote working.

This is particularly the case for larger enterprises (73 per cent), with SMEs to a lesser extent (53 per cent), although it’s still a significant shift in focus.

A key component of this transformation is cloud computing with almost half having fast tracked plans to move all data to a cloud-based model.

Most believe this shift will help reduce overall IT costs to support business growth with half of those surveyed seeing an increase in overall business productivity since shifting to a remote workforce.

Security challenges

The study indicated that 36 per cent of organisations in Australia have already had at least one data breach or cyber security incident since shifting to a remote working model, with 45 per cent reporting that employees had experienced an increase in email phishing attacks.

37 per cent of organisations expect an incident to occur in the next month and 68 per cent concerned about unknown threats that will cause business disruption in the next six months.

Alarmingly, 36 per cent of organisations in Australia do not have an up-to-date cybersecurity strategy and solutions in place that cover all the vulnerabilities posed by full-time remote working. This is made more difficult by 51 per cent allowing employees to use personal email addresses and personal devices to conduct company work.

“Maintaining safe security practices is essential, but a step easily overlooked in the frantic rush to get everything set up to support remote working,” said Huntley.

“More employees working from home means that more devices are connecting remotely, outside of the secured corporate network. It’s critical to understand what remote workers are doing with data that is rapidly going out of your control and rework the ‘new normal’ to make it more effective and more secure.”

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