The future of work: remote working in 2022

Companies are still dealing with the transitions that they had to carry out around remote work. Building on effective identity management is a good start, but what other problems will come up next year? How will companies adopt and adapt their processes for remote work in 2022?

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This is contributed article by Greg Keller, CTO, JumpCloud.

Last time I made some predictions, I focused on the future of identity. Coming off the back of the pandemic and huge remote work implementations, those predictions largely came true. More companies are making use of Zero Trust principles for security, the Great Resignation shows how people are looking to change their roles, and identity management is more important than ever.

For this year, I thought I’d look a little more widely on what those changes will mean for the future of work.

Prediction #1 - Remote work will become normal for the majority

The Great Resignation taking place this year will inevitably slow down. But like a round of musical chairs, all the change taking place now will affect future hiring and talent management. Companies that don’t open up to remote working, or that insist on restrictive working models, will face problems in hiring and finding the right people.

In 2022, this will carry on. For those that invested early in supporting remote work, they will see the problems settle down earlier compared to those that either have not invested or did so half-heartedly. The challenge will be not so much the technology to support doing all this securely, but how to maintain the right processes and team culture over time. When people are not physically working alongside each other, and when communication is all asynchronous, it can be more difficult to keep the right culture in place.

Prediction #2 - Onboarding and offboarding will have to change

With all this hiring and with more churn in staff, there will be more pressure on how to manage those employees and get them set up properly. Provisioning services and applications will get more attention from both the tech team and from HR, as employee experience goes from a minor issue to one that affects long-term retention of staff.

In practice, companies will struggle more with how they manage removing access and managing assets. Getting employees through the front door will get the most attention - after all you never get a second chance to make a good first impression - but managing how to get assets back will need just as much work.

Automating the deprovisioning process will help, as access rights can be tied to the device and then triggered as part of returning equipment. Doing this remotely will get more attention too, as employers will not want to risk shipping back devices that are not secured properly. Taking care of devices will be problematic if IT doesn’t have good insight into what users have in place, how they use those devices, and how they can be managed over time.

Prediction #3 - Companies will struggle to support flexible working securely

Whatever approach your company takes - from trying to get everyone back in the office through to supporting fully remote teams, and all the different hybrid approaches in between - keeping users secure will be a big challenge in 2022. The problem here is not just technical. Instead, it covers the whole process that companies have in place around work.

For small businesses, it is a significant issue to provision access to resources and manage what devices employees use. Now they want to reduce their costs. At the same time, they see new approaches like passwordless security are coming into the mainstream, and they have to evaluate if these are suitable for their needs.

In 2022, IT teams will want to consolidate how they manage areas like identity rather than continue running all the multiple tools they first implemented when COVID-19 struck. This will involve getting to ‘just enough security’, where users are kept secure across all the devices that they use, but without duplicating efforts or affecting user experience. Managing user identities in the right way will be essential to this, and will increasingly transition to platforms like cloud directories rather than on-premise systems. This will increasingly be true in the small business sector, where managed services providers will have a big role to play in helping companies understand what they should be doing and how to make things work in practice.

Prediction #4 - How we measure work will have to change

When everything is working well, technology can help companies big and small to be more effective. However, what does effective support look like when employees are remote for the majority of the time? How do companies define the services that they need, and track their results?

In 2022, companies will have to think seriously about how they measure work and results. The traditional approach of tracking hours in the office is not appropriate - you might say it never was, even before COVID-19 – yet many managers currently don’t feel comfortable or able to adopt results-based approaches instead. Overcoming this mindset is essential.

During the next year, we’ll see two kinds of approaches - those companies that work out how to measure employee performance by results that they deliver over time, and those that try to keep that old oversight model in place. For the first group, the challenge is how to ensure that they get the right level of productivity in place and that employees are challenged rather than overworked. For the second group, the biggest challenge will be retention. Too much oversight will lead talented staff to look elsewhere.

The goal should be to work in the right way, providing strong support and with a good company culture in place in all interactions, regardless of how those interactions take place. At the same time, teams will have to look at how their processes function when work can be asymmetric and asynchronous, rather than tied to specific business hours. In the year ahead, this will be what many IT teams will have to work on internally across their own processes, and they will have to take those lessons out to the wider business too.

Greg Keller is CTO at JumpCloud, a cloud directory platform. At the company he provides product leadership and executive management. He has more than two decades of product management, product marketing, and operations experience ranging from startups to global organisations. Alongside his role at JumpCloud, he acts as a mentor for TechStars, a worldwide network for entrepreneurs.