Remote Work is Here to Stay for SMBs

Over the past year, many organizations had to rapidly shift to a work-from-home model because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some of these companies were initially caught flat-footed, they soon found ways to enable better remote access to applications and networks. Many companies that had resisted remote work eventually discovered that productivity and employee satisfaction actually improved.

However, for some companies, these work-from-home programs were hastily cobbled together in a way that didn’t provide the best performance or the right level of security. According to the Top 10 SMB Technology Trends study for 2021 (from the SMB Group), work-from-home operations will drive new technology investments in the next year and beyond. That means MSPs have an opportunity to provide new technology, new security infrastructure and consulting services to help the firms improve current remote work scenarios, expand their programs and better incorporate a variety of network and application access models in the future.

The pandemic led to a significant expansion of remote work, with forty-one percent of SMBs indicating that they had established a new program. To add to that, 26 percent had expanded an existing program.

How did this affect employee productivity? Results were mixed. While 31 percent indicated that work-from-home efforts did not affect productivity, 33 percent said they had experienced somewhat higher productivity, and 19 percent had experienced much higher productivity. Less than 20% indicated that productivity was lower to some degree.

“Other employee benefits include better work/life balance and improved well-being, and WFH can also save companies money and make it easier to access workers from a larger, more diverse talent pool,” the report said.

According to the survey, medium and midmarket businesses are more likely to have implemented or expanded WFH programs and more likely to say that WFH has increased employee productivity than small businesses.

Helping clients with remote and work-from-home initiatives will continue to be important moving forward. The pandemic is still affecting office use across the country, of course, but even after it has passed, it appears that many firms will continue to rely on these arrangements. According to the survey, budgets to equip work-from-home employees are expected to continue increasing.

Although roughly 30 percent of respondents indicated that budgets would remain flat, 23 percent said they planned to increase budgets by one to 10 percent, and a quarter intended to increase budgets by 11 to 25 percent. Another nine percent expect to increase remote work budgets by more than 25 percent. That means nearly 60 percent of firms planned to expand remote work spending. These companies will need help with strategic planning to incorporate remote work, hybrid environments, and other scenarios.

According to the SMB Group, they will evaluate investments in several areas:

  • New technology and infrastructure for on-premise work. More than 60 percent of SMBs plan to alter the layout of their facilities and reconfigure office, retail and factory space to ensure social distancing and improve air quality.
  • Home office investments. Companies will also spend money on better equipping home offices for executives and employees, including everything from desks and lights to new computers, network infrastructure and other equipment.
  • Extending virtual collaboration. Everyone switched to video conferencing in 2020, and Microsoft Teams adoption expanded tremendously. MSPs will need to help their clients make the most of their Microsoft platforms and evaluate and implement additional tools like remote project management, digital whiteboards and cloud-based platforms.
  • Consolidating platforms. The pandemic caused many companies to deploy remote work and collaboration tools haphazardly. SMBs will need to reduce the complexity of this mix-and-match approach. MSPs can help them select new integrated platforms and ensure that those platforms are fully secure and protected from the massive wave of phishing and other types of cyberattacks we’re seeing this year.

Remote work is here to stay for SMBs. MSPs have an ample opportunity to gain new clients and expand business with existing clients by providing guidance and new collaboration and security tools that can keep employees safely connected and productive no matter where they’re working.

Michael Mowder is the Senior Director of Global Partner Success for Barracuda MSP, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers, where he is responsible for the partner journey from on-boarding, to implementation, through professional services and finally, renewal.

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