Remote Work and Information Governance

Organizations of all sizes and types have been forced to dramatically shift their operations and embrace remote work, with nearly 60% of the total U.S. workforce now working from home. But even before COVID-19, the trend to a remote workforce was gaining strength. Indeed, the number of remote workers has risen by 159% over the past 12 years.

The industries with the highest number of remote workers are currently healthcare, technology, and financial services. The adoption demographic is evolving quickly, however, as segments like marketing and communications, science and research, and law services show rapid adoption as well.

Regardless of the needed response to the ongoing pandemic, C-suite leaders recognize the potential advantages of remote work. Nearly 80% of remote workers say they’re more productive when working from home. As a result, organizations everywhere are rethinking their operations in order to turn remote work into a corporate strength and a competitive advantage.

File sharing and collaboration

Many organizations have rushed to implement online file sharing and collaboration tools. For example, Microsoft Teams added 145 million users between April 2020 and April 2021 and has been the fastest-growing app of the pandemic. The file sharing market overall has seen tremendous growth. Players like Box, IBM, DropBox, and many others have been riding an unprecedented wave of growth, as have the leading cloud service providers like AWS, Microsoft and Google.

Info governance is more important than ever

Information governance is more important than ever as companies scramble to redefine their workflow. And with the future filled with uncertainty, establishing and following proper information management policy and practice now is essential. This will require ongoing investment and effort not only today but well into the future.

According to research conducted by AIIM, 73% of organizations say information governance is “important” or “critical” to their continued success. The top challenge for users (42%) is the growing muddle of information they must manage every day. “Records are everywhere –information volume and variety expanding too quickly.”

The new not normal

The implications of COVID-19 have yet to fully unfold, creating great uncertainty for both employees and employers. Concerns over the rising numbers of cases due to the highly contagious delta variant are sending corporate return-to-work policies askew. Many companies, including big brands like Lyft, Asana, and Apple have just recently pushed their return-to-office dates forward into 2022. So, it is likely that many workers will continue working remotely with only the most essential and specialized employees returning to the office.

Best practices

Information governance is more important than ever. What can you do to improve your information governance in a remote work environment? Here are three best practices to consider.

Increase your focus on data security – There has been dramatic growth in the number of cyberattacks aimed to take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak and remote work. More than one-third of senior technology executives surveyed by CNBC say that cybersecurity risks have increased as a majority of their employees work from home. Use techniques like multifactor authentication and virtual private networks to make it harder for bad guys to gain access to remote systems.

Review and update your policies and procedures – You don’t get a pass from your compliance obligations just because your work arrangement has changed. Organizations must ensure they remain compliant regardless of whether people are working from home or at the office. Examples include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, HIPPA in the US, and PIPEDA in Canada, but there are other statutes across the globe. Work to ensure clear guidelines regarding metadata and retention.

Develop a training and awareness plan – Policies and practices are of little value if workers are not aware of them. It can be easy to lose touch of the correct practices for information governance, especially now. Organizations should provide ongoing training and consistent clarity about how information must be managed in a remote work environment. Now is a great time to start setting expectations and ensuring a well-thought policy.

Moving forward

With luck, we’ll be successful in outlasting the effects of COVID on business and society, but it will clearly take time. For now, increase your focus on security, update and revise your policies and practices, and build awareness of the importance of information governance in a remote work environment. Look for providers and partners with the right mix of expertise, capability and vision needed to make the most of your efforts.

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Kevin Craine is the managing director of Craine Communications Group. He is writer, podcaster and technology analyst, as well as the author of the book Designing a Document Strategy and a respected authority on document management and process improvement. He was named the No. 1 ECM Influencer to follow on Twitter.