The declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in March 2020 quickly changed how we work, turning office culture on its head. Companies quickly adapted to a fully remote model, while employees learned how to balance work and personal life within the confines of their home. This new work environment put added pressures on cybersecurity professionals. Not only were they, in many cases, shifting from in-person to remote work, but they were also tasked with giving remote workers what they needed to operate securely and head off a host of new threats.
Now that working from home is the new normal, for the foreseeable future, many cybersecurity professionals are rethinking what they want out of their own work life. Companies are looking at a wide range of new policies to retain talent and attract new workers. Because cybersecurity professionals are in high demand and the need to maintain security is great, leadership must create work environments that work for the company and provide what cyber professionals want.
According to Gallup, the percentage of employees working from home doubled, from 31% to 62% in the three weeks during the start of the pandemic. Research and polling on employee sentiment indicate workers want to keep these work-from-home options in place. That same Gallup poll found that of the people who wanted to continue remote work, those in tech fields were among the highest percentage.
Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey, released in May, shows that the majority (68%) of workers expect working from home will become a normal part of business, and about 20% said they were considering changing to a job that allows them to work from home fully remote. Here were some other takeaways from the survey:
It’s clear from these data points that remote work has had a positive effect on employees in some ways, but they are looking to leadership to continue improvements to the workplace in this new COVID-19 era.
One of the biggest advantages working from home has given companies, especially those looking to hire cybersecurity professionals, is the increases in the pool of candidates. Companies no longer need to hire local talent, but can recruit from anywhere. It also increases the competition—if more companies are recruiting cyber pros who are fully remote, then your company must find ways to compete.
Jim Harter, Ph.D. coauthor of the bestseller It's the Manager, which addresses urgent issues organizations face today, said recently that in light of new workplace policies, “managers must learn how to lead remote teams and leaders must implement strong remote work cultures,” to maintain healthy workplaces. Harter notes that using science-based judgements to make workplace policies will help companies meet the needs of their workers—and attract new ones. These include:
Workplace culture is an important part of any employee’s opinion of a company, and can make the difference between a new hire and someone who passes on your offer. Company leaders may have leaned upon in-person workplace benefits to entice professionals in the past, whether that was an on-site gym, work outings, or free conference attendance. Without these perks, offering other benefits such as flexible work hours, more paid time off, and additional training opportunities will be of greater value to those looking to make a job change.
The changes in the workplace will likely continue to put strains on the company’s IT and cybersecurity departments, forcing managers to assign people to new roles to fill critical needs. This will require “upskilling”—training and professional development to make sure each team member has the resources and knowledge to do their job well.
The small pool of qualified cyber professionals considering a job change is adding another layer of complexity to cybersecurity hiring during COVID-19. Company leadership must prioritize maintaining and emphasizing what cyber pros find most desirable. That includes opportunities for training and advancement, a healthy, supportive work environment, and flexibility to balance family and home life in these chaotic times.
Emily Wilson, cross-portfolio lead for employee experience management at SAP SuccessFactors, wrote in Forbes that companies should not assume that people are clamoring to work for you just because some companies happen to be laying off.
“With the number of laid off and furloughed workers increasing daily, there is the misconception that employees with jobs are grateful just to have them,” said Wilson. “COVID-19 has significantly changed employee expectations to be sure. But just as employees are expected to adapt to a new way of working, businesses also must learn to support them in new ways. Businesses must take this opportunity to learn to be flexible as well.”
No matter the size of the company or the strains put upon cybersecurity departments due to COVID-19, companies must provide what employees need to perform their jobs, stay motivated, and be able to adapt to changes when they arise. Doing so will make your company more resilient and strengthen its ability to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.