COVID-19 has disrupted the world of work in Australia and beyond. In a study of 4,600 global respondents, Capterra explores the current and future remote working trends emerging from this experience.

Study future remote working trends

What measures have businesses taken across the world?

Many countries implemented measures to slow down the virus by asking people to work from home where possible. Companies had to react fast as a result, investing in remote working technologies and adapting their product offerings so that they could be delivered virtually.

Now, several countries (including Australia) are beginning to look at ways to lift lockdown measures. To move cautiously, most governments are urging people to continue working from home until they have greater control over the virus. 

Capterra wanted to learn more about remote work challenges, the usage of software and cybersecurity practices around the world during the pandemic. We conducted a survey* with 4,600 full-time remote working employees from small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) from Australia, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands and the UK.

In this article, we reveal how the world has coped with working under their country’s quarantine guidelines, as well as the varying levels of teleworking success.

How many SMEs worldwide are working remotely because of the outbreak?

59% of SMEs around the world are working remotely full-time as a direct response to the coronavirus outbreak. In Australia, this number sits at 57%. However, not every country was moving into remote-work at the same pace.

Remote working transition rates worldwide

The survey highlights Brazil as the remote working leader, with 77% of the country already teleworking. France, on the other hand, was transitioning to remote work with less urgency. Just 40% of its country’s workforce have made the move.

The good news is that people seem to be enjoying teleworking. Approval of remote work is almost unanimous around the world—according to the global survey results, 74% say they like or really like it. 

This could be connected to the many benefits respondents listed they’ve experienced since remote working. Respondents gave their top home working advantages and the most popular included:

  1. No commuting
  2. Adjusting work hours around personal life responsibilities
  3. A casual dress code
  4. Being able to do more work than usual
  5. Taking care of children and pets.

The most cited work from home benefits for Australia was in line with the global results; no commute (44%), adjustable work hours (36%) and a casual dress code (34%).

The future is remote: 55% believe their business could continue functioning with a distributed workforce

The crisis is pushing digital transformation and shows companies how important it is to not only adapt products and services but also work processes. Remote work had been the reality for a small number of employees around the globe: Only 11% of employees worldwide worked remotely full-time before the crisis. 

If people enjoy working remotely, and management doesn’t perceive a drop in productivity during this period, the future will continue to trend toward this type of working. In Australia alone, 87% of employees want their employer to allow them to carry on with a remote working policy. More than half (54%) of this number said they want to combine remote working with going to the office, while 33% said they want to switch to a remote regime completely.

Remote working happiness

According to a prediction by Gartner, Generation Z will drive this trend further and faster. Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010) is the generation of true digital natives. They have honed their digital collaboration skills throughout their lifetime, and prefer digital collaboration over in-person collaboration. Generation Z’s preference to work remotely will solidify remote working as a standard working practice moving forward.

Adapting to a remote workforce:

Brian Kropp (VP at Gartner) gives his advice on how to help your employees stay productive when working from home:

  1. Ensure employees have the right resources: Equip employees with the technology they need to be successful. This covers everything from the right hardware to the software for team collaboration
  2. Focus on outputs: Focus more on what employees should be accomplishing and less on the processes they should follow to get there. Set up clear objectives to create greater clarity for employees but allow them to figure out the roadmaps.
  3. Increase recognition:‘During periods of disruption, employees’ desire for being recognised for their contribution increases by about 30%,’ says Kropp. Recognition can be a public acknowledgement, tokens of appreciation, development opportunities and low-cost perks.
  4. Use two-way communication: Two-way dialogue between managers and employees is essential —especially during change. Employees must understand the reasons behind decisions and their implications. Similarly, managers must be aware of employees’ challenges and concerns.
  5. Trust in your employees: Managers may be nervous to lose constant visibility of their employees’ work activities, but micromanaging isn’t the correct response. It will only disengage already stressed employees. Instead, put confidence in your employees and trust them to get on with their job.

70% of companies globally adapted their products and services so they could deliver them virtually

Encouragingly, many companies were able to react to the crisis successfully. According to the survey, 70% of companies altered some or all of their business offerings so they could deliver them virtually during the lockdown. In Australia, this number was 72% which puts them slightly above the world average.

Business product adaptions

Gyms are keeping members active through at-home workouts, held via video conferencing tools. Restaurants have marketed dining in as the new dining out—made possible through takeaway and food delivery software services. Similarly, real estate agents are giving buyers and renters tours of potential new homes through virtual tour software. These are just a few examples of innovation the world has witnessed during this period.

Digitising your product or service is one step on the way to earning new digital revenue. If you want to further transform your business offerings, here is a how-to list we created to guide you through the process. 

6 ways to earning digital revenue

Gartner vice president Hung LeHong gives 6 key ways to earn new digital revenue:

  1. Sell existing digital assets: Start with the digital assets you already have, such as selling your expertise or creating market insights out of your owned data.
  2. Digitalise a service or product: Sell (or adapt) your product or service so it’s accessible to customers while social distancing restrictions apply. Deliver services virtually, for example, or offer online delivery options for physical products. 
  3. Offer a pay-as-you-use service: Buyers will be more likely to use your digital assets if they don’t have to sink resources into owning or managing them.
  4. Use shared metrics to vary prices for buyers: Offer flexible pricing models for a specific service level. 
  5. Run a platform business: A platform business allows you to trade products and services without having to own or distribute them. One example of this business model is Airbnb.
  6. Move into new industries: Does your area of expertise cross over into another? Use your knowledge and industry know-how to launch into other markets where you can add value. 

60% of SMEs worldwide bought or plan to buy new software to accommodate remote working environments

Companies had to quickly adapt their usage of technology to respond to the crisis. Our data shows that 60% of companies across the globe bought (or plan to buy) new software tools for being able to work remotely. The survey also found that 64% of employees worldwide (61% for Australia) learned how to operate the new tools with ease.

Software infrastructure has also been impacted around the globe. Businesses increased their investment in cloud technologies, with 39% of companies worldwide saying they now use cloud products to support remote work. The Netherlands adopted cloud-based services the fastest (at 53%), while France had the lowest adoption rate (31%).

In the following graphic, we’ve highlighted the most popular remote working tools around the globe:

Most used remote working tools worldwide
Most popular tools for remote working during the global quarantine (Source: Capterra)

Important note: Most software products were adopted to enable:

  • Team communication
  • Collaboration 
  • Remote support. 

When purchasing new tools, it’s important to invest in IT security at the same time (such as network security software, cloud security software and computer security software). Otherwise, the risk of cyberattacks increases.

Communication is the top challenge of working remotely

While the majority of employees identified they enjoy working from home, some challenges were also evident. The biggest issue is the lack of communication. It’s important to address and solve these challenges, so employees can be successful and productive while remote. 

Remote working challenges globally
Global remote working challenges identified during COVID-19 (Source: Capterra)

The study shows just 37% of companies provide guidelines on communication and team meetings. This isn’t enough. Supporting employees during this crisis, such as providing software for communication and guidelines in the right areas, is crucial. 

Want to know more about how to create strong communication processes? Check out our 10 Effective Communication Tips For Teams Working Remotely.
Home working global statistics

Cybersecurity measures within SMEs could improve worldwide

One of the most important things for remote work is creating a safe working environment. We recommend the following 5 steps to help ensure IT security for your business. 

1. Don’t use personal devices to work

40% of the employees globally use only their personal devices to work remotely. It’s highly recommended that employees don’t work from personal, unprotected devices. Employees should resist working from their own devices because it leads to a higher risk of exposing company data. If it’s unavoidable, employees should ensure the personal device is sufficiently secured. 

2. Invest in cybersecurity resources

Only 39% of all employees worldwide have antivirus software installed and 29% use Firewalls. Invest in security tools, such as antivirus software and firewalls. These two systems should be the standard in every business. Additionally, consider implementing network monitoring and endpoint protection.

3. Educate staff of types of cyberattacks

32% of global respondents were victims of a phishing attack. Of those, almost half (49%) happened since COVID-19. 

Despite this, only 22% use email security software. Email is one of the most important forms of communication in businesses, but unfortunately, also one of the most insecure. However, email security software can reduce the risk of phishing attacks by identifying malicious emails and eliminating the threat.  

Tip: Companies should consider implementing a company-wide phishing test. The test helps to determine the susceptibility of employees to this type of attack.  

4. Install a VPN

Less than one-third of companies use a VPN, also known as a virtual private network.

Invest in a VPN if your business needs to access and transfer business data remotely. VPNs provide an encrypted connection to the Internet that prevents third parties from viewing network activity.

5. Strengthen passwords to online business accounts

Worldwide, just 36% of employees are following recommendations for strong passwords, with randomised letters, numbers and characters. Additionally, only 29% of employees worldwide use a password manager. 

Good password management will help prevent cyberattacks. Companies should use this time to educate their employees about the importance of strong passwords. A good password manager is the most secure solution and also makes sharing passwords with colleagues much more convenient.

Tip: When exploring password managers, look for one that offers two-factor authentication (2FA). Most authentications don’t activate automatically, so remember to set it up before sharing it with your team!  

To see how remote employees are managing their passwords across the globe, check out the graphic below:

Password security infographic worldwide

Remote working trends that emerged from this experience

Across the world, small and mid-sized businesses were driven out of their comfort zones and forced to be more versatile to survive. What can we take from this unusual and unexpected experience? There are some key learnings—and they aren’t just relevant during a crisis, but also for when we come out of it.

3 key takeaways:

  • Companies are quickly adapting to working remotely and offering their product virtually
  • Companies are adopting new software
  • Employees like the option to work remotely.

However, we’ve also learned that companies need to improve:

  • Communication with employees
  • The use of security tools
  • Password policies.

Companies have had to put greater trust in their employees to do the right thing: Honour their work responsibilities in their allocated hours. As a positive consequence, staff are enjoying casual dress codes, flexible working hours and more. What is clear, however, is that trust has proven to go further than micromanagement. Employees working remotely are happier now that their company is providing them with a bit more flexibility.

Similarly, companies have had success with creating new and dynamic offerings by adapting what they sold before so it can be delivered virtually. They‘ve showcased innovative thinking, versatility and resilience in a time of historical uncertainty. Looking forward, it seems possible that businesses across the globe will come out stronger than before.

Want to know more about remote working software solutions? Check out our list of remote work software.

*Survey methodology

To understand the current and future remote working trends across the world, we conducted an online survey between 4th April 2020 and 14th April 2020. We surveyed 4600 employees of small or mid-sized businesses, who are working remotely as a response to COVID-19. The participants come from various business sectors and levels of seniority. Respondents are from Australia, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and the UK.

Note: The graphic about top challenges working remotely had multiple response options, so the total sum of the percentages exceeds 100%.