Tuesday, January 7, 2020

SambaSafety’s mission to reduce risk begins in its own datacenter security partnerships


Security and privacyprotection increasingly go hand in hand, especially in sensitive industries likefinance and public safety.

For driver risk management software provider SambaSafety protecting their businesscustomers from risk is core to their mission -- and that begins with protectionof their own IT assets and workers.

Stay with us now as BriefingsDirect explores how SambaSafety adopted BitdefenderGravityZone Advanced Business Security and FullDisk Encryption to improve the end-to-end security of their operations andbusiness processes.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or downloada copy.

To share their story, please welcome RandyWhitten, Director of IT and Operations at SambaSafety in Albuquerque, NewMexico. The interview is conducted by Dana Gardner,Principal Analyst at InterarborSolutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner:Randy, tell us about SambaSafety, how bigit is, and your unique business approach.

Whitten:SambaSafety currently employs approximately 280 employees across the UnitedStates. We have four locations. Corporate headquarters is in Denver, Colorado. Albuquerque,New Mexico is another one of our locations. There’s Rancho Cordova just outsideof Sacramento, California, and Portland, Oregon is where our transportation divisionis.

We also have a variety andhandful of remote workers from coast to coast and from border to border.

Gardner: Andyou are all about making communities safer. Tell us how you do that.

Whitten: Wework with departmentsof motor vehicles (DMVs) across the United States, monitoring the driversfor companies. We put a partnership together with state governments, andthird-party information is provided to allow us to process reporting for criticaldriver information.

We seek to transform that datainto action to protect the businesses and our customers from driver andmobility risk. We work to incorporate top-of-the-line security software toensure that all of our data is protected while we are doing that.

Data-driven driver safety 

Gardner: So,it’s all about getting access to data, recognizing where risks might emergewith certain drivers, and then alerting those people who are looking to hirethose drivers to make sure that the right drivers are in the right positions.Is that correct?

Whitten: Thatis correct. Since 1998, SambaSafety has been the pioneer and leading providerof driver risk management software in North America. SambaSafety has led the chargeto protect businesses and improve driver safety, ultimately making communitiessafer on the road.

Our mission is to guide ourcustomers, including employers, fleet managers, and insurance providers to makethe right decisions at the right time by collecting, correlating and analyzing motorvehicle records (MVRs) and other data resources. We identify driver risk and enableour customers to modify their drivers’ behaviors, reduce the accidents, ensurecompliance, and assist with lowering the cost, ultimately improving the driverand the community safety once again.

Gardner: Isthis for a cross-section of different customers? You do this for public sectorand private sector? Who are the people that need this information most?

Whitten: We doit across both sectors, public and private. We do it across transportation. We doit across drivers such as Lyftdrivers, Uber drivers, and transportation drivers -- our delivery carriers,FedEx, UPS, etc. -- those types of customers.
These transportation drivers are delivering our commodities every day -- the food we consume, the clothes we wear, the parts that fix our vehicles, all what's essential to our everyday living.

Gardner: Thisis such an essential service, because so much of our economy is on four wheels,whether it’s a truck delivering goods and services, transportation directly forpeople, and public safety vehicles. A huge portion of our economy is behind thewheel, so I think this is a hugely important service you are providing.

Whitten:That’s a good point, Dana. Yes, it is very much. Transportation drivers aredelivering our commodities every day -- the food that we consume, the clothes thatwe wear, also the parts that fix our vehicles to drive, plus also just to be ableto get like those Christmas packages via UPS or FedEx -- the essentialitems to our everyday living.

Gardner: So,this is mission-critical on a macro scale. Now, you also are dealing, of course,with sensitive information. You have to protect the privacy. People areentitled to information that’s regulated, monitored, and provided accordingly.So you have to be across-the-board reducing risk, doing it the right way, andyou also have to make your own systems protected because you have that sensitiveinformation going back and forth. Security and privacy are probably among yourtopmost mission-critical requirements.

Securing the sectors everywhere

Whitten: Thatis correct. SambaSafety has a SOC 2 TypeII compliant certification. It actually is just the top layer of securitywe are using within our company, either for our endpoints or for our externalcustomers.

Gardner: Randy,you described your organization as distributed. You have multiple offices,remote workers, and you are dealing with sensitive private and public sector information.Tell us what your top line thinking, your philosophy, about security is andthen how you execute on that.

Whitten: Ourtop line essentially is to make sure that our endpoints are protected, that weare taking care of our employees internally to be able to set them up forsuccess, so they don’t have to worry about security. All of our laptops areencrypted. We have different types of levels of security within ourorganization, so that gives all of our employees a way to ease their comfort sothat they can concentrate on taking care of our end customer. 

Gardner:That’s right, security isn’t just a matter of being very aggressive, it alsomeans employee experience. You have to give your people the opportunity to gettheir work done without hindrance -- and the performance of their machine, ofcourse, is a big part of that.

Tell us about the pain points,what were the problems you were having in the past that led you into a newprovider when it comes to security software?
We were seeing threats get through the previous antivirus solution, and the cost of that solution was increasing month over month. Every time we'd add a new license it would seem like the price would jump.

Whitten: Someof the things that we have had to deal with within the IT department here atSambaSafety is when we see our tickets come in, it’s typically about memoryusage as applications were locking up the computers, where it took a lot ofresources to be able to launch the application.

We also were seeing threatsgetting through the previous antivirus solution, and then just the cost, thecost of that solution was increasing month over month. Every time we would add anew license it would seem like the price point would jump.

Gardner: Iimagine you weren’t seeing them as a partner as much as a hindrance.

Whitten: Yes,that is correct. It started to seem like it was a monthly call, then it turnedinto a weekly call to their support center just to be able to see if we could getadditional support and help from them. So that brought up, “Okay, what do we donext and what is our next solution going to look like?”

Gardner: Tellme about that process. What did you look at, and how did you make your choices?

Whitten: Wedid an overall scoping session and brought in three different antivirussolutions providers. It just so happens that they all measured up to be thenext vendor that we were going to work with. Bitdefender came out on top and itwas a solution that we could put into our cloud-hosted solution, it was alsosomething that we could work with on our endpoints and also to be able toensure that all of our employees are protected.

Gardner: So youare using GravityZone Advanced Business Security, Full Disk Encryption, and theCloudManagement Console, all from Bitdefender, is that correct?

Whitten: Thatis correct. The previous solution for our disk encryption is just aboutexhausted. Currently we have about 90 percent of our endpoints for diskencryption on Bitdefender now and we have had zero issues with it.

Gardner: Ihave to imagine you are not just protecting your endpoints, but you haveservers and networks, and other infrastructure to protect. What does thatconsist of and how has that been going?

Whitten: Thatis correct. We have approximately 280 employees, which equals 280 laptops to beprotected. We have a fair amount of additional hardware that has to beprotected. Those endpoints have to be secured. And then 30 percent ofadditional hardware, i.e. the Macs that are within our organization, are alsopart of that Bitdefender protection.

Gardner: Andeveryone knows, of course, that management of operations is essential formaking sure that nothing falls between the cracks -- and that includes patchmanagement, making sure that you see what’s going on with machines and gettingalerts as to what might be your vulnerability.

So tell us about themanagement, the Cloud Console, particularly as you are trying to do this acrossa hybrid environment with multiple sites?

See what’s secure to ensuresuccess 

Whitten: It’sbeen vital for the success of Bitdefender and their console that we can log onand we can see what’s happening. It has been very key to the success. I can’t saythat enough.

And it goes as far as informationgathering, dashboard, data analytics, network scanning, and the vulnerabilitymanagement - just being able to ensure our assets are protected has been key.

Also, we could watch thealerting that happens to ensure that the behavior is not changing from machineintelligence or machine learning (ML) so that our systems do not get infectedin any way.

Gardner: Andthe more administration and automation you get, the more you are able to devoteyour IT operations people to other assets, other functions. Have you been ableto recognize, not only an improvement in security, but perhaps an easing up onthe man hours and labor requirements?

Whitten: Sure.The first 60 days of our implementation I was able to improve return oninvestment (ROI) quickly. We were able to allow additional team resources tofocus on other tickets and also other items that came into our work scopewithin our department.
Bitdefender was already out there managing itself. It was doing what we paying for it to do. It was actually a really good choice for us. The partnership with them is very solid, we are very pleased with it, a win-win situation for both of our companies.

Bitdefender was already outthere, and it was managing itself, it was doing what we were paying for it todo -- and it was actually a really good choice for us. The partnership with themis very solid, we are very pleased with it, it is a win-win situation for both ofour companies.

Gardner: Randy,I have had people ask me, “Why do I need Full Disk Encryption? What does thatprovide for me? I am having a hard time deciding whether it’s the right thingfor our organization.”

What were your requirementsfor widespread encryption and why do you think that’s a good idea for otherorganizations?

Whitten: Themost common reason to have Full Disk Encryption is you are at the store,someone comes in, they break into your car, they steal your laptop bag or theysee your computer laying out, they take it. As the Director of IT and Operationsfor SambaSafety, my goal is to ensure that our assets are protected. So having FullDisk Encryption on board that laptop gives me a chance to sleep a little easierat night.

Gardner: Youare not worried about that data leaving the organization because you know it’sgot that encryption wrapper.

Whitten: Thatis correct. It’s protected all the way around.

Gardner: As westart to close out, let’s look to the future. What’s most important for yougoing forward? What would you like to see improve in terms of security,intelligence and being able to monitor your privacy and your securityrequirements?

Scope out security needs

Whitten: Thebig trend right now is to ensure that we are staying up to date and Bitdefenderis staying up to date on the latest intrusions so that our software is stayingcurrent and we are pushing that out to our machines.

Also just continue to be righton top of the security game. We have enjoyed our partnership with Bitdefenderto date and we can’t complain, and for sure it has been a win-win situation allthe way around.

Gardner: Anyadvice for folks that are out there, IT operators like yourself that aregrappling with increased requirements? More people are seeing complianceissues, audit issues, paperwork and bureaucracy. Any advice for them in termsof getting the best of all worlds, which is better security and betteroperations oversight management?

Whitten: Definitelyhave a good scope of what you are looking for, for your organization. Everyorganization is different. What tends to happen is that you go in looking for asolution and you don’t have all of the details that would meet the needs ofyour organization.

Secondly, get the buy-in fromyour leadership team. Pitch the case to ensure that you are doing the rightthing, that you are bringing the right vendor to the table, so that once thatsolution is implemented, then they can rest easy as well.

Every company executive acrossthe world right now that has any responsibility with data, definitely securityis at the top of their mind. Security is at the top of my mind every single day,protecting our customers, protecting our employees, making sure that our data staysprotected and secured so that the bad guys can’t have it.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or downloada copy. Sponsor: Bitdefender.

You may also beinterested in:

Monday, January 6, 2020

Why flexible work and the right technology may just close the talent gap

Companies struggle tofind qualified workers in the mature phase of any business cycle. Yet as we entera new decade in 2020, they have more than a hyper-lowunemployment rate to grapple with.

Businesses face a gapingqualitative chasm between the jobs businesses need to fill and theinterest of workers in filling them. As a result, employees have more leveragethan ever to insist that jobs cater to their lives, locations, and demands to be creatively challenged.

Accordingly, IDC predictsthat by 2021, 60 percent of Global 2000 companies will have adopted a futureworkspace model -- flexible, intelligent, collaborative, virtual, and physicalwork environments.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Stay with us now as BriefingsDirect explores how businesses must adapt to this new talent landscape and find the innovative meansto bring future work and workers together. Our flexiblework solutions panel consists of Stephane Kasriel, the former ChiefExecutive Officer and a member of the board at Upwork, and Tim Minahan,Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, PrincipalAnalyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: If flexible work is the next big thing, that means wehave been working for the past decade or two in an inflexible manner. What’swrong with the cubicle-laced office building and the big parking lot nextto the freeway model?

Minahan: Dana,the problem dates back a little further. We fundamentally haven’t changed theworld of work since HenryFord. That was the model where we built big work hubs, big office buildings,call centers, manufacturing facilities -- and then did our best to hire as muchtalent around that.

This model just isn’t working anymoreagainst the backdrop of a global talent shortage, which is fast approachingmore than 85 million medium- to high-skilled workers. We are in dire need of moremodern skill sets that aren’t always located near the work hubs. And to your earlierpoint, employees are now in the driver’s seat. They want to work in anenvironment that gives them flexible work and allows them to do their very bestwork wherever and whenever they want to get it done.

Gardner:Stephane, when it comes to flexible work, are remote work and freelance workthe same? How wide is this spectrum of options when it comes to flexible work?

Kasriel: Almostby definition, most freelance work is done remotely. At this stage, freelancingis growing faster than traditional work, about three times faster, in fact.About 35 percent of US workers are doing some amount of freelancing. And the vastmajority of it is skilled work, which is typically done remotely.

Increasingly what we see isthat freelancers become full-time freelancers; meaning it’s their primarysource of income. Usually, as a result of that, they tend to move. And whenthey move it is out of big cities like San Francisco and New York. They tend tomove to smaller cities where the cost of living is more affordable. And so that’strue for the freelance workforce, if you will, and that’s pulling the rest of theworkforce with it.

What we see increasingly isthat companies are struggling to find talent in the top cities where the jobshave been created. Because they already use freelancers anyway, they are alsoallowing their full-time employees to relocate to other parts of the country,as well as to hire people away from their headquarters, people who essentiallywork from home as full-time employees, remotely.

Gardner: Tim,it sounds like Upwork and its focus on freelance might be a harbinger of what’srequired to be a full-fledged, flexible work support organization. How do youview freelancing? Is this the tip of the arrow for where we are headed?

Minahan: Againstthe backdrop of a globaltalent shortage and outdated model of hub-and-spoke-based work models, themore innovative companies -- the ones securing the best talent -- go to wherethe talent is, whether using contingent or full-time workers.

They are also shifting from theidea of having a full-time employee staff to having pools of talent. These aregroups that have the skills and capabilities to address a specific businesschallenge. They will staff up on a given project.
Read the Report: The Potential Economic
Impacts of a Flexible Working Culture
So, work is becoming much moredynamic. The leading organizations are tapping into that expertise and talenton an as-needed basis, providing them an environment to collaborate around thatproject, and then dissolving those teams or moving that talent on to otherprojects once the mission is accomplished.

Gardner: So,it’s about agility and innovation, being able to adapt to whatever happens. Thatsounds a lot like what digital business transformation is about. Do you seeflexible work as supporting the whole digital transformation drive, too?

Minahan: Yes,I certainly do. In fact, what’s interesting is the first move to digitaltransformation was a shift to transformingcustomer experience, of creating new ways and new digital channels toengage with customers. It meant looking at existing product lines and digitizingthem.

And along the way, companiesrealized two things. Number one, they needed different skills than they hadinternally. So the idea of the contingent worker or freelance worker who has thatspecific expertise becomes increasingly vital.

They also realized they hadbeen asking employees to drive this digital transformation while anchoring themto archaic or legacy technology and a lot of bureaucracy that often comes withtraditional work models.

And so there is now anincreased focus at the executive C-suite level on driving employee experience andgiving employees the right tools, the right work environment, and the flexiblework models they need to ensure that they not only secure the best talent, butthey can arm them to do their very best work.
There is now an increased focus at the C-suite level on driving employee experience and giving employees the right tools, work environment, and flexible work models they need to ensure they can do their very best work.

Gardner:Stephane, for the freelance workforce, how have they been at adapting to thetechnologies required to do what corporations need for digital transformation?How does the technology factor into how a freelancer works and how a companycan best take advantage of them?

Kasriel: Fundamentally,a talent strategy is a critical part of digital transformation. If you think aboutdigital transformation, it is the what, and the talent strategy is the how.And increasingly, as Tim was saying, as businesses need to move faster, theyrealize that they don’t have all the skills internally that they need to dodigital transformation.

They have to tap into a poolof workers outside of the corporation. And doing this in the traditional way,using staffing firms or trying to find local people that can come in part-time,is extremely inefficient, incredibly slow, and incompatible with the level ofagility that companies need to have.

So just as there was a digitaltransformation of the business firm, there is now also a digital transformationof the talent strategy for the firm. Essentially work is moving from an offlinemodel to an online model. The technology helps with security, collaboration, andmatching supply and demand for labor online in real-time, particularly forniche skills in short-duration projects.

Increasingly companies are reassemblingthemselves away from the traditional Taylorism model ofsilos, org charts, and people doing the same work every single day. They arechanging to much more self-assembled, cross-functional, agile, and team-basedwork. In that environment, the teams are empowered to figure out what it isthat they need to do and what type of talent they need in order to achieve it.That’s when they pull in freelancers through platforms such as Upwork to addskills they don’t have internally -- because nobody has those internally.

And on the freelancer side,freelancers are entrepreneurs. They are usually very good at understanding whatskills are in demand and acquiring those skills. They tend to train themselvesmuch more frequently than traditional full-time employees because there is avery logical return on investment (ROI) for them to do so.

If I learned the latest Java framework in a few weeks, for example,I can then bill at a much higher rate than I would otherwise could if I didn’thave those skills.

Gardner:Stephane, how does Upwork help solve this problem? What is your value-add?

Upwork secures hiring, buildstrust 

Kasriel: Weessentially provide three pieces of value-add. One is a very large database offreelancers on one side and a very large database of clients and jobs on theother side. With that scale comes the ability to have high liquidity. Themedian time to fill a job on Upwork right now is less than 24 hours, comparedto multiple weeks in the offline world. That’s one big piece of it.

The second is around anend-to-end workflow and processes to make it easy for large companies to engagewith independent contractors, freelancers, and consultants. Companies want tomake sure that these workers don’t get misclassified, that they only haveaccess to IT systems they are supposed to, that they have signed the rightlevel of agreements with the company, and that they have been backgroundchecked or whatever other processes that the company needs.
Read the Report: The Potential Economic
Impacts of a Flexible Working Culture
The third big piece is aroundtrust and safety. Fundamentally, freelancers want to know that they are goingto be working with reputable clients and that they are going to get paid. Conversely,companies are engaging with freelancers for things that might be highlystrategic, have intellectual property associated with them, and so they want tomake sure that the work is going to be done properly and that the freelancer isnot going to be selling information from the company, as an example.

So, the three pieces aroundmatching, collaboration and security software, and trust and safety are thethings that large companies are using Upwork for to meet the needs of their hiringmanagers.  

Fundamentally, we want to beinvisible. We want the platform to look simple so that people can get things doneby having freelancers -- and not have to think about all of the complexities ofbeing compliant with the various roles that large companies have as it relatesto engaging with people in general, but with independent contractors inparticular.

Mind the gap in talent, skills 

Gardner: Tim,a newstudy has been conducted by the Center forBusiness and Economic Research on these subjects. What are some of the findings?

Minahan: AtCitrix, we are committed to helping companies drive higher levels of employeeexperience using technology to create environments that allow much moreflexible work models and empower employees to get their very best work done. Sowe are always examining the direction of overall work models in the market. Sowe partnered to better understand how to solve this massive talent crisis.

Consider that there is a gapof close to 90 million medium- to high-skilled workers around the globe, all ofthese unfilled jobs. There are a couple of ways to solve this. The best way isto expand the talent pool. So, as Stephane said, that can be through tappinginto freelance marketplaces, such as Upwork, to find a curated path to the toptalent, those who have the finest skills to help drive digital transformation.

But we can couple that with digital workspacesthat allow flexible work models by giving the talent access to the tools andinformation they need to be productive and to collaborate. They can do that in asecure environment that leaves the company confident their information andsystems remain secure.
The key findings of the study are that we have an untapped market. Some 69 percent of people who currently are unemployed or economically inactive indicate that they would start working if given more flexible work models and the technology to enable them to work remotely.

The key findings of the Centerfor Business and Economic Research study are that we have an untapped market. Some69 percent of people who currently are unemployed or economically inactiveindicate that they would start working if given more flexible work models and thetechnology to enable them to work remotely.

Think about the massive shiftsin the demographics of the workplace. We talk about millennials coming into theworkforce, and new work models, and all of that’s interesting and important. Butwe have a massive other group of workers at the other end of the spectrum -- thebaby boomers -- who have massive amounts of talent and knowledge and who arebeginning to retire.

What if we could re-employ themon their own terms? Maybe a few days a week or a few hours a day, to contributesome of their expertise that is much needed to fill some of the skills gapsthat companies have?

We are in a unique positionright now and have an incredible opportunity to embrace these new work models,these new freelance marketplaces, and the technology to solve the talent gap.

Kasriel: Werun a study every year called Freelancing in America;we have been running it for six years now. One of the highlights of the studyis that 46 percent, so almost half of freelancers, say that they cannot take atraditional full-time job. And that’s usually primarily driven by healthissues, by care duties, or by the fact that they live in a part of the US wherethere are no jobs for their skills. They tend to be more skilled and educatedon average than non-freelancers, and they tend to be completely undercounted inthe Bureau of Labor Statistic data every month.

So when we talk about nounemployment in the country, and when we talk about the skills gap, there isthis other pool of talent that tends to be very resilient, really hardworking,and highly skilled -- but who cannot commit to a traditional full-time job thatrequires them to be on-site.
Read the Report: The Potential Economic
Impacts of a Flexible Working Culture
So, yes, there is a skills gapoverall. If you look at the micro numbers, that is true. But at the macrolevel, at the business firm level, it’s much more of a gap of flexibility -- anda gap of imagination -- than anything else. Firms are competing for the sametalent in the same way and then wondering why they are struggling to attractnew fresh talent and improve their diversity.

I tell them to go online andlook at the talent available there. You will find a world of work, of peoplethat are extremely eager to work for you. In fact, they are probably going tobe much more loyal to your company than anybody else because you are by far thebest employer that they could work with.

Gardner: To beclear, this is not North America or the US only. I have seen similar studiesand statistics coming out of Europe and Japan. They differ from market tomarket, but it’s all about trying to solve the mismatch between employers and availablepotential talent.

Tim, people have been workingremotely for quite a while now. Why is this not an option, but a necessity,when it comes to flexible and remote work?


Minahan: It’sthe market dynamics we have been talking about. Companies struggle to find thetalent they need at scale in the locations where they traditionally have majoroffice hubs. Out of necessity, to advance their business and access the skillsthey need, they must embrace more flexible work models. They need to be lookingfor talent in nontraditional ways, such as making freelance workers part oftheir regular talent strategies, and not an adjunct for when someone is out onsick leave.

And it’s really acceleratingquite dramatically. We talk a lot about that talent crunch, but in addition,it’s also a skills gap. As Stephane was saying, so many of these freelanceworkers have the much-in-demand skills that people need.

When you think about theinnovators in the industry, folks like Amazonwhorecently said, “Hey, we can’t find all of the talent we need with theskills that we need so we are going to retrain and spend close to $1 billion toretain a third of our workforce.”

They are expanding theirtalent pool. That’s what innovative companies are beginning to do. They aresaying: “Okay, we have these constraints. What can we do, how can we workdifferently, how can we embrace technology differently, and how can we look atthe workforce differently in order to expand our talent pool?”

Gardner: Ifyou seek out the best technology to make that flexible workforce innovative,collaborative, and secure, are there other economic paybacks? If you do itright, can out also put money to the bottom line? What is the economic impact?

More remote workers, morerevenue

Minahan: From thestudy that we did around remote workers and tapping into the untappedtalent pool, the research found that this could equate to more than $2 trillionin added value per year -- or a 10 percent boost to the US GDP. It’s because otherwisebusinesses are not able to deliver services because they don’t have the talent.

On a micro level, at anindividual business level, when workers are engaged in these more flexible workmodels they are more stress-free. They are far more productive. They have moretime for doing meaningful work. As a result, companies that embrace these workmodels are seeing far higher revenue growth, sometimes upward of 2.5 times.There are revenue growths, far higher profitability, and far greater worker retentionthan their peers.

Kasriel: It’salso important to remember that the average American worker spends more timecommuting to work than on vacation in a given year. Imagine if all of that timecould be reused to be productive at work, spend another couple of hours everyday doing work for the company, or doing other things in their lives so theycould consume more goods and services, which would drive economic growth.
Right now the amount of waste coming from companies requiring that their workers commute to work is probably the biggest amount of waste that companies are creating in the economy. It also causes income inequality, congestion, and pollution.

Right now the amount of wastecoming from companies requiring that their workers commute to work is probablythe biggest amount of waste that companies are creating in the economy. By theway, it also causes income inequality, congestion, and pollution. So there arecountless negative externalities that nobody is even taking into account. Yet thewaste of time by forcing workers to commute to work is increasing every yearwhen it doesn’t need to be.

Some 20 years ago, when peoplewere talking about remote work, it felt challenging from a cultural standpoint.We were all used to working face-to-face. It was challenging from atechnological standpoint. We didn’t have broadband, secure applicationenvironments such as Citrix, and video conferencing. The tools were not in thecloud. A lot of things made it challenging to work remotely -- but now thatcultural barrier is not nearly as big.

We are all more or lessdigital natives; we all use these tools. Frankly, even when you are two floorsaway in the same building, how many times you take the elevator to go down tomeet somebody face-to-face versus chat with them or do a video conference withthem?

At this stage, whether you aretwo floors away or 200 miles away makes almost no difference whatsoever. Whereit does make a difference is forcing people to have to come to work everysingle day when it adds a huge amount of constraint in their lives and it’sfundamentally not productive for the economy.

Minahan: Buildingon what Stephane said, the study we did found that in addition to unlockingthat untapped pool of talent, those folks who do currently have full-time jobs,95 percent of them said they would work from home at least twice a week if giventhe opportunity. To Stephane’s point, you just look at that group alone and thetime they would save from commuting multiplies to 105 hours of newly free timeper year, time they didn’t have to spend commuting and doing unproductivethings. Most of them said that they would put more hours into work because theydidn’t have to deal with all the hassle of getting there.

Flexible work provides creativity 

Gardner: Whatabout the quality of the work? It seems to me that creative work happens in itsown ways, even in a state of leisure. I have to tell you some of the bestcreative thoughts I have occur when I’m in the shower. I don’t know why. Somaybe creativity isn’t locked into a 9-to-5 definition.

Is there something in whatwe’re talking about that caters to the way the human brain works? As we getinto the age of robotic processautomation (RPA) should we look more to the way that people are intrinsicallycreative and free that?

Kasriel: Yes,the World Economic Forum has called attention to such changes in our evolution,the idea that progressively machines are going to be taking over the parts ofour jobs that they can do better than we can. This frees us to be the best ofourselves, to be humans. The repetitive, non-cognitive work being donein a lot of offices is progressively going to be automated through RPA and artificialintelligence (AI). That allows us to spend more time on the creative work. Thenature of creative work is such that you can’t order it on-demand, you can’tsay, “Be creative in the next five minutes.”

It comes when it comes. It’sthe inspiration that comes. So putting in artificial boundaries of saying, “Youwill be creative from 9-to-5, and you will only do this in the officeenvironment,” is unlikely to be successful. Frankly, if you look at workplacemanagement, you see companies increasingly trying to design work environmentsthat are mix between areas of the office where you can be very productive -- byjust doing the things that you need to do -- and places where you can becreative and thinking.

And that’s just a band-aidsolution. The real solution is to let people work from anywhere and let themfigure out the time at which they are the most creative and productive. Holdpeople accountable for an outcome, as opposed to holding them accountable forthe number of fixed-time hours they are giving to the firm. It is, after all, veryweakly correlated to the amount of output, of what they actually generate forthe company.

Minahan: Ifully agree. If you look at the overall productivity and the GDP, productivity advancedconsistently with each new massive innovation right up until recently. Theadvent of mobile devices, mobile apps, and all of the distractions from communicationsand chat channels that we have at work have reached a crescendo.
Read the Report: The Potential Economic
Impacts of a Flexible Working Culture
On any given day, a typicalemployee spends nearly 65 percent of their time on such busy work. Thatmeans responding to Slack messages,being distracted by the application alerts about some tasks that may not bepertinent for your job and spending another 20 percent of time just searchingfor information. These all leave employees with less than two hours a day, bysome estimates, on the meaningful and rewarding work that they were hired todo.

If we can free them up fromthose distractions and give them anenvironment to work where and how they want, one of the chief benefits isthe capability to drive greater innovation and creativity than they can in an interruptiveoffice environment.

Gardner: Wehave been talking in general terms. Do we have any concrete examples, use casesperhaps, that illustrate what we have been driving at? Why is it good forbusiness and also for workers?

Blended workforce wins 

Kasriel: If youlook at tech companies created in the last 15 to 20 years, increasingly you seethem as what people call remotefirst, where they try to hire people outside of their main headquartersfirst and only put people in the office if they happen to live nearby. And thatleads to a blended workforce, a mix between full-time employees and free-lancers.

The companies most visiblestarted in open-source software development. So if you look at Mozilla, the non-profit behind Firefox, or if you look atthe Wikipedia foundation, thenon-profit building Wikipedia, if you look at Automattic,the for-profit open source company that builds WordPress,or if you look at GitLab. I mean, ifyou look at Upwork, we ourselves are mostly distributed, 2,000 people workingin 800 different cities. InVisionwould be another example.

So, very well-known techcompanies that build products used by hundreds of millions of people. WordPressalone empowers a subset of the Internet. These companies tend to have well over100,000 workers between full-time employees and freelancers. They either haveno office or most of their people are not working in an office.
Microsoft started using Upwork a few years ago. At this stage, they have thousands of different freelancers working on thousands of different projects. They are doing it becuase it's the right thing to do.

The companies that are alittle bit more challenging are the ones that have grown in a world whereeverybody was a full-time employee. Everybody was on-site. But progressivelythey have made a shift to more flexible work models.

Probably the company that I’veseen to be the most publicly vocal about this is Microsoft. Microsoft started usingUpwork a few years ago. At this stage, they have thousands of differentfreelancers working on thousands of different projects. Partly they do itbecause they struggle to find great talent in Redmond, Wash., just likeeverybody else. There is a finite talent pool. But partly they are doing itbecause it’s the right thing to do.

Increasingly we hear companiessay, “We can do well, and we can do a good at the same time.” That means helpingpeople who may be disabled, people that may have care duties, young parentswith children at home, people that are retiring but are not fully willing tocompletely step out of the workforce, or people that just happened to live insmaller cities in the U.S. where increasingly, even if you have the skills,they are not local jobs.

And they have spoken aboutthis in both terms, which is: It’s the right thing for their shareholders, theright thing for their business, but it’s also helping society be more fair anddistributed in a way that benefits workers outside of the big tech hubs of SanFrancisco, Seattle, Boston, New York, and Austin.

Gardner: Tim,any examples that demonstrate why a future workspace model helps encourage thisflexible work and why it’s good for both the employees and employers?

May the workforce be with you

Minahan:Stephane did a great job covering the more modern companies built from theground up on flexible work models. He brought up an interesting point. It’smuch more challenging for traditional or established companies to transition tothese models. One that stands out and is relevant is eBay.

https://www.upwork.com/eBay, as we all know, is oneof the largest digital marketplaces in the world. Like many others, they builtcall centers in major cities and hired a whole bunch of folks to answer andprovide support calls to buyers and sellers as they were conducting commerce inthe marketplace. However, their competition was setting up call centers rightdown the street, so they were in constant churning -- hiring, training, losingthem, and needing to rehire. Finally they said, “This can’t go on. We have tofigure out a different model.”

They embraced technology and consequentlya more flexible work model. They went where the talent is: The stay-at-homeparent in Montana, the retiree in Florida, the gig worker in New York or Boston.They armed them with a digital workspace that gave them the information, tools,and knowledge base they needed to answer questions from customers but in far moreflexible work models. They could work three hours a day or maybe one day a week.eBay was able to Uberfy the workforce.

They started a year-and-a-halfago and are now they are close to having 4,000 of these call center workers asa remote workforce, and it’s all transparent to the rest of us. They aredelivering a higher-level service to the customers by going to where the talentis and it’s completely transparent. We are unaware that they are not sitting ina call center somewhere. They are actually sitting in a remote office in allcorners of the country.