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Remote work will be a key factor for enterprises in 2021. Although it was essential for business continuity in 2020, it will evolve in the new year. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many organizations have adopted remote work policies this year. While some companies have started to bring employees back on-site, others have made long-term commitments to remote work in the years ahead.

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Remote work presents a number of challenges for organizations such as troubleshooting IT issues from afar and security concerns related to employees logging on from their home networks. A .Tech Domains report released on Dec. 16 found that about half of IT leaders (49%) said they’d “prefer” employees to come back to the traditional office on a full-time basis “once a COVID-19 vaccine is in place.” Overall, more than three-quarters of respondents (79%) said that the coronavirus pandemic has “created a digital divide amongst employees.”

As TechRepublic reported in July, the majority of employees (63%) feel as though they are more productive working remotely than they are in a traditional office setting, according to a Lenovo report. However, about half of IT leaders surveyed (47%) said they had fired an employee “due to lack of performance and productivity in WFH or remote environments.” About four-in-10 IT leaders (42%) said their teams were “less engaged since the onset” of the coronavirus pandemic with 16% reporting that their teams seem to be engaged “at a similar level to what it was pre-pandemic.”

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To gauge employee performance and value add more companies could incorporate surveillance capabilities into their standard workflows in the years ahead. Three-quarters of work conversations could be recorded and assessed by 2025, according to Gartner, as companies use these capabilities to add value to their businesses and more. Nearly nine-in-10 IT leaders (85%) said they were planning to “track employee productivity/performance (when working remotely) more closely in 2021.

This year, a number of organizations have prioritized diversity and inclusion. Among IT leaders surveyed, 91% said they were “placing an increased focus” on these efforts moving into 2021. This includes “focusing on diversity” related to hiring and recruiting processes, “expanding diversity and inclusion programs,” and increasing manager training.

The report also identifies a number of fears reported by IT leaders heading into the new year. Topping the list are concerns about cyberattacks related to remote work vulnerabilities, retaining premium talent, and “lack of support from leadership.”

The .Tech Domains survey was conducted in December and involved 350 IT leaders (CIOs and CTOs) based in the US.