How remote work rose by 400% in the past decade

Telecommuting, SaaS growth, data security training and AI are among the top workforce trends of 2020, GetApp found.

A report released on Tuesday identified the workforce trends that dominated the past decade. Between the growth of remote work, software-as-a-service (SaaS), data security, and artificial intelligence (AI), the 2010s were defined by evolving tech. 

One of the most defining tech trends of the past decade involved remote work habits, which expanded by almost 400%, the report found. 

SEE: Managing remote workers: A business leader's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The report from GetApp, the business app and software discovery platform, called Findings from a New Decade, surveyed 912 employees in the US, 598 of whom identified as having been in the job market for at least 10 years, to determine tech's influence on business.

The section on data security focused on 714 responses from full-time employees in the US, according to the report.  

"With this report, we sought to identify some of the key impacts software and technology have made on business over the last decade-and how they'll shape it in the future," said Thibaut de Lataillade, global vice president for GetApp.

Top tech trends of the 2010s 

  • Remote work 

The report found that the rise of remote work popularity is thanks to the evolution of supporting technologies including powerful mobile devices, ultra-fast internet connections, and proliferation of cloud-based storage and SaaS solutions.

"The rise of cloud-based SaaS software has been instrumental to the growth of remote work," de Lataillade said. "Employees can now instantly connect and collaborate with colleagues around the world at any time."

Employees definitely took advantage: The majority (78%) of employees said they work remotely some of the time; more than half (58%) said they work remotely at least once a month; and, 36% of respondents said they work remotely at least once a week, the report found.

While 36% might not seem like a huge percentage, it's a significant jump from 10 years ago. In 2010, the US Census Bureau found that only 9.5% of employees worked remotely at least once a week, indicating that the number of people working remotely on a weekly basis has grown by nearly 400% in the last decade, according to the report.   

Remote work presents a bevy of benefits for both individuals and organizations. Fewer people in the office means lower real estate costs for companies. Gartner predicted that by 2021, the increase in remote workers will allow organizations to support 40% more employees in the same amount of office space they currently use. 

This work style also attracts talent and boosts employee satisfaction, the report found. A recent Gallup study revealed that 37% of employees would change jobs for one that allows for remote work at least part of the time. 

"Remote work promotes flexibility that leads to improved job satisfaction. However, that same benefit can lead to work-life balance challenges which can be compounded by feelings of isolation," de Lataillade said. "Companies have much to gain by embracing remote work, but care must be taken to ensure employees are supported both professionally and emotionally."

Getting ahold of someone virtually may be more difficult when working remotely, since those in an office can just walk down the hall to talk to someone. Companies must equip employees with the appropriate hardware and software to get the job done and maintain communication, according to the report. 

  • SaaS growth

As stated in the GetApp report, "Perhaps nothing exemplifies the last decade's technological change better than the rise of cloud-based software." 

SaaS, which is hosted and managed remotely, is a pay-as-you-go cloud software service. Gaining popularity in the past decade, SaaS grew from an estimated $10 billion in 2010 to more than $100 billion now, Gartner found.

"The SaaS market has seen explosive growth during the last decade due to several factors, including the ubiquity of ultra-fast internet connections, proliferation of powerful mobile devices, and refinement of software development practices," de Lataillade said. "Today, there are specific SaaS solutions for nearly any business scenario, from pet grooming to podiatry.

"SaaS solutions have been particularly useful for small businesses by lowering the barrier to powerful business software. Ultimately, the primary benefit of cloud-based software is the standardization and centralization of business processes," de Lataillade said.     

  • Security concerns 

New and evolving technologies in the past decade also brought new and evolving security concerns. Ransomware, spear phishing, and DDoS attacks are just a few threats that have grown in severity, according to the GetApp report. 

"The cyberattack landscape has become much more sophisticated over the last decade. Ransomware has evolved from clumsy extortion scams to elaborate threats affecting entire cities," de Lataillade said. "Meanwhile, malware has gone fileless and upended classic signature-based virus protection. The attack surface has also expanded greatly due to mobile and IoT threats."

As more Internet of Things (IoT) devices enter the market, more attack vectors will follow. Despite these dangers, only 60% of businesses provide data security training, leaving a full 40% of employees without any education on data security, the report found. 

"This situation leaves companies vulnerable not only to malicious attacks, but also threats posed by employee negligence," de Lataillade said. "Companies must also commit to data security training to ensure compliance with emerging data privacy regulations such as the GDPR and CCPA."

  • AI disruption 

The last major tech workplace trend in the past decade involves AI. The impact of AI on the enterprise has been huge, between factory automation, self-driving vehicle tech, and enhanced product development, the report found. 

Despite AI's powerful uses, only 12% of respondents confirmed that their organizations use AI, de Lataillade said. 

"One reason for this low number could be that many companies have not yet identified use cases for AI. A better bet is that that businesses are using AI in ways that many don't realize—in everything from cybersecurity tools to analytics software," de Lataillade added. 

Some 44% of respondents said they believe AI will be the most disruptive technology going forward. As long as humans work alongside the AI, however, the disruption shouldn't be too harmful.

"I certainly don't fear robots taking over the world—that is pure fantasy" said Anthony Bradley, group vice president in Gartner's Technology and Service Provider research practice, in the report. "But like any new and disruptive technology, existing jobs will be lost and new jobs will be created."

To stay competitive and relevant moving forward, companies must embrace emerging tech, overcome and prepare for security challenges, and maintain the human-side of business, the GetApp report found. 

For more, check out Why companies plan to double AI projects in the next year on TechRepublic.

This article was updated on January 22, 2020 to include comments from de Lataillade.

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