Most South African employees (73%) don’t feel isolated while working remotely – in fact, a massive 44% of remote workers manage to communicate even better with their colleagues this way.

However, while the extensive use of non-corporate communication services enables better connections, it increases the level of risk from unmonitored IT resources.

During the past 24-months people and organisations have been through many changes. The epidemiological situation and subsequent lockdown restrictions around the globe seriously affected the communication aspect of people’s private and working life.

The new conditions created different challenges, and social isolation along with a lack of communication with colleagues – and these were among the most discussed concerns for remote employees, according to a new Kaspersky study.

A survey of 4 303 IT workers from 31 countries attempted to learn how businesses and people have managed to adjust to the new reality and how the new work formats correlate with employee wellbeing in the long-term.

While most employees have successfully transitioned to the digital communications era, nearly a third (27%) of respondents from South Africa couldn’t adopt the remote way of life and still feel isolated while working at home.

Given the fact that loneliness contributes to employee burnout, not less than other demotivating factors like exhaustion and anxiety, this statistic should be a matter of concern for business executives.

One reason for better connections formed with colleagues, reported by more than half of employees, could be the extensive use of non-corporate communication services that have increased according to the survey.

Across the META region, communicating for work purposes via non-corporate services has risen for multiple channels, including email services (from 64% to 79%), messenger use (from 71% to 77%), resource planning software (from 46% to 52%), web-conferencing platforms (from 87% to 93%) – and with one exception where the use social networks to communicate for work purposes saw a minor decrease (from 78% to 77%).

The problem is that less formal interaction between colleagues via non-corporate channels doesn’t just facilitate the communication and give the feeling of being connected, it also increases cyber-risks for the company. The so-called “shadow IT” services are not deployed and controlled by corporate IT departments and could be potentially dangerous.

“People usually use additional tools for good reasons,” explains Andrey Evdokimov, head of information security at Kaspersky. “And there is nothing wrong with employees trying to make their work and communications more convenient.

“Of course, non-corporate services or applications are not necessarily malicious (though this is possible too). Shadow IT solutions don’t let security or IT specialists gain the complete picture of the company’s digital infrastructure.

“That situation results in increased risk because defenders don’t consider unsanctioned tools when developing threat models, data flow diagrams, and planning.

“IT departments also don’t control access to shadow services and employees can compromise valuable corporate information such as by adding new members to an unauthorised work chat or not deleting former coworkers from it.

“Among other worrying aspects are careless utilisation of unpatched apps or wrong privacy settings which lead to data leakage. Moreover, handling personal information via unreliable services causes fines for regulatory requirement violations.”