The hybrid work model is the new normal for many sectors, and now is the time to stop treating it like a temporary solution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we are in the middle of a revolution as many companies are re-imagining their workplace strategy. A less centralized approach allows for social distancing and offers the flexibility and work-life balance that employees crave while realizing cost savings, improved efficiencies, increased workforce opportunities, and more.
What is the Hybrid Workplace?
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, many workplaces abruptly shifted to remote work. There was a clear distinction between working in the office versus working from home—and it happened almost overnight. The timeline for transitioning back into the office has not been clear-cut and will probably never be fully realized. As the pandemic lingers, many companies and employees see the benefit in shifting to a model where employees commute to the office, but they may also work from home. Who works where and when varies by company, but the one constant is that a company’s entire workforce is not usually all onsite simultaneously. In short, there has been a shift from traditional offices with rows of workstations to a more flexible model that gives more freedom to the worker.
Who Benefits from Hybrid Work?
If there is one thing we’ve collectively learned from the last 18 months, it’s that we are more adaptable than we realized. Faced with a challenge, we all stepped up and, in the process, discovered that a more flexible workplace model makes sense—with or without a pandemic. In fact, 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model, according to a 2021 survey from Accenture. Workers have more control over where, when, and how they work, which can help promote wellbeing, increase productivity, and reduce turnover.
And looking at productivity for those with concerns, a 2021 McKinsey survey shows that 58% of business leaders saw productivity improve with a shift to hybrid, while 37% say there was no change from a traditional model. Additionally, a hybrid model that also allows for fully remote workers makes remote talent acquisition a possibility. This aspect means your firm may be able to add the best candidate to your team, not just the best candidate in your geographical location.
While the hybrid model is here to stay—and most of us prefer it—it’s not without its challenges, particularly regarding technology.
5 Technology Elements to Consider
Here are five areas around which your organization may be experiencing growing pains while transitioning to a permanent hybrid model. I share the challenges and corresponding solutions for each topic for decision-makers to consider.
Collaboration is going to look different moving forward. Your technology will need to support a fluid mix of in-person and digital teamwork, provide access to resources for onsite and remote workers, and create meeting spaces that allow employees to seamlessly work together no matter their location.
Challenge: Replace in-person meetings and team collaboration.
Solution: Zoom, MS Teams, and similar solutions to create a connected experience.
Challenge: Remote Access to file and application resources.
Solution: Virtual workspaces, VPN, and SaaS file tools such as Egnyte, OneDrive, or Box
Challenge: Reduction and simplification of communications.
Solution: Zoom, MS Teams, and other similar collaboration tools have allowed organizations to converge legacy telephone with voice, video, chat, and digital meetings and whiteboards into a streamlined and unified experience for employees.
A shift to hybrid means that security professionals will simultaneously need to protect all fronts. In a hybrid setting, cybersecurity is more of a challenge than securing all onsite or all remote workstations.
Challenge: Increased network vulnerability from devices shifting from onsite to at-home or even unsecured public networks.
Solution: Zero-Trust Access/Networking, combined with VPN, Virtual Desktops, and SaaS applications to help control data and access.
Challenge: Heightened vulnerability to phishing emails as workforce because decentralized.
Solution: SaaS-based training tools such as KnowBe4 to keep employees trained and tested on company policies and how to recognize threats while not in the office
Challenge: Need for active monitoring 24/7 as employees work offsite at all hours of the day.
Solution: Next-gen SaaS-based security solutions to provide continuous monitoring and alerting.
Challenge: Device management
Solution: Cloud-centric management tools such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager (formerly Intune), JAMF, Addigy, and other MDM tools to enable zero-touch deployment and remote configuration management for corporate devices.
Design of Office Spaces and Technology
As the work model changes for employees, so does the office layout. Workspaces will need to become more flexible to accommodate workers who shift between the office and home. Technology and operations will need to align to provide more hybrid meeting and shared spaces and less traditional cubicles and dedicated space. Decentralizing headquarters might be ideal for some businesses.
Challenge: Office plan with a workstation setup that provides flexibility for when, where, and how office workers want to work.
Solution: Hot desking setup and scheduling with standard hardware configurations allow employees to leverage laptops to work at their preferred location and time.
Challenge: Increase meeting spaces for hybrid work meetings to allow for both in-person and digital collaboration.
Solution: Upgrading meeting rooms to leverage Zoom, Teams, and similar digital tools for full digital meeting support.
Challenge: Consider whether satellite offices work as opposed to one larger location.
Solution: Reducing commute time for employees to optimize productivity and working time with colleagues.
Standard operating procures for productivity and how managers evaluate efficiency and output will need to be updated for the hybrid environment.
Challenge: Managers may need technology solutions to gauge productivity.
Solution: Data analytics or management tools to help track and monitor employee engagement and productivity.
Challenge: Workflows and Automation
Solution: Leverage automation capabilities within products and platforms to help reduce manual tasks and improve workflows to drive employee efficiency and promote an increase in productivity.
IT Support and Operations
One challenge for IT managers with the hybrid workplace is technical support. Your organization will need to address workers’ need for IT support both at work and home and at all hours of the day. Not an impossible task, but the 9-5 M-F support model won’t be practical for businesses going all-in on the hybrid work approach.
Challenge: A hybrid workforce working where and when they want is a challenge for technical support.
Solution: Robust device management and remote access tools for IT teams or a trusted MSP partner to provide effective around-the-clock support to both onsite and remote employees.
Challenge: Equipment management
Solution: Leverage remote management and monitoring solutions (RMM, MDM) to keep real-time inventory and audit of equipment for tracking and management.
Meeting the Challenges of the Future with Coretelligent
As we navigate the hybrid-work future, you can count on the IT professionals at Coretelligent to help your organization solve any IT challenges you may be facing to your key business processes with a wide range of IT solutions. If you have questions about designing hybrid work solutions for your company, reach out by calling 855-841-5888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your complimentary initial consultation.
As Chief Technology Officer, Chris Messer is a transformational and strategic IT leader who establishes and leads Coretelligent’s technical vision and technological development.