In the beginning of 2020, most companies never considered allowing their employees to work from home. Apart from a few remote positions here and there, working from home was far from the norm. As we all know, that quickly changed in just a few months. Fast forward to 2021 and we can’t imagine not allowing employees to work remote! While most organizations feared managing remote teams, now it’s become the new normal for SMB’s to offer this option – in fact many businesses insist on it!
Now we are entering the next phase of a COVID-19 world: the hybrid workforce. Many people are going stir-crazy working from home for months on end and need a change of environment. The hybrid workforce creates a solution for businesses to give everyone a chance to work in the office while still adhering to the COVID safety guidelines, allowing teams the option for a mix of in-office and at-home days each week.
According to Forbes: “Covid-19 has forced many companies to ask the lion’s share of their teams to work from home. The deciding factor in whether a company’s employees could work off-site is, of course, the nature of the business. Some businesses are simply unable to serve customers remotely. But those firms that can allow workers to operate away from a central facility have found that it can be a win-win situation.
In fact, remote work for a portion of a firm’s employees may in many cases turn out to be permanent. Global research firm Gartner sees working from home as a “cornerstone of the post-pandemic future of work” and projects that nearly one in five employees will work remotely all the time after the pandemic has ended. This hybrid workforce, which is part remote and part in-office, is a likely scenario for many businesses in the year ahead and beyond.
Some companies are already heading in that direction. A recent survey by 451 Research found that 64% of all companies plan to allow more employees to work from home following the pandemic. Also, more than 33% of organizations have permanently reduced their office footprint as a result of increased virtual work, according to the research. “
Clearly we’ve reached a point where there is no going back – only moving forward. And moving forward gives way to what is being called the “hybrid workforce”.
You may be wondering, what exactly is a hybrid workforce? How is it different from our current setup?
Clocking in at the office from 9-5 is over. It’s time to make way for the hybrid workforce. A hybrid workforce is the combination of in-office, at-home, and mobile workers collaborating together virtually. This differs from a pure remote team because now businesses are comfortable sending part of their team back to the office, while others are still either working remotely or on the go.
SMB’s are creating schedules to designate who comes to the office on which days to make sure the physical office space isn’t too cluttered. In this new environment, teams meet, move, and collaborate without boundaries. Thus the workplace must come up with communication and collaboration solutions that integrate each type of employee seamlessly and keeps everyone on the same page. Adopting this new model will be a wise, long-term continuity strategy for any company that wants to keep up with the times and stay in business.
“Digital tools that optimize remote collaboration, security, and authentication are essential in this new paradigm. The right technology stack provides teams with the freedom to work their own way from any location, securely and effectively. Meanwhile, managers can interface with them successfully as they continue to lead.” Microsoft
An important component to a successful transition to a hybrid workforce is the adoption of the best technologies for your organization’s needs. Continuously investing in new technology is crucial! Think of this next phase as building resilience as a business and creating a foundation of success for many years to come.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has been “a catalyst for business transformation” that has 76% of organizations planning on long-term IT changes. Many of those investments will be designed to support remote workforces and help them work as productively and seamlessly as possible. Businesses embracing a hybrid workforce model for the long term will need to think about what tech solutions will work best for employees working in an office all the time, intermittently, rarely or never. Security, reliability, ease of use and compliance issues are all factors in deciding which tool sets everyone will be expected to use from wherever they are working.” Forbes
Expert Advice from Our Partners at Microsoft: Enable teamwork anywhere with devices for your hybrid workforce
“Our modern workforce is evolving—the importance of shared physical space is giving way to that of improved virtual interactions and collaborative digital tools. “Hybrid” workforces are becoming the new norm. Teams that combine in-office, at-home, and mobile workers must collaborate successfully in shared digital environments.
In 2020, the share of full-time, remote information workers in the global workforce skyrocketed. Most of these workers believe the transition to remote work has gone well. But companies must optimize now-diverse IT environments—characterized by new devices connecting to their corporate networks—to sustain them.
Classic models for team and equipment management no longer apply as these virtual teams become more common. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and KRC Research found modern workers across Europe prefer to spend almost one third (31%) of their time outside of traditional work settings; but most managers (61%) feel they are not delegating and empowering their virtual teams effectively.
Digital tools that optimize remote collaboration, security, and authentication are essential in this new paradigm. The right technology stack provides teams with the freedom to work their own way from any location, securely and effectively. Meanwhile, managers can interface with them successfully as they continue to lead.
Here, we examine opportunities for business and team leaders to “enable teamwork anywhere”. We identify new best practices and modern technologies for managing and empowering hybrid teams and consider the top new challenges as security teams adapt to remote and hybrid work environments.
Improving Collaboration among Hybrid Teams
Since the start of the pandemic, about half of remote employees around the world are as or more productive on collaborative tasks they would normally perform in person, BCG reports. Now, flexible and secure devices that support collaboration can help those remote workers excel not only as remote employees, but as hybrid teams.
Location needn’t be a limiting factor in these hybrid workplaces. Purpose-built, remote-working solutions designed to bring team members together securely can facilitate those interactions with the right features and support. For example:
- Apps with collaboration features such as co-authoring, note taking, and verbal feedback
- Advanced, LTE-enabled devices for fast and secure connections from anywhere
- Clear, uninterrupted video calls via any connection and audio setup
- Virtual opportunities to build closer connections with colleagues, partners, and clients
These technologies create a foundation for future company culture, productivity, and shared success in this new paradigm.
Preparing for New Security Challenges
Supporting collaboration in today’s “anywhere office” presents new challenges for securing data and systems. An upswing in phishing attempts has coincided with new behaviors during the pandemic, for example. But introducing new, unregulated tools to digital workspaces presents new risks as well.
On the other hand, transitioning teams to a new network of purpose-built devices allows IT and security teams to be proactive about device and data management. In the cloud, security teams can provision and deploy devices remotely without sacrificing security—and with greater flexibility, connectivity, and collaborative support than what employees enjoyed in the office alone. For example:
- Device-based measures that deter tampering and malicious software
- Automated encryption and threat detection to reduce the strain on security teams
- Cloud-based device and data management across all team members
- Built-in, proactive protection throughout hybrid networks (“from chip to cloud”)
- Hybrid security means confidence in device and data integrity—no matter how teams use them, or how often they change hands. It means visualizing all managed, co-managed, and even partner-managed devices now and in the future.
Managing Employees—on the Move, and at Home
A new generation of networked, WiFi- and LTE-enabled devices helps keep workers engaged and connected. Even among those for whom mobility is critical, managers and their teams can maintain productivity and performance by formally incorporating modern mobile devices into hybrid workspaces.
In one example, a sustainable energy company deployed collaboration platforms, data visualization, and low-code workflow optimization solutions to improve communications among its worldwide teams. The company’s fully integrated, remote-working network of devices now promotes access on LTE-enabled devices, including mobile phones. The company reports improved communication and productivity as a result.
Secure Your Hybrid Future Today
Small teams are the foundation of today’s organizational success: “whether your employees are working remotely, on premises, or in some combination of both.” as McKinsey describes. “Your opportunity is to fashion the hybrid virtual model… and let it give birth to a new shared culture for all your employees that provides stability, social cohesion, identity, and belonging.”
Purpose-built devices for managing, empowering, and securing hybrid teams reinforce these benefits, even when team members are physically apart. Microsoft’s suite of devices is designed to make the most of the software you rely on every day—empowering people to be more agile, connected, productive, and secure, no matter where they work.”
How to Implement a Hybrid Workforce
Entrepreneur shares: “Google, Facebook, Twitter and Shopify have even implemented permanent, extended or indefinite work from home (WFH) policies. It is clear this shift is here to stay. According to recent research from Gartner, 82 percent of company leaders are planning to let employees work remotely, at least some of the time. And a new global Lenovo study finds that employees expect a similar swing in employer mentality, with 52 percent of respondents noting they believe they’ll continue to WFH more than they did pre-COVID-19 – even after social distancing measures lift.”
The tech leaders have spoken. Are you ready to follow suit? Gartner shares what to consider when implementing your hybrid workforce setup…
“Rethink how work is done: Many prevailing views on the workplace have been shaped by experiences of open offices. Open offices were designed to aid communication and collaboration. Yet, IT innovations such as email and messaging now provide these benefits in a more scalable way. CIOs must rethink concepts like communication, training and development and knowledge exchange with digital workplace tools in mind as an integral component of how work is done.
Identify processes, tasks and activities that require dialogue, discussion or debate, using the “in-office” experience prior to the pandemic as a baseline. Look at how these processes have changed since working from home, and assess the success of these adjustments. Where there have been successful experiences, amplify them and try to embed them across the organization. Where practices have been less successful, brainstorm possible alternatives.
Address psychological needs: Humans are social creatures who need to stay connected to others, both professionally and socially. In the virtual workplace, getting this balance right is not easy — too much contact can leave people drained, but too little can leave people disengaged.
CIOs can address the psychological challenges of a hybrid workplace by identifying how people typically stay connected and then developing a connection strategy with their teams.
Reimagine the use of office space: In the hybrid work environment of the future, the “workplace” — a specific company-owned location — will shift to a “workspace.” A workspace can be the home, a co-working space, the field, the office or any other location that can be set up as a space to work. CIOs must consider the different needs of each of these environments.
The office should be worth the commute and should be seen as a different and more valuable experience than working elsewhere. The office enables people to connect, enables teams to augment and accelerate interactions and outputs, and enables departments to forge a sense of identity. Reimagine the office as an interactive and engaging space that encourages people to utilize it.
Manage integrity and risk: Integrity, in all its forms, becomes increasingly important in a hybrid work culture. This involves everything from data integrity and security to the reliability of internet connections. For example, when four professionals share a house, all of whom work for different companies yet share the same spaces and internet connections, clear policies around security and confidentiality become even more important.
To manage integrity in a hybrid workplace, CIOs should review each employee’s workspace characteristics and needs, and evaluate it from a risk perspective. Reinforce policies around security, confidentiality, credibility and liabilities. Put in place contingency and backup plans to prepare for known eventualities, such as power or internet outages.”