The hybrid workplace is one in which there’s a combination of in-office work and remote work. There may be flexibility for employees to choose how they want to work from day to day or week to week.
After a year of remote work, many employers are getting creative about how they bring employees back to the office.
While a hybrid office has advantages from the employer and employee’s perspective, it also has challenges. For example, there are significant implications for IT and the role it plays as companies implement a hybrid office approach.
With that in mind, the following are things to know about the hybrid office and how to overcome its challenges.
What Is a Hybrid Office?
First, what exactly is a hybrid office? You might realize that it’s some combination of remote and in-person work, but how does that play out?
The short answer is that it depends on the organization, its employees, and general needs.
A hybrid workplace at its core is one that’s designed to support a distributed workforce, with both remote and in-office workers.
Flexibility and support are key tenents of a smooth, successful hybrid workplace.
In a hybrid workplace, often, the days that someone will work remotely versus in-person aren’t scheduled. Employees might do what they think is best for them on any given day with considerations like productivity and whether or not they need to collaborate with anyone to get things done.
Something else common to see is that the distribution of remote vs in-office employees isn’t usually static. It can change in real-time, as needs change.
In a hybrid workplace, there may also be more employees working remotely at any given time than there are in-person employees.
There are so many models used to implement a hybrid workplace. For example, in some models, the office is only used for collaboration. Otherwise, employees might work at home all the time.
The Challenges of a Hybrid Office
Some of the general challenges that can come with a hybrid office include the following:
As an employer, when you shift to a hybrid office, one of the most important things you can do is set concrete expectations with no gray area. If employees have a true choice, let them know. If there are times when they don’t, again, let them know.
Go through every scenario as you move toward this model and see how you can let employees proactively know your expectations in terms of productivity, attendance, availability, and collaboration.
Be as explicit as you can.
If you want, for example, employees to spend at least some time in the office every week, let them know that. If you have a preference for days or the number of days, again, let them know.
You might worry that setting guidelines defeats the purpose of a hybrid office, but in reality, it’s going to make it run smoother.
You want to keep an eye on your treatment and the visibility of remote workers versus in-person workers. For example, if you’re offering a true choice to employees as far as how they work, you don’t want to give promotions or opportunities to the employees who are choosing to come into the office more often.
You always want a level playing field, no matter where your employees are working.
You want to recognize remote and in-person employees equally for performance, both publicly and privately, and you also want to make sure both groups are aware of opportunities that do come up.
Get the Necessary Tools
You may have to make some initial investments to support a hybrid office. Invest in the things that your employees need to be productive. Think about how technology can facilitate your shifting goals as you move toward a new era in how your employees work.
In a hybrid model, your corporate culture has the very real potential to take a hit. This is something that even mega-companies like Google are grappling with right now. They’d planned to let employees work remotely indefinitely but have since seemed to move toward more of a hybrid plan because they’ve seen the effects on their culture in the past year.
You need to review your culture and start identifying how you’re going to adapt to your new goals.
Which areas of your culture are most important to you and should be prioritized?
Your remote teams need to be as seamlessly connected in every way to what they need as your in-person employees.
This means, again, you have to invest in the right technology.
You want all meeting rooms in your in-person to be connected to your video conference software, for example.
Identify and Protect Against Cybersecurity Threats.
Remote work creates new cybersecurity threats and risks. You may be using fragmented cloud technology and connectivity tools like VPNs, and that can create a false sense of security.
Understand that hackers are increasingly exploiting VPN vulnerabilities, so that’s just one area of protection. The attacks on cloud services have also gone up around 600%.
Remote workers are inherently easier targets for cyber attackers. If they’re using their own devices, they may not have things like firewalls in place, and they’re probably accessing unsecured Wi-Fi and even sharing devices with family members.
You’ll need to put in place both the tools and the policies that are going to protect your sensitive data, and an outdated perimeter-based security model will no longer work. It’s more likely that you’re going to find a zero-trust architecture is what you move toward.
Finally, the human error element of cybersecurity can be more profound with remote work because employees may be laxer when they don’t feel like IT is looking over their shoulder. For example, phishing remains the top means of infiltration.
To avoid these scenarios, you can’t rely on technology alone. You also have to keep training employees thoroughly.
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