After the Covid-19 pandemic, work-life balance became a hot topic for employees and business managers. The prolonged working-from-home period altered the workplace dynamics, making it more flexible than it used to be. This paved the way for a hybrid model widely adopted throughout various industries.
However, the hybrid model was frequently rushed without considering its drawbacks and benefits. Let's look deeper into the hybrid model and its place within the industry.
What is hybrid work?
Hybrid work balances working from home as well as in office spaces. In this work model, some employees are completely remote. Others work in-office or as a mixture of the two. Therefore, employees can choose which model works for them, with the organization supporting their choices.
At the pandemic's beginning, the number of Americans working from home more than five days per week rose from 17% to 44%. Businesses suddenly needed to balance allowing workers to carry out their duties at home and retaining office operations when necessary.
In many cases, these new arrangements became routine. A FlexJobs survey of 2,100 workers forced into their homes by the pandemic found that 58% would seek a new position if home working is not an option in the future. 65% wish to remain full-time home workers, and 33% would be happy with a hybrid work model and office arrangements. Only 2% of those surveyed reported wanting to return to the office from 9 to 5.
The expectations of workers have altered, and so have the attitudes of many employers. FlexJobs also reports that 66% of global employers are investigating hybrid work. However, finding the right work model isn't simple.
Companies must design jobs to suit individuals' needs while facilitating workspaces that provide maximum flexibility. Beyond that, there's a need to create inclusive work arrangements which engage and support employees who work from home. And above all that, they need to ensure that every employee can work securely.
Types of hybrid business models
Hybrid work models blur the traditional lines of fully remote and strictly office companies. Yet, the model itself can be organized in several ways meaning that hybrid work can mean entirely different things.
Office-based with limited remote work
In this case, employees are expected to maintain office culture, and remote working is treated as an occasional benefit. Usually, employees work remotely only under special circumstances (i.e., they're feeling ill or had contact with someone contagious with Covid-19). Most important meetings and training sessions are expected to occur in person.
Office-based with unlimited remote work
The work still revolves around the return to the office, but remote working is treated as a natural addition. This might mean some days are agreed to be dedicated to in-office activities while others can be remote. The office is always available as an open space for various collaborative activities.
Remote-focused with a workplace
While this model office exists, it isn't treated as a main hub of operations. This type of organization uses digital technologies to maintain contact with employees working across the globe. Such a model allows leveraging global talent while making company culture harder to maintain.
Remote-focused without a workplace
Everything in this model is done digitally without a permanent office. There are variations when some working space might be rented as needed or some team building activities organized to meet up in person occasionally. This model fully relies on digital technologies to finish work and stay in touch with colleagues.
Advantages of hybrid work
A well-balanced hybrid model can provide employees with the best of both worlds: flexibility to work on their terms and direct contact with their teammates. It's an approach that brings numerous benefits.
Instead of being offered a single option, employees are free to choose the work model that suits them. This means it's much easier to have a healthy work-life balance without any losses to the company. If work gets done, it's rarely a priority to look into how it was completed.
Some tasks can be achieved much more efficiently from the convenience of your home. Particularly if employees have a quiet space to concentrate on tasks without being distracted by noisy open office environments. This translates into productivity gains when working on solo projects while also providing collaborative workspaces when bigger teams must be involved.
Easier employee retention
Hybrid and remote work have become buzzwords of recruiters trying to attract top talent. This is now something that goes into consideration when applying as after getting the taste of only remote work, few are willing to get back into the office full-time. Additionally, the hybrid model prevents recruiters from being constrained within a single geographic location.
Challenges of hybrid work
While hybrid work is an appealing model for employees, it has its challenges. Here's what must also be considered before taking the leap of faith.
The functional hybrid work model heavily relies on proper technological implementation. Poorly implemented remote working systems can result in frustration as communication tools experience disruption or cloud databases are unavailable. Using poorly implemented solutions may lead to productivity losses.
When businesses shift to hybrid work models, they can lose sight of staff rewards and promotions. In the office, people tend to know where they stand. Hierarchies are obvious to everyone, and advancement is well understood. In remote working environments, none of that is clear.
Managers may also show a bias towards office workers. Gartner reports that 64% of managers say they are more likely to reward office workers because they feel more productive than before. Statistics suggest that isn't true, but the bias against remote work is accurate.
Remote workers can also become marginalized relative to office workers, compromising their effectiveness and damaging their prospects. It's easy to arrange things via side meetings in the office without bringing in all relevant remote workers, which can be fatal to the hybrid work model.
However, even if everyone attends meetings, there can be problems. For instance, remote workers on screens can feel less involved than those attending in person. That's why many hybrid work setups require all attendees to connect virtually. That way, everyone has the same visibility and ability to participate.
Cyber security is an issue for all businesses, whether they embrace hybrid working or not. However, particular challenges arise when remote working expands.
Large numbers of staff connecting remotely expand the perimeter of company networks. This provides a more significant threat surface for cyber-attackers, which can lead to ransomware attacks and data thefts. During the pandemic, we've seen plenty of attacks on companies that rely on remote work. So all hybrid systems need to be assessed, mapped, and properly secured.
How should hybrid workplaces be managed? Should leaders be based in the office, or should they be working remotely? These questions inevitably arise when shifting from traditional offices to remote working, and they can be crucial.
Remote working tends to struggle when leadership teams are office-based. Workers want to remain close to managers, stay informed, collaborate, and ensure that their efforts are rewarded. Because of this, many companies instruct leaders to work remotely, reducing the incentive for other workers to attend offices unnecessarily.
However, this can lead to leadership issues if control is lost, and some teams require in-person guidance. Effective hybrid working is about striking a balance that suits each management situation.
What is the difference between hybrid and remote work?
The difference between hybrid and remote work depends on the required time in-office. Remote work has little to no mandatory requirements to be in the office. Meanwhile, the hybrid model is a combination of the two.
Remote employees can frequently fall within the spectrum of freelancers or contractors for a specific task. Yet, hybrid employees, in most cases, will be full-time employees with a much stronger emphasis on company culture.
How to implement a hybrid work environment
Implementing a hybrid model requires careful consideration regarding all business areas. Before deciding on the transition, business managers should evaluate the benefits and drawbacks.
It's important to identify which jobs can be performed remotely, even for a fraction of the time. Some job roles, i.e., administration, can't really be done remotely.
Establish clear requirements, so employees know when they're expected to participate in person and when they are free to work remotely.
Ensure your office has enough meeting rooms/and or equipment to connect remote employees. The success of the hybrid work model rests on whether the office can accommodate all employee types seamlessly.
On the flip side, there should be some days when meetings are minimal. This helps to avoid videoconferencing fatigue and keeps the meeting engagement higher.
While these general tips should contribute to a more effective workplace. Each organization is different, so it's always important to consider its unique position.
Quick tips for creating hybrid workplaces
Answer these questions to see if your hybrid work model is operating as safely and efficiently as possible:
Will all team members be in the loop for important decisions?
Do all staff have the tools needed for smooth and secure collaboration?
What office and home balance works best? Consult your workforce to find a mix that maximizes flexibility while maintaining control.
Do staff know how to create a safe home working environment?
Is your staff aware of the possible phishing scam scenarios?
Are security resources appropriately distributed? Ensure that virus checkers, VPNs, password managers, and multi-factor authentication are provided to all workers.
Are your security tools patched and up to date?
Are your security protocols updated to deal with work-from-home threats?
Are you communicating effectively? Be clear about home workers' expectations and how they can contact managers and colleagues. Avoid fuzzy policies, leading workers to spend too much time in the office.
Is the hybrid model working? Ask for regular employee feedback regularly via surveys and check-ups.
Hybrid work and cybersecurity risks
Remote working is closely associated with heightened cybersecurity risks. According to Deloitte, 25% of homeworkers reported an increase in phishing emails during the pandemic. MalwareBytes also reported in 2020 that home workers had caused data breaches in one-fifth of surveyed organizations.
That's why cybersecurity is a key aspect of effective hybrid working. Measures could include:
Staff should be required to use VPNs when connecting to central resources.
Cloud storage should be protected by ironclad encryption.
Workers need to use strong passwords that are regularly changed.
Patches for key software have to be applied when available.
Workers should always use a virus checker that's approved by the security team.
Data handling practices must be as tight as possible, with minimal local storage.
Staff should only connect via secure networks.
All of this should be communicated clearly to staff. Make a cybersecurity protocol part of your core hybrid work policies. Specify what workers need to audit for home security best practices. And if you have any doubts about cybersecurity, enlist experts like NordLayer, who provide security solutions for remote working.
Creating a hybrid workplace? NordLayer can help
Hybrid workplaces blend flexibility, productivity, convenience, and economy but can lead to security issues as endpoints increase and employees migrate to a home working environment. That's not an excuse to delay shifting to a hybrid work model. It's a reason to choose a reliable security partner when changing.
NordLayer specializes in helping companies transition to hybrid work models. SASE technology allows clients to lock down network edges via a zero-trust approach. You can secure cloud-based resources while allowing employees easy access and applying industry-leading encryption via multiple protocols, all with a military-grade AES-256 encryption standard.
With our help, you can embrace Hybrid working safely. Get in touch, explore the options, and make remote working part of your business future.