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Benefits, challenges & tips — what is Hybrid Work


By NordLayer
27 Jan 2022
10 min read
Benefits, Challenges & Tips — What is Hybrid Work?

What is Hybrid Work?

Hybrid work is a way of organizing a combination of home workers and office-based personnel. Nothing new, however, hybrid working has become a global concern in the post-Covid world.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the number of Americans working from home more than 5 days per week rose from 17% to 44%. Businesses suddenly needed to strike a balance between allowing workers to carry out their duties at home and retaining office operations when necessary.

In many cases, these new arrangements became routine. A recent 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 hybrid work and office arrangements. Only 2% of those surveyed reported a desire to return to the office from 9 to 5.

The expectations of workers have altered, and so have the attitudes of many employers. In fact, FlexJobs also reports that 66% of global employers are investigating hybrid work. However, finding the right work model isn’t simple.

Companies need to design jobs to suit the 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 of that, they need to ensure that every employee can work securely.

The main types of Hybrid Work

Woman working from home

Choosing the right type of hybrid work model can make a massive difference in productivity, employee happiness, and security.

Remote first

Staff could be located across the globe, and they will usually stay in contact via video and email. Every staff member has the opportunity to work from home, and only essential staff are required to attend central offices if they exist. In practice, it’s usually necessary to retain some form of office space.

Some companies operate a division between solo and group work. Dropbox is a great example. The storage company runs offices worldwide, but they are restricted to group work. Solo work is now carried out remotely, and this distinction is clearly defined.

Office-occasional

Staff is not required to attend 5 days a week. Instead, employees split their time. For instance, the team could work from home for 2-3 days and attend the office at other times.

Companies can give workers more or less time in the office, providing they set aside some days for remote work.

In this approach, it’s easy to drift back towards traditional office work, so clearly defined work systems are essential.

Office first with a remote working option

This working model gives staff the option to work in office environments 5 days a week and offers remote working as a flexible alternative. That’s essentially the form that works from home took before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it may prove less popular due to changing employee expectations.

In this model, leadership teams tend to stay on-site, acting as a center of gravity for other workers. This can discourage remote working, as staff may not wish to lose touch with discussions, but it gives managers more direct control over operations.

Why choose Hybrid Working?

Woman working from home securely

Hybrid work models of all varieties have some significant advantages, especially in a world where staff is becoming used to flexible arrangements. For instance, benefits include:

1. Productivity gains

Hybrid working is strongly associated with productivity boosts. FlexJobs found that 55% of homeworkers reported increased productivity after relocating, and 33% said their work rate remained the same.

Thanks to technological developments, collaboration is still possible with fully remote working. Only 29% of those surveyed reported that collaboration became more complicated than before. Most hybrid workers were more productive and worked just as well with colleagues.

2. Staff want to embrace hybrid workplaces

Since the pandemic hit, employees have embraced working from home in massive numbers. According to a global survey by Cisco, only 9% of homeworkers anticipate a complete return to the office, and as we noted earlier, even fewer want to return full-time.

During the pandemic, many remote employees also invested in dedicated home offices, and they have become accustomed to balancing home and work in new ways. They are used to Zoom calls and mixing child care and meetings. Many appreciate the chance to fashion a better work-life balance and have no desire to abandon hybrid work models.

3. Recruitment

Another consequence of the growth of working remotely is that the top talent will increasingly demand hybrid working arrangements. Purely office-based employment will appear less attractive to workers who expect flexible work as standard.

4. Reduced office costs

A business that embraces remote teams can also make significant savings, particularly where real estate is concerned.

Large-scale office properties are becoming a thing of the past when there’s no need to have whole departments on site. Unused office space can be sold to reduce costs, allowing companies to occupy leaner, cheaper spaces.

This doesn’t mean offices are obsolete. Few companies have become purely remote-based. Instead, offices often serve as a collaboration and tech hubs. Security and access systems like SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) can help to facilitate this – essentially extending the “edge” of the office to home offices.

5. Staff living costs

Cost savings aren’t limited to companies themselves. Home workers report that their top two motivations for remote work are reduced commutes and cost savings. The two generally go together and can result in substantial financial benefits.

FlexJobs suggests that 38% of homeworkers saved $5,000 per year on average. Many report even more significant savings. Financial boosts like that should feed into happier workforces, greater productivity, and strengthened staff loyalty.

What are the challenges associated with Hybrid Working?

People discussing hybrid work model

1. Technology

Smooth hybrid working requires staff to adopt the right technology and feel comfortable using it. Poorly implemented remote working systems can result in frustration as communication tools experience disruption or Cloud databases are unavailable.

In some cases, staff may not afford the latest technology, causing problems with speed and software compatibility. They may also fail to update their security tools due to cost. Companies, therefore, need to ensure that every worker has the equipment they need.

2. Equality

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 that they are more productive than before. Statistics suggest that isn’t true, but the bias against remote work is accurate.

3. Marginalization

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.

4. Security

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. We’ve seen plenty of attacks on companies that rely on remote work during the pandemic. So all hybrid systems need to be assessed, mapped, and properly secured.

5. Leadership

How should hybrid workplaces be managed? Should leaders be based in the office, or should they work 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 to consider when adopting the Hybrid Work model

Man working remotely from the airport

Where should you start when implementing a hybrid work model? The first step is simple: assess whether hybrid working is the best option for your workforce.

Are your staff demanding more flexibility, and have they become accustomed to home working? Carry out surveys of staff to assess their needs. Ask them about their preferred working hours, whether they are confident about home working, and what technology they need to work productively and safely.

There are also technical factors to consider. Can you operate teams remotely via video? What kind of central office resources do you need to store data and facilitate collaboration? Some companies can get by with lightweight office presences, such as DropBox. Others need teams on-site to manage projects. But with the technology available, most businesses can explore some form of hybrid working.

It’s important to stress here that security will always be a huge part of the implementation process. Whether you go for pure remote-first models or mainly office-based options, securing devices and network endpoints is fundamental.

Hybrid Work policy implementation

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 do and audit every home working environment to ensure that best practices are being followed. And if you have any doubts about cybersecurity, enlist experts like NordLayer, who provide all-around security solutions for remote working.

Quick tips for creating Hybrid Workplaces

 Man learning about hybrid office solution

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 without losing 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 distributed properly? 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 what is expected of home workers and how they can contact managers and colleagues. Avoid fuzzy policies, which can lead 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.

Creating a Hybrid Workplace? NordLayer can help

People discussing hybrid remote work solutions

Hybrid workplaces blend flexibility, productivity, convenience, and economy, but they 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 making the change.

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 of them 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.

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