Hybrid Workplace – The events of 2020 have changed the world forever. The way we work too has consequently changed forever. Last year’s sudden shift towards working from home means that even as the COVID-19 pandemic gets under control, we find ourselves at the brink of new disruptions. Various hybrid models of work have come about; some employees have resumed life in the office while others remain remote; a percentage of employees commute into work on some days while others work from home, and then they switch their respective places of work; employees have started accessing corporate applications from anywhere, at any time and leveraging any device.
The hybrid workplace is here to stay
While many employees still long for some degree of physical interaction, and some business activities require in-person collaboration, many employees now prefer flexible remote work options. Some are actively planning on moving to new locations in search of better career opportunities. Specific ‘remote trends’ that were already developing before COVID-19 are paving the way for new hybrid workplaces where skills and talent are more readily available for business leaders.
A blended workplace model requires you to rethink how your business collaborates, innovates, attracts and retains talent. Microsoft recently reported that more professionals are now likely to change career paths, move locations, and prioritise in the favour of better work-life balance. They are also, on average, more exhausted and stressed – particularly the younger generation. Lastly, there is a risk that shrinking social networks could endanger innovation.
This means that it is now their turn to push the shift towards a world that can be physical and digital. It is time to create a workplace culture that welcomes the best and most diverse talent and uses the latest technology to empower people.
Building a hybrid workplace
Your business will require an effective digitisation strategy to adapt to and empower the new hybrid model. Transformation should not be a mere matter of survival. It is a unique opportunity to reinvigorate your team and offer a better work-life balance for everyone involved.
Today’s workplace is no longer a physical location but rather a set of activities. We can connect to the ‘office’ through various means, such as chat, cloud telephony, and video calls. Your people need to adapt to these new environments using a strong cloud structure to remain productive and responsive. Several tools already offer built-in collaboration and management options. Microsoft Teams, for example, has doubled its users since the beginning of the pandemic because it has allowed workers to stay productive from anywhere using any device.
A good starting point when starting the digital journey into a hybrid workplace is to set up business goals. You should integrate these goals with your business’s overall purpose. As the new workplace models get established, it becomes paramount to plan for long term support. For example, it is essential to determine whether your priority is to gain competitive advantages, provide better remote customer service, or facilitate employees’ work.
Although technology plays a significant role, a large part of the transformation into a hybrid workplace has to do with a cultural shift. The changes to come will also require a new leadership style and a new framework for supporting employees. Just because employees will do a lot of the work remotely does not mean that they are constantly available. All practices should have a standard set of guidelines agreed upon and executed by the entire organisation. This will guarantee higher productivity as well as better security, privacy, and compliance.
Technology that supports a hybrid workplace
When employees become more siloed and interactions with close networks more infrequent, collaboration can prevent innovation stagnation. Some of the main requirements for hybrid workplaces are flexible work practices, distributed teams, and remote work.
During the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies quickly responded to sudden change by allowing employees to work from home. Customers, too, needed to access critical services remotely. Now is the time to plan strategies for the long term and create competitive advantages for the new workplace models.
Cloud-powered technology is at the centre of digital transformation. Tools like Microsoft Teams have helped people rebuild and re-imagine processes and workflows. Microsoft 365 and Teams can successfully respond to the newest communication needs as their suite allows employees to chat, meet, and co-author documents in real-time. Among their latest announced capabilities are also features designed for the hybrid workplace, such as interactive webinars and dynamic presentations. These solutions are going beyond software to include intelligent rooms, monitors and speakers that can differentiate the voices of up to ten people talking.
Cloud solutions like Microsoft 365 and Teams are no longer simple tools to communicate and collaborate. They have become the foundation that allows people to operate from anywhere, giving them the power to thrive in challenging times.
Security to support the hybrid workplace
There are several considerations when it comes to guaranteeing the hybrid workplace will also remain secure. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, device patching and software updates are no longer happening in an office environment. Instead, new security policies need to cover employees working from home or other private networks over which organisations have seemingly no control.
This poses a particular challenge. Much of the IT infrastructure companies have in place was not designed to support remote work. The change has sometimes resulted in a ‘patchwork’ of different tools and programs that can reduce work efficiency and increase employee frustration. Between these tools, there can also be dangerous security gaps from which valuable information can leak out.
The most effective way of defending against malware and phishing attacks is to leverage robust authentication processes such as MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication). Cloud technology can help ensure everyone stays secure, regardless of where they are working. For example, Microsoft Azure manages authentication across apps, on-premise programs and devices and Microsoft Defender of Office 365 can set up strong anti-phishing protections. Other services offered by Microsoft include certificate-based virtual and physical smartcards and Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.
When it comes to security on the cloud, the main goal is to consolidate rather than add new security services. With the right tools, adapting to remote working can provide new opportunities for more solid security.
The road ahead in a hybrid workplace
As we look into the horizon, we see that hybrid work requires a novel operating model and a revised strategy to encapsulate flexible work policy and modern space design to meet employee expectations and connect a distributed workforce. Hybrid workplaces will also need to provide tools to innovate and work together to solve business problems.
A hybrid workplace must bring people together in a way that helps enrich culture with novel ideas, unique perspectives and collaborative viewpoints that help continual learning. Innovation hubs, briefing centres, customer-partner-provider collaboration units etc allow for more touchpoints and help organisations better understand customer needs.
Empowering remote productivity is now a mandatory requirement. This will involve new collaboration tools, strong and resilient cloud infrastructure and a new way of thinking about network security. While hybrid work brings several advantages. It also presents new challenges, such as, making sure everyone feels included and engaged regardless of role or location. We must be intentional about creating space for inclusive conversations and define new ways of working together.
Fact is, we do not know how far along the road, the new normal is. We must adapt to a new way of working with an expanded understanding of flexibility. There are various ways of working and flexibility is essential to maintaining work-life balance and yet winning at work.
Build your hybrid workplace with TAS
Implementing a hybrid workforce requires careful planning and the right tools, but we are confident that you will recognise the merits after implementing a hybrid solution for your organisation. Learn how you can build your hybrid workplace with TAS.
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