After Covid restrictions were removed and employees were permitted back to the office, employers were in for a surprise. Employees didn’t want to come back to work.
A Harvard study reveals that over 80% of employees in the US don’t want to work in the office full-time. And CNBC reports that 64% of workers will threaten to quit their job if they are not given permission to work from home – for at least part of the time.
In the UK, the BBC reported that 80% of British firms intend to adopt a hybrid working model. It’s safe to say that hybrid working will become the new standard moving forward. At least for the time being.
There are plenty of positives the hybrid model offers. Employees have more flexibility, save money and can spend more time with their families. In many instances, employees are more productive because there are fewer distractions working from home than in the office – although that’s probably not the case for everyone.
However, the hybrid model also brings challenges – particularly for the IT management team – and the small matter of cybersecurity. There are also question marks over how well employees can collaborate from remote locations and whether team members will be able to build bonds with their teammates.
Remote Cybersecurity Solutions
The most concerning challenge when implanting a hybrid model is arguably cybersecurity. Home networks are not as secure as business networks and remote employees are prone to head off to work in a coffee shop – and possibly on an unsecured network.
Cloud technologies will play a key role in ensuring a distributed workforce is protected against cyberattacks. Installing anti-virus software on all devices, VPNs, identity protection and management, data encryption and enforcing BYOD protocol are all protective measures that are essential and not overly expensive.
There are other affordable options also such as two-way authentication and configuring cloud permission settings. Investing in patch management is also highly recommended to ensure that security updates are performed on all devices companywide.
A larger investment, but, according to evading IT management firm, MicroPro, a vital one, is to raise cybersecurity awareness among your workforce. It is thought that 95% of data breaches are caused by human error.
If your employees are aware of the strategies hackers use to infiltrate business networks, they are better equipped to identify potential threats and deal with them effectively.
Creating a Company Culture
This could be a hard one. If people are not in the office and don’t have a great deal of reason to engage with their colleagues, building a strong company culture and a team ethic can get lost in the digital ether. New starters, in particular, will struggle to understand the.
One of the most common complaints from remote workers during the coronavirus lockdowns was that people felt disconnected from their teammates. There were also reports of people feeling lonely and isolated.
This raises a question about nurturing mental health – which is a conversation that was gaining momentum even before the pandemic struck.
Lockdown, of course, was unique. Firms didn’t have any time to prepare for remote working and strategies were tacked together by managers flying by the seat of their pants.
The experience of lockdown should help businesses to be more prepared moving forward. Finding effective ways to keep your team members closer together and feel as though they are part of the company can be challenging. Companies will need to adopt of ‘culture first’ approach.
HR managers report they have had some success by organising fun Friday meetings such as hosting a quiz, and team meetings on a Monday morning.
Developing a hybrid culture can put more strain on managers. Keeping in touch with remote employees is more time-consuming. There is also the argument that some employees will require more ‘mothering’ to feel valued. But at the same time, receiving a call from the boss can be a pick-me-up for some people they may not ordinarily get in an office environment.
On the other hand, a higher number of manager-employee engagements can eat into time that would otherwise be spent being productive. Finding a balance could be tricky for some people – and it’s unlikely that a blanket strategy will work for everyone. It really depends on the personality of the individual and how much support and encouragement they need.
Communication and Collaboration
The loss of a company culture could also impact the effectiveness of communication between teammates. Collaboration tools may help teammates stay in touch from remote locations – namely chat rooms and video conferencing – but pulling together as a team is not the same as collaboration.
Most teams are made up of individuals that have their own workload. They are only considered a team because they sit in the same vicinity as one another. But whilst you’re in the office, it’s easy to have a quick chat and a laugh that helps to bond with teammates.
Quick chats and quips have all but been lost for remote workers. A chat function on a messenger app may not be the best solution when people are wanting to concentrate at different times to get on with their work.
When someone is in the zone and gets distracted, it can take 23 minutes to get back into their groove. Distractions were the biggest gripe in the office, so encouraging random chats doesn’t resolve an ongoing issue.
One option will be to have set times of day for teams to interact – either on chat or a quick 10-minute call around ‘elevenses’ when everyone has a cup of coffee and biscuit.
Teammates that are collaborating on a project are actually easier to manage than bringing a distributed workforce together into the same space at the same time.
Cloud-based productivity suites such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 make it easy for collaborators to work remotely. In the cloud, two or more people can work on one document simultaneously, changes are saved immediately and the editor is flagged up so people can see what changes have been made and who made them.
A smooth-running hybrid model is not likely to click into place from day one. You may already have a good idea of how you intend to tackle the challenges, but for most firms, hybrid working will be a work in progress.