Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about hybrid work and workplace flexibility. These are common discussion topics around workplace modernization, employee experience, and remote collaborations. But what is hybrid work, and what does it mean for the business IT environment?
Hybrid work simply means having some employees working on-site while others work remotely at the same time. It’s a middle ground between fully remote work and the traditional 9-to-5 grind. This may seem like a straightforward arrangement, but it can get complicated fast.
Let’s look at what it takes to establish and run a productive hybrid workplace. We’ll focus mainly on technical necessities since tech is a key component of hybrid work systems.
Why hybrid work matters
Before we go any further, let’s answer one fundamental question: why is hybrid work such a big deal?
Hybrid work only started making headway in the last couple of years, but it’s actually been a long time coming. Over the years, many workers quietly desired flexible working environments. The workplace disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic created the ideal opportunity to strongly push for the transition from the now seemingly outdated 9-to-5 workplace.
The pandemic forced many employees to work from home. But even as travel and interaction restrictions continue to ease, many workers are still reluctant to return to the office. In a Gallup survey, 37 percent of employees who worked remotely for some time said they would prefer to continue working from home full-time after the pandemic. Fifty-four percent said they’d like to split their time between the office and remote work. Only 9 percent of the respondents desired to return to the office full-time. Moreover, 30 percent of remote workers said they’d likely switch jobs if their employers discontinued remote work.
Employees mostly cite well-being, flexibility, avoiding the daily commute, and better work-life balance as the top reasons for favoring remote and hybrid work arrangements.
Employers are also giving in to the pressure for work flexibility, and many are keen on adopting the hybrid work model. A recent report shows that 63 percent of high-growth enterprises have enabled hybrid work in one form or another. And as it turns out, embracing hybrid work also benefits you as an employer in the following ways:
- Boosts employee experience, satisfaction, and morale
- Improves collaborations and strengthens relationships among employees
- Minimizes work-related stressors and the risk of burnout, resulting in a healthier work environment
- Improves employee retention rates
- Reduces workplace expenses
- Gives you access to a broader and more diverse talent pool
- Increases workplace productivity — happier employees are more productive
- Opens your organization to new hiring and staffing possibilities
Another reason you might want to consider hybrid work is to enable collaborations between your in-house staff and remotely outsourced teams or individuals. In other words, hybrid work empowers you to take advantage of staff augmentation, dedicated teams, and other labor outsourcing options. These are convenient, low-cost staffing methods ideal for hiring high-end or hard-to-find professionals such as software developers, engineers, or data scientists. What’s more, you can do all this hassle-fee through a staffing agency.
How to create a hybrid workplace
Adopting hybrid work comes down to replacing the “where” from work with “how.” It shouldn’t matter where employees work from as long as the job gets done. A hybrid work environment is just a compromise between remote and on-site work, giving employees the freedom to choose between working from home or the office.
However, hybrid work is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement. The nature and structure of your hybrid workplace will depend on your employees’ preferences, how you define flexibility, the nature of the work involved, and what the workplace can or cannot do without. But in general, a fluid hybrid work environment must have the following key components:
- Strong policies that govern hybrid work
- Managerial and leadership styles that apply to both remote and in-house workers
- A work culture that promotes accountability and responsibility at the individual level
- Robust IT infrastructure to merge in-house and remote workflows and HR processes
Essential technologies to power hybrid work
Technology is the one thing you can’t get away from in a hybrid workspace. You must empower your employees with technical tools to enable hybrid work, regardless of the underlying work policies, management, or structure.
Here are seven common technologies essential for successful hybrid work:
Seamless communication is crucial in a hybrid work scenario. Both remote and on-site workers must stay connected at all times to share information and socialize. Luckily, many cloud-based SaaS applications such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are specially designed for hybrid work communications. Most of these systems have integrated messaging, voice call, conferencing, notification, and announcement features built into a single platform. So, you probably won’t need more than one.
The important thing is to ensure employees can reach each other through reliable and secure means regardless of where they are.
Collaboration tools enable teams and individuals to work together on shared tasks or projects and track progress. The kind of collaboration tools your workplace needs will depend on the nature of the work being done. For instance, if one team is tasked with creating and manipulating documents, a document processor that supports co-authoring and edit tracking should come in handy.
There are several freemium and paid applications that support virtual collaborations, project management, and work coordination through shared whiteboards, Kanban boards, file share, presentations, and virtual rooms. Popular virtual work platforms include Trello, Monday.com, Google Workspace, Lucidchart, Asana, and Evernote.
Switching to hybrid work adds some complexities to workflows and employee interactions, and the transition may have a bit of a learning curve. This calls for virtual training sessions to equip employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to work in the new environment. The training can cover any topic related to the workplace, from how to use the new virtual work systems to maintaining professionalism and security while working remotely.
Modern learning management systems such as Thinkific, iSpring, and Eduflow can automate company-wide employee training through online courses/lessons, information libraries, and quizzes. These are also great for upskilling and adding value to the workforce, both remote and local.
Data management systems
Collaborations between telecommuters and on-site workers involve a lot of data movement. However, information transfers within the workplace can quickly get out of hand or even hinder productivity if not managed properly. Basic file sharing and transfer systems such as emails simply don’t cut it in a hybrid work environment. One-way file shares can easily create counterproductive distractions and chaos.
Hybrid work requires a centralized hub for accessing and sharing information, documents, and files. A common data management system simplifies data flows and promotes data security by keeping all the data within the company’s network and controlling user access to protected information.
Office space management tools
In most hybrid workplaces, employees can come into the office whenever they like or for a stipulated number of days in a week. Some hybrid policies require a certain number of employees to show up every day. In such cases, managing the office space is pretty straightforward. But in a scenario where employees have more freedom, it’s important to have a management system where anyone can reserve or claim office spots and resources.
This is called office hoteling. It’s essentially a more organized way to allocate workstations, conferences rooms, and other resources to teams and individuals than the first-come, first-serve approach. The idea is to discourage conflicts, desk hogging, and workers showing up to the office unannounced.
Office hoteling software applications have actually been around for a while, though many were originally designed to manage hired co-working spaces. But solutions such as Nexudus, Coworkify, Envoy, and many others can be adapted for hot-desking, booking, and resource optimization in a hybrid workplace.
Human capital management software
Hybrid workplaces take away elements of close HR supervision and management, at least in the physical sense. A human capital management (HCM) system is the best solution to fill these workplace management gaps. An HCM system keeps tabs on employees, gauges their performance, and provides actionable work insights and recommendations to individuals, teams, and managerial staff.
Premium cloud-based HCM solutions, such as SAP SuccessFactors, Viva Insights, and Oracle HCM, give you visibility into employee engagements, productivity, and experience. HCMs point you in the right direction to optimize the hybrid work structure and policies to get the desired outcomes.
Remote onboarding platform
The possibility of working from home is an attractive proposition to many job seekers. There’s a good chance that all your new job applicants will prefer to work remotely. So, you need to rethink your onboarding processes with remote hiring in mind.
You don’t necessarily have to run dedicated software applications for remote onboarding, although some HCM systems have virtual onboarding capabilities. All you need is a way to share company information (policies, culture, mission, etc.) with new hires and train and assimilate them into the organization virtually. The already existing communications, employee training, and collaborations tools can easily be customized for this purpose.
A report published by Thales shows that 82 percent of businesses are concerned about the inherent security risks of employees working remotely. And these are not baseless fears either. With limited employee supervision and control over endpoints, remote work does introduce unique cybersecurity challenges and risks. The main threats facing remote and hybrid work are social engineering scams, malware infections, data exposures, and endpoint vulnerabilities.
You need a robust cybersecurity framework to safeguard your organization’s digital assets, employees, and customers against cybercrime when dealing with telecommuters. Reinforce your company-wide security posture with strong user identity and access management systems, VPNs for connecting to remote devices, data encryption, and IT monitoring systems. Also, educating employees on threat awareness and cybersecurity best practices goes a long way in mitigating human-based risks.
Bolster your hybrid workplace with the right expertise, too
The tools we’ve discussed above are invaluable in a hybrid work environment; they essentially translate the physical aspects of a regular office to the virtual space. Such tools also break workplace, hiring, and HR management barriers and limitations, making hybrid work a highly versatile labor utilization model.
For instance, hybrid work can enable you to leverage and utilize labor pools outside your HR community. You can seamlessly incorporate remotely outsourced labor to your staff without making any technical or managerial adjustments. Labor outsourcing is a great way to bring extra hands and skills into your workforce without the hassle and high cost of hiring. And WeDevelop can help you find and enroll qualified, highly skilled professionals through staff augmentation and dedicated teams. We do all the sourcing, screening, and vetting to ensure you only get proven experts in any professional field. Get in touch to learn more.