The Hybrid Workplace: How to Navigate the New Era of Workplace Flexibility

What Is a ‘Hybrid’ Workplace?

Especially affecting IT jobs, the hybrid workplace has become a reality for many organizations that had not considered allowing their employees to work from home before COVID-19.

Lockdowns forced companies to put in place measures for their people to work remotely. The rapidity and ease with which businesses switched to remote working was astounding.

A mini-technological Big Bang changed the way we work and how we think about job satisfaction. As a result, many companies are changing their approach to work, now that the economy is opening up. In part, they have been compelled to do so because their employees want to work from home at least some of the time.

The hybrid workplace offers many advantages, though these are accompanied by at least as many challenges.

In this article, we look at the advantages of the hybrid workplace and how to navigate the IT challenges to take advantage of them.

Advantages of a Hybrid Workplace

Studies have shown that people are more productive when they work from home. For example, a study conducted by Stanford over a nine-month period found productivity increased by 13%. The same study also found that employee turnover decreased by 50%.

Separate research published by SHRM found that 77% of employees who work from home at least a few times each month report greater productivity while at home.

Such productivity numbers should not surprise us. The problems with a traditional office environment include a lack of privacy, noise or distractions, and lack of control over your surroundings. These can all be removed more easily when working from home.

When working from home, people can alter their routines to suit them. Not only does this mean they can work when they are most productive, it also gives them the opportunity to create a better work/life balance. They can spend time with their family or doing things they most enjoy, with work fitting in around them. In addition, they eliminate commute times and the stress that accompanies traveling to work.

Happier employees are less likely to leave for ‘greener pastures’, and more likely to be highly engaged in their work. With fewer people in the workplace, an organization could downsize its offices – reducing costs and improving the bottom line.

In addition, smaller workplaces use less energy, and fewer commutes reduce carbon emissions.

Hybrid workplaces have the potential to deliver benefits for employers, employees, and the environment.

To access these benefits, you must put in place the IT infrastructure to support a hybrid workplace. It is here that perhaps the greatest challenges are found.

6 IT Challenges of Hybrid Working and How to Overcome Them

We’ve identified six specific IT challenges that our clients have faced in the transition to a hybrid work model.

1.     Ensuring a Sense of Fairness

A work-from-home policy must be seen to be fair and consistent to the in-workplace policy. It is easy for people to believe they are not being treated equally when working from home.

It is therefore crucial to create a policy that is easy to understand, details who may work from home, and ensures that IT connectivity and capability is equal between employees in the office and at home.

2.     Communication and Collaboration Can Be Challenging

Internal communications must now stretch externally.

To make this happen, IT must define and design a single integrated communication tool, or the business must make a single solution for all. People must be trained in the use of collaborative tools, and given the support they need during their time away from the office environment.

3.     Time in Office

When employees are needed to work in the office, different desktop setups can cause frustration and destroy productivity.

First, it is important for you to create a hotdesk policy and procedure. Do you give desks on a first-come, first-served basis, or do you reserve them for specific employees on specific days? What are the procedures for an employee who has a need to come to work on an undesignated ‘at work’ day?

If different employees require different setups, what work is involved for your IT department? How will desktop setups be maintained? How do people communicate with their line managers, and how does IT become involved to ensure smooth transitions? Questions like these must all be answered by management and IT.

4.     Use of Non-Authorized Tools

A study by Gartner found that almost one-in-five employees who worked from home during the pandemic now consider themselves to be highly proficient in technology. Half use non-approved applications or web services to collaborate with their colleagues.

This reduces visibility to management, makes work monitoring more haphazard and problematic, and creates situations in which managers will find it difficult to allocate work effectively.

The answer, of course, is to put usage policies in place, and ensure that IT equips all workers with the tools they need and are expected to use.

5.     Network Constraints

IT has to solve network constraints and bandwidth issues inside company headquarters as well as troubleshoot connections at home, as companies rely more and more on video-heavy tools to collaborate.

When we’re on Zoom or Teams or any of those collaboration platforms, how do companies start to think about the amount of bandwidth they have in their offices?’ said Leon Gilbert, SVP and General Manager of digital workplace services at Unisys. ‘That, potentially, was never designed for 100 people on a Zoom call using video.

6.     Cybersecurity Concerns

Cybersecurity concerns of a hybrid model add additional hurdles. When employees ‘go from a controlled corporate network to a less-controlled network’ and bounce back and forth, there’s further risk involved, said Sample.

The workplace will remain a target for malicious actors. Threat volume rose 48% between March 2020 and February 2021, according to Mimecast data published in March. There’s a 95% likelihood that threat actors will continue to target the workplace going forward, preying on remote employees as well as those who return to the workplace, the company said.

Take Advantage of the Benefits of the Hybrid Workplace

The benefits that can be experienced by an organization moving to a hybrid workplace are many. However, to ensure that you access these benefits, you must understand and prepare for the many IT challenges that can damage workplace collaboration, motivation, and productivity.

In this article we have outlined six of the most crucial IT challenges that you face in the hybrid workplace. For a more in-depth discussion of these and others, and your unique situation and needs, please contact Gravity IT Resources.

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