The adoption of remote working is, arguably, one of the most challenging trends of the post-Covid era. Not only do you need to have the right technologies in place, but you also need a strategy that nurtures company culture and cybersecurity policies that protect business data.
Most industries are looking at how they can implement a hybrid workplace. Reports reveal that 25% of industries are capable of allowing workers to spend 3-5 days working from home. This is a startling statistic as it highlights how prepared many industries are ready to shift to a hybrid model.
Employees are also pushing for flexible working. A study published by the World Economic Forum indicates workers feel a hybrid work model will give them more “work-life balance, greater schedule control and less stress as key benefits.”
There is no question that a hybrid model provides a meet-in-the-middle solution. The key question is whether you go remote-first and occasional office or office first with remote options.
Socialising in the Hybrid Workplace
A distributed workforce can make the office feel subdued and team members can easily become disconnected. Workers will no longer be able to walk across the room to ‘pick the brain’ of a colleague or reach out to management when they feel overwhelmed.
These issues may feel slight, but they do happen whilst working remotely. Companies will need to adopt an ‘ask first’ culture and encourage employees working from home to speak up when they need help.
One of the main issues for remote workers during the pandemic was a feeling of being isolated and not valued. Developing an online company culture has to be the focus of team managers and HR.
Firms will need to strike a balance between downtime and a loss of productivity. Mental health is a pressing concern in the post-pandemic era and is being repeatedly highlighted by mainstream media how pressure in the workplace is damaging to health.
There are plenty of effective technologies that enhance communication from remote locations. Video conferencing and chatrooms go a long way in helping to keep colleagues connected. How your employees choose to use them will be key. Encouragement from the boardroom will be pivotal.
Studies have shown that people need around six hours of socialising a day to maintain good mental health. Making up this amount of socialising can be difficult for remote workers, who cannot attend office socials or talk casually with colleagues during the work-day.
A remote pub quiz can be an excellent way of allowing your employees to engager with colleagues from other departments. Friday fun is also an effective way to ease the foot of the gas and wrap up a workweek on a high.
Casual conversation is also a common theme that will be lost to remote workers. The brief chats will colleagues are important for team building and taking a mental break.
Whilst it’s can be hard to see that downtime is not time spent not working, it is a vital way that your team develops camaraderie and office culture. Moreover, studies show that workers are more productive if they take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes.
Communication Technology in Hybrid Workplaces
A productive hybrid model will inevitably leverage technology to optimise what your team is capable of. There has to be scope for interaction and collaboration together with accessing and sharing information in a secure environment.
If you haven’t already, the first step is to invest in cloud computing. Storing relevant data in the cloud is the key to unlocking an effective hybrid model. First and foremost, it enables your employees to access and share documents from any location on any device at any time.
When properly configured, cloud computing also adds an extra layer of security to your IT security. Data that is stored in the cloud is encrypted and requires a password to access.
A top-quality productivity suite will also go a long way to helping operations run smoothly. Microsoft 365 is the industry standard for the modern workplace and is mooted as the most complete suite of office tools on the market.
If you’re not struck on Microsoft, Google and Apple offer a robust professional-friendly suite of tools. Outside the three tech giants, you’re looking at OpenOffice and WPS Office.
All these productivity suites offer a multitude of advanced features. The most noteworthy for collaborators is real-time updates which allow team members to work on the same document simultaneously.
Cybersecurity in the Work-From-Home Place
Another challenge that companies face is cybersecurity. With an increasing number of high-profile attacks on well-known global brands, business owners have good reason to worry about the threat of being hacked.
However, despite the mass hysteria being generated in the mainstream press, IT security is well-equipped to keep out your average hacker. With the right technologies and staff training, you’ll be fine.
If you read hacking reports, the major breaches are all engineered by state-led consortiums – which means the world’s best hackers are being paid by secret service agents to gather information.
Providing you have anti-virus with a good reputation, update software patches and a properly configured cloud setup, you should be okay from a technology standpoint.
What will be important is that your employees are trained in cybersecurity awareness. According to cybersecurity professionals, 98% of cyber attacks rely on social engineering.
That means hackers have to go through your employees to get access to your business network. By far the most popular strategy is phishing – planting encrypted malware in an invested link or attachment.
Implementing security features such as multi-factor authentication, identity protection and management, data encryption, and patch management will play a huge part in preventing hackers from infiltrating vulnerabilities in software.
The hybrid workplace is not likely to be an overnight sensation. Expect teething problems. Whilst technology will be at the front and centre of a hybrid model, a common sense strategy that gets the best out of your employees is also required.