After the lockdown was declared, companies worldwide had to ask their employees to work remotely “until further notice.” Apart from working, most of us used the time saved to spend it with our families and to focus on our growth. 2021 Work Trend Index, a Microsoft study of over 30,000 employees working across 31 countries, came up with some interesting findings regarding the same. 70% of employees wanted flexible remote working set up to continue. However, interestingly, over 65% are craving in-person interactions with their colleagues in teammates .
Thankfully, as the pandemic situation around the world got better, offices were allowed to reopen and operate on different levels of capacity. Though the world is slowly and gradually recovering from the pandemic, it is safe to say that working in offices, 5-days-a-week and at 100% capacity might take some time. Keeping this reality in check, we are most likely to see the dawn of hybrid workforce or hybrid work schedule.
Hybrid workforce means a workforce that has a blend of some employees working in the office as well as some working remotely. Hybrid work schedule is an arrangement where employees are expected to come to office for some days in a week while they’re allowed to work from home for the rest of the days. Typically, hybrid employees work on a “2 days in, 3 days out” basis.
The same survey, which was conducted by Edelman Data x Intelligence(an independent research firm), found 73% of employees said they want flexible work options to be continued . Moreover, 66% of company leaders said that their organization is considering restructuring their office space for hybrid work set up.
So, is a hybrid workforce really the future? What are the unique challenges or hybrid work schedule? How can these challenges be tackled? Read along to find out.
Challenges of a hybrid work culture
A Salesforce survey found just 37% respondents viewing full-time remote work as the idea, most appealing long-term work set up. Meanwhile, 64% of the respondents said they want at least some of their working hours in a workplace. Moreover, Gen Z, which is soon to become the largest workforce segment, is interested in a hybrid work set up, which will split work hours between the workplace and home .
Though this is what the majority of the workforce wants, there are some big challenges of a hybrid workplace that not all organizations are equipped to deal with. Following are some of the concerns.
Network access and data security
According to a Cybersecurity Insiders report, network access is the biggest challenge organizations have to face, which tops the priority list at 68% . Hybrid and remote workers use multiple devices for their work, which increases the potential for data leaks. As hybrid works are connected with unmanaged devices, endpoint breaches become a major challenge. According to the report, other risky types of applications companies are concerned about securing are file sharing (68%), internet access (47%, video conferencing (45%), and messaging (35%).
One of the most important concerns that organizations have is the communication gap and miscommunication. Unarguably, It is something that slows down organizations processes and causes delays in decision making. Moreover, collaboration and brainstorming ideas is not easy when the workforce has to do it online.
Internet speed and latency
Another challenge is speed. Remote and hybrid workers aren’t sending requests directly over the internet anymore. Using a traditional VPN solution implies that all employees are sending requests to the office network first and then the request is sent to the internet. The entire process increases latency and delays business processes.
How to solve hybrid workforce concerns
For all security and network related concerns, it is suggested for companies to assess their Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) model. The SASE model is a cybersecurity concept introduced by Gartner in its “The Future of Network Security in the Cloud” . Essentially, SASE is the merging of wide area networking (WAN) and network security services, such as FWaaS, CASB and Zero Trust, into one cloud-delivered service model.
Most organizations use some kind of cloud-base solution, even if there’s no remote employees. SASE enables organizations to execute effective security models to safeguard their digital assets and resources. It also gives them expansion capabilities, as and when they see fit.
For employees that use personal devices to access company data, a.k.a. Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, mobile device management has advanced and evolved with the introduction of unified endpoint management.
The best way to communicate in a hybrid work arrangement is by using both, both verbal and written. Another important point to remember is to encourage employees to have strong internet connectivity in their homes. For work from home to be seamless, employees need a fast, solid internet connection so that they can get the job done in due time. Ensuring this will surely decrease the likelihood of disruptions in work.
As organizations adapt to the “hybrid” future of work, it’s the right time to re-analyze partners and vendors, as third-party breach risks are likely to increase. If risky partners and vendors aren’t properly vetted, identified, audited and controlled, the repercussions could be dire for the organization.
Regardless of what employees and employers think of hybrid workforce and schedules, it is here to stay. More companies are happily adopting hybrid work cultures and it is growing on companies that were once reluctant. The pandemic brought drastic changes in how organizations function on different levels. Some changes were permanent and built to last, and hybrid schedules and workforces are those permanent changes.
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  Microsoft and Edelman Data x Intelligence(2021) “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?” [Online] Available from: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work [Accessed June 2021]
 Salesforce (2020) “New Survey Data Shows Possible Scenarios for the Future of Offices, Commuting, and Cities” [Online] Available from: https://www.salesforce.com/news/stories/new-survey-data-shows-possible-scenarios-for-the-future-of-offices-commuting-and-cities/ [Accessed June 2021]
 Birnbaum, J. (2021) Cybersecurity Intelligence and Bitglass “Learn What Your Peers Are Thinking in Bitglass’ 2021 Remote Work Security Report” [Online] Available from: https://www.bitglass.com/blog/bitglass-2021-remote-work-security-report [Accessed June 2021]
 Gartner, Paloalto and PRISM (2021) “New SASE Report from Gartner” [Online] Available from: https://start.paloaltonetworks.com/gartner-report-roadmap-for-sase-convergence.html [Accessed June 2021]