Hybrid Work: What IT Is Crucial for Success

It simultaneously feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago when I used to blow dry my hair, pack a lunch, and drive into the office Monday through Friday. 

I remember the early days of the pandemic when I worked from home with a toddler beside me. I upgraded my internet to support the multiple Webex meetings I was logging into on a weekly basis, and I struggled through logging into The KR Group’s VPN. 

Then, once it became clear I’d be working from home for longer (much longer) than a few weeks, I had a coworker drop off a couple of external desktop monitors and made a makeshift home office at one end of my kitchen table. 

If I had to guess, my initial work-from-home experience isn’t too different from yours. For the first part of the pandemic, we were trying to survive and used mismatched solutions based on current availability to work from home. 

Now, employers and employees have a better idea of what work arrangements will look like moving forward. For most of us, it’s vastly different than before we started working remotely.

As an IT manager, you now need to figure out how to help your users thrive in a remote or hybrid workplace, instead of simply surviving. 

To get to that point, here are four components of hybrid work you’ll need to keep in mind: 

  1. Hybrid workforce and workplace
  2. Safety
  3. Flexibility
  4. Security

Hybrid work is something we’re all trying to perfect and will continue to adjust as technology evolves. However, these categories cover the primary pillars that you should keep in mind for creating a robust hybrid workplace. 

The Hybrid Workforce and Workplace

According to research from McKinsey & Company, there will be one person remotely attending every meeting in the future, and most employees say they would like to work from home at least three days per week.

With hybrid work being a reality, you then need to determine how you’ll give your workforce the tools they need to stay productive regardless of whether they’re working from your office, home, or another remote location. 

But, the challenges don’t end there. 

Organizations are also reviewing the best way to configure workplaces when not all employees come in every day. 

Technology needs include everything from high-tech solutions that can monitor how many employees are in the office and their temperatures to more standard and necessary solutions that simplify security and increase efficiency across your network. 

If you’re making a mental list, this means supporting a hybrid workforce and workplace, and you’ll need solutions for collaboration, networking, security, and visibility. 

We know, the list of specific solutions that fit into those categories is seemingly endless.

Remembering the following three points (safety, flexibility, and security) can help you determine the best place to start for your business. 

Safety for Your Hybrid Work Needs

Nearly two-thirds of workers are worried about returning to the office because of Covid concerns. Confidence in their employer’s ability to reduce the risks is also low, with 61% expressing concern that their employers might relax Covid measures too soon. 

Technology is helpful in finding available spaces to work and collaborate while providing a safer working environment. And the burden is on employees to find and implement these solutions to keep their users healthy at work.

Some ways IT can help you prioritize safety include: 

  • Video conferencing solutions allow users to still participate in meetings even when working from home. 
  • Cloud-based location services, such as Cisco DNA Spaces, give you the data to support a safe and intelligent workspace by monitoring and sharing occupancy levels in real-time.
  • Cameras help you monitor social distancing and other work-related safety measures.

Flexibility in a Hybrid Work Environment

You have to configure your hybrid work environment to allow for flexibility since your employees aren’t all sitting in their office cubicles every day.

Today, the most common hybrid work schedule is two days in the office and three days at home. 

On any given workday, you’ll have employees working onsite or offsite and frequently switching between the two based on their needs. 

For many organizations, this means you’re rethinking what your physical office space looks like based on how many people are coming into your offices. However, even if you choose to downsize, you’ll need to invest in ways to make your space hybrid-work friendly. 

For example, you may need to modify or redesign their in-office work environment to promote social distancing. Or, you may need to embrace technology, such as secure access services edge (SASE) architecture to support safe and seamless access from anywhere.

Security for a Hybrid Workplace

A hybrid workforce is great for giving employees the safety and flexibility they’re looking for in a job. However, there are significant security implications if you fail to create a secure hybrid work environment.

When you have employees working remotely at any point, it increases your attack surface. Instead of having one network to keep threats out of, each user operates on their own network and puts your IT environment at risk. 

Additionally, when working from home, you have little control over your user’s home network security and internet usage on work devices. 

So when thinking about your hybrid work environment, you have to think of how to keep your data and company assets secure. 

Here are a few categories of security to consider: 

  • Access, such as zero-trust networking, Wi-fi 6, and SASE
  • Collaboration, which includes secure audio, video, and messaging platforms
  • Visibility through enhanced digital experiences like Cisco DNA Spaces, the Meraki dashboard, or ThousandEyes monitoring

Another valuable tool to consider is a teleworker risk assessment, which reviews what technology you are and aren’t using to provide your users a secure remote work experience. 

Your Business’s Future with Hybrid Work

Hybrid work is here to stay, and as an organization, you’ll need to figure out how to create a seamless experience for your employees. 

The best hybrid work environments will take employee safety into account and offer the flexibility to meet new worker needs. 

Of course, your organization’s security is of the utmost importance, so you’ll need to implement policies and solutions to keep your data secure no matter how your users are connecting to your network. 

As you contemplate how you’ll make all of these evolving pieces connect, you should consider a teleworker risk assessment, which evaluates how your organization’s remote workforce security stacks up against current threats. 

To learn more about this security assessment, check out one of the following articles: 

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