Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a challenge for companies, especially small and medium-sized teams to enable remote work. Now that we’re around 18 months into the situation, employers recognize that they’re going to have to make a long-term shift to a model and workplace environment conducive to remote work.
For a lot of employers as well as IT teams, that might mean a hybrid workplace becomes the new norm.
A hybrid workplace is one using a business model combining remote work with in-person, more traditional work. A hybrid workplace can look different depending on the industry, the business itself, and the employees. In some cases, employees can come into the office as they want, while other hybrid workplaces will include a core group that works almost entirely onsite, along with remote employees.
It can also be that teams rotate when they come into the office on any given day.
There are benefits, including the ability to better maintain corporate culture as compared to only having employees work offsite, as well as more centralized control over things like cybersecurity.
With those considerations in mind, the following touches on some critical components of effectively managing a hybrid workplace.
Reconsider Your Cybersecurity Strategy
One of the significant issues with remote work in general that we’ve seen playing out over the past 18 months is the lack of cybersecurity it creates. There isn’t that centralized visibility that IT teams would typically have, and with a hybrid environment, you do get some of that back. Still, at the same time, you have employees who are working from unsecured devices and on public wi-fi.
When employees aren’t on site they’re also probably going to be more lax in general about following cybersecurity guidelines and more prone to human error like falling prey to phishing.
As part of managing a hybrid workplace, you have to consider these security risks.
One strategy you can deploy to combat them is the use of a Zero-Trust security model.
With ZeroTrust, the focus is on the security and management of user identity and devices instead of reliance on a network perimeter, which is really only effective when everyone is onsite.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, immense challenges come with a hybrid workplace. Many of these can be solved at least partially with identity management and Zero-Trust security.
Have a Specific Hybrid Workplace Policy
One of the many potential issues that can arise in a hybrid workplace is that there’s much room for gray. Gray areas in the workplace aren’t necessarily beneficial for anyone.
You need to have a hybrid work policy that clearly outlines expectations and rules. These might be rules relating to a variety of topics including equipment, cybersecurity, home-to-office hour ratios, attendance and breaks during the day. You should also outline your expectations for how reachable employees are and how long it takes them to respond to different types of communication.
Your employee handbook needs to integrate your remote work policy.
Get Employee Input and Buy-In
Too often, one of the hurdles businesses are running into right now is that they’re making plans for employees and drastically changing how things are done in the wake of the pandemic. Even so, they’re not asking employees for their feedback.
You may think employees want to do things one way when in reality they don’t.
The only way you’re going to know both what employees would like to see in the workplace and what challenges they’re facing is to ask them directly. That way, you can build a program around your employees rather than vice versa.
Bring your employees in as soon as you can to learn more about preference and concerns, and have a few key members who can serve as a committee to solidify your hybrid program.
Develop a Strong Online Community
The pitfalls of a hybrid environment include the fact that some employees may feel left out, or there may be an erosion of corporate culture. Combat this proactively, hopefully before it even happens by building a robust online community for employees.
Develop a less formal online space where people can gather online. For example, some companies use Slack, and you can in doing that also begin to cultivate conversations that aren’t related to work. You don’t want this to hamper productivity. The reality is that those informal conversations are an essential part of in-person work that fosters not only a strong culture but also collaboration.
Set Specific Expectations and Metrics for Everything
Again, you don’t want employees to feel like they’re facing gray areas, so you can set clear, measurable expectations for tasks and projects.
This doesn’t mean you micromanage employees in a hybrid workspace. Instead, they know what needs to get done, and then they work to get there in the way they feel is best.
What matters in a hybrid workplace more so even than a traditional office environment are results. In a traditional work setting, you might mistake long hours for productivity, for example. This isn’t going to be the case in a hybrid environment, which can be beneficial overall.
There are certainly benefits for both employers and employees in a remote work environment, but it can also be challenging for your employees. They may feel out of the loop or like they don’t have what they need to do their job. You need to check in often to see what challenges they’re facing and what you can do to mitigate those.
For example, you may need to evaluate the tools you’re providing to employees when they’re working remotely. In doing that evaluation, you could find you need to do more to help support their work and productivity through the provision of the right technology.
It’s up to you to give the tools that help employees solve problems and stay empowered when they’re working.