Forbes IT Council - Oct 5, 2021
Hybrid workforce models look to be the working arrangement of choice for many companies today. And it’s easy to imagine that they’ll continue to be so for the foreseeable future. They’re effective, easy to implement and, frankly, the path of least resistance. With that in mind, here are two things to make sure to do to successfully transition to a fully hybrid model:
1. Redefine the role of physical office space.
Offices are conduits for connection, collaboration and creativity — and after such a long hiatus, many employees want to return to them. This is corroborated by the results of Randstad’s Workmonitor 2021 research, which indicates that 78% of employees want to go back to the workplace on either a part-time or full-time basis. As for the other 22%, organizational leaders should prepare for some resistance. In fact, that’s the percentage that indicated they simply wouldn’t be returning to their offices, if and when those offices eventually open, according to a recent CNBC report.
All of this suggests that it’s high time for C-suite leaders to start thinking critically about the actual meaning, role and significance of physical office spaces in their employees’ day-to-day experiences. A few key questions to consider:
• What’s the ideal role of the office for most of your workforce? Collaboration? Cultural transmission? Productivity management? Think carefully about when it’s essential to have employees physically present and when it’s just a “nice to have.”
• Is it possible for aspects of the design or layout of your physical office spaces to be in some way complementary to the daily experiences of those who continue working remotely?
• What measures will be put in place to help ensure that the environment is ultimately equitable — for example, that valuable contributors who work primarily remotely aren’t unfairly passed up for promotions compared to those who work on-site?
Red teaming, whiteboarding, pulse surveys — you name it: There’s no wrong approach here. Do whatever makes sense for your organization. Just don’t leave questions like these unanswered.
2. Refine your approach to risk management.
A Randstad study uncovered some fascinating trends at the intersection of employee behaviors, technology and the future of work. Notably, for example, three out of four workers have become more reliant on technology than they were prior to the pandemic. (As for whether that itself worries them, answers were mixed.) Meanwhile, the massive uptick in the use of cloud services necessitated by remote work brought an equally large increase in the volume of cloud-native threats, many of them targeting Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and similar tools.
Just how large? External attacks on cloud accounts leaped 630% between January and April 2020 alone. And against this backdrop, one in three employees admits to having practiced riskier cybersecurity behaviors since they began working from home. What can organizational leaders do to get ahead — and effectively combat these and other threats?
For starters, make sure that you have the necessary in-house resources and expertise within your IT team, that they understand the urgency around emerging risks and that they have sufficient time to devote to this work. This last point is critical because many IT pros are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time on lower-value and, essentially, administrative work. So, help your IT team make time, if need be, which starts by communicating the urgency.
Second, you’ll need to huddle with other members of executive leadership to align on what, exactly, constitutes your company’s most valuable digital assets. Software? Applications? Intellectual property? Conducting an audit is a sound idea at this stage, as it will help you think through your next steps as you formulate an incident-response plan. And what’s more, all of this collaboration can lay the groundwork for the formation of a dedicated cyber risk management committee.
In terms of the return to physical office spaces, and the broader transition to hybrid workforce models of which it’s part and parcel, the execution will be key to whether the hybrid working arrangement is successful. And keep in mind that with transitioning to these hybrid models, you’ll also want to focus on preserving company culture and promoting collaboration.
As we’ve seen, this isn’t necessarily going to be easy. Start initiating the important conversations today to position your workforce — on-site, remote, hybrid or otherwise — for ongoing success tomorrow.