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The future of work: the hybrid workforce
Tue, 8th Dec 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Since the pandemic, employees everywhere have settled into a routine of remote work. As companies plan for the future, they are trying to decide on the best path forward for the future of work.

The pandemic demystified the process of working from home and, as a result, many organisations are looking to a new hybrid model that combines remote work and office collaboration. While COVID-19 forced us into the ‘remote work' or ‘no work' ultimatum, there have been surprising benefits.

Increased productivity and improved employee satisfaction

The secret fear that employees working from home would be less productive proved to be a fallacy. In fact, according to Radware's recent global survey of 260 senior executives, C-suite executives revealed that remote workers significantly improved their productivity since working remotely.

Increased efficiency may be attributed to not commuting, minimised workplace distractions and more freedom to work during the hours that are best for each individual.

Respondents to the survey also found remote employees improved their work-life balance and retention rates by 46%. With flexible work plans, employees tend to be happier, which makes them want to stay loyal to their companies.

Lowered business costs and reduced carbon footprint

Hubstaff recently surveyed 400 business owners on their pandemic insights and found that remote work helped prevent layoffs in 66% of companies, and 44% of companies expected remote work to increase profits.

By not having to maintain a physical building, employers can dramatically cut costs of rent, office supplies, utilities, etc. and can reinvest cost savings in growth.

The earth is also experiencing environmental benefits from reduced travel, which has taken the stress off of our overburdened transportation systems and roads and has contributed to a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emission across the globe.

This year, experts predict the environmental impacts of the coronavirus lockdown will contribute to the largest-ever annual fall in global carbon emissions.

A shift to remote operations

The way we work has changed dramatically. After experimenting with employees working from home, many companies have made changes for the long haul.

Google announced that its roughly 200,000 employees would continue to work from home until at least next summer. Facebook is also extending its work-from-home policy until July of next year, and Twitter told its employees that they could stay home indefinitely.

Businesses that never offered remote work before are now embracing it. In contrast to work-from-home policies before the pandemic, our survey found that more than 80% of respondents believe employees will spend at least a quarter of their time working from home in the future.

Many companies are now planning to reduce office space, or have done so already, as they expect a significant number of their staff to continue to work remotely in 2021-2022. Organisations around the world are considering alternative hybrid models to support the future of work, which includes in-person communications and remote operations.

What will the hybrid workplace look like?

Since the pandemic started, companies have reconsidered how to best use their office spaces. While many will likely still retain physical offices, it's clear that they will not be the same. There will be a change in the way we work in them and how physical structures and office layouts will be used for collaboration.

For example, one strategy might be to have specific days for in-person meetings and collaboration, and then other days allocated for remote work. In-person meetings might be reserved for brainstorming sessions, introducing new projects, or team-building exercises, while remote days would be for work that can be performed individually.

The office could be redesigned and reorganised by getting rid of cubicles and creating more collaborative meeting spaces.

Managing cybersecurity in the hybrid workplace

As organisations shift to the hybrid model, implementing new strategies will be critical to securing remote employees, protecting their digital assets and guarding against cyber-threats.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an accelerated migration of business applications and infrastructure into the cloud. According to the Radware survey, 76% of companies adopted cloud services faster than they had planned, which unintentionally increased attack surfaces and created security gaps for hackers.

In fact, the FBI reported up to 4,000 new cybersecurity complaints per day, a 400% increase, after the onset of the pandemic.

Many companies reacted well and moved quickly to support customers and suppliers and to connect a remote workforce with equipment. However, this reactive approach only goes so far — companies need to consider a long-term plan on how to provide security to employees and protect their digital assets at a time when cyber-criminals have a bigger attack surface to target.

The time has come for a more strategic approach to security as companies settle into new hybrid workforces that support remote work.

The pandemic has challenged and changed how many of us do our jobs, yet with good direction, thoughtful strategies and the right technology, working remotely in a hybrid workplace can be a change for the good in the post-pandemic world.