The evolution of thinking around the workplace we’ve seen in such a short space of time is quite something. Over the course of the last year, business mindsets have shifted from complete allegiance to the physical office, to fully embracing remote working to survive, to a realisation that a hybrid working model may well be the best way for businesses to thrive.
Now, as we begin to move out of the pandemic, IT and business leaders should be considering what their workplace strategy looks like in the long term. What can we learn from the last 12 months? What are the tools, technologies and processes we should keep in place? How do we facilitate a reimagined office space? How do we empower employees to be productive and happy wherever they are?
There’s no doubt that hybrid working opens up huge opportunity for businesses, from creating a flexible working environment that appeals to a broad range of talent to enabling more efficient ways of working and a healthier work-life balance. But how do we create a hybrid model that is sustainable in the long term?
When considering a hybrid working strategy for your business, there are four key pillars that should remain front of mind.
How to inspire and empower your remote or hybrid workforce
Perhaps the biggest risk of a model which allows employees to work from anywhere is siloed working behaviours. However, if the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s the new and innovative ways businesses can facilitate effective collaboration – in some cases, even letting small children and pets get in on the action!
Having the right online communication tools in place is key, but it’s also worth considering a new role for the office. Bringing people together face-to-face offers an opportunity to rethink offices as true collaboration spaces. There are a number of ways this can be done, from reconfiguring furniture to create physical collaboration areas, to creating dedicated online collaboration hubs – rooms which are enabled to support communications tools that bring together team members regardless of whether people are working from home, the office or somewhere entirely different.
By starting with understanding how the office space and employees’ home working environments will be used, businesses can then identify the technology that will be key to enabling that strategy. This may well be some of the digital tools that have proven effective over the last year, but equally, it might be time to consider new investments that will support hybrid working in the long-term.
In a recent survey TalkTalk Business conducted with business decision makers, one third of businesses reported being concerned about information security or data breaches with staff working remotely. This is no surprise given protecting data was a huge focus for organisations even before the pandemic. A dispersed workforce adds a new layer of complexity to data protection however, making getting security right key to a successful hybrid working model.
This is where the digital tools chosen to enable employees to seamlessly and safely switch between different ways of working become critical – while budget is always important, investing in secure, reputable business applications will be key to avoiding breaches of any kind.
Your employee equipment strategy should also be considered alongside this. Are you providing secure laptops for employees to use remotely? If not, will you ensure that every employee has consistent and effective security products in place? There’s a whole spectrum of solutions available to businesses, so it’s about identifying any potential vulnerabilities and putting a strategy in place around this.
Why IT should integrate information security with digital initiatives
Connectivity has been a key factor in enabling business continuity for some time, but in a sustainable hybrid working model it is a critical foundation. In fact, when surveyed three quarters of business leaders told us that fast, reliable home broadband is key to employee productivity at home.
Ensuring employees have access to secure, reliable broadband wherever they are working will no doubt be crucial, but as businesses make the move from fully remote working to a hybrid model, they will need to turn their attention to the office’s connectivity strategy.
From the increased use of video conferencing tools and cloud-based business applications, to new collaboration hubs and on-demand spaces which require digital booking systems, it’s likely that the connectivity businesses had in the past will no longer support their ambitions. Businesses need to look towards a modern IT strategy which has connectivity at the heart, considering options such as Managed Networking solutions which monitor and maintain everything from servers, to operating systems and firewalls; to dedicated voice solutions to connect their teams in the office with customers and colleagues.
Empowering employees to be productive and happy has to sit at the heart of any sustainable hybrid working model. The beauty of hybrid working is that it blends the benefits of remote and office working, allowing for more flexibility and the ability to strike that all-important work-life balance. That said, it’s important to constantly evaluate whether the model is working for employees and invite their feedback on a regular basis – this should cover everything from the technology which enables them to do their job, to the opportunities for human connection.
Along with many challenges, the last year has given organisations a chance to reimagine what the workplace looks like. A flexible, employee-first approach can attract talent, increase productivity and lead to cost savings – but to get there, businesses must have the right foundations in place.