Captains of industry have got some huge decisions to make in 2021. High on the list of priorities is how you will assemble your workforce in the post-pandemic world.
Coronavirus forced companies into deploying remote working solutions. As more people get vaccinated, C-suite executives are planning for a post-Covid future. And the conversation in a growing number of boardrooms has shifted to a hybrid workplace model.
A report published by McKinsey indicates that nine out of ten executives envision a hybrid model provides multiple solutions moving forward. Employees are also expected to request more flexibility and autonomy in the post-pandemic era.
There are mixed views and feelings about how a workforce will be organised when people are allowed to return to offices. Fortunately, some of the world’s leading companies envisioned the need for a modern workplace.
Whilst there are safety concerns about returning to offices where there is a higher risk of contracting the virus, a large percentage of employees are not overly enamoured with working from home full-time either.
Employees want flexibility but they also want the camaraderie of the office. Surveys indicate that one in five people struggle with loneliness and only 26% of Brits plan to continue working from home permanently or occasionally after lockdown.
Leaders recognise they probably need to revert to a hybrid model. They don’t want to lose the visibility, casual conversations and collaborative environments that makes teams more dynamic, but they also want to appease employees looking for the coveted work-life balance.
A hybrid model is a solution that provides the best fit for both employers and employees. Keeping your office is a no-brainer.
A hybrid model then raises the question of whether you go remote-first and occasional office or office first with remote options.
Hybrid models will look different for everyone. The keystrokes, however, are that you have the right technologies in place; collaborative software, cloud storage and advanced cybersecurity measures.
Pros and Cons of a Hybrid Workplace
There is little doubt that companies have to invest in the safety and wellbeing of your staff. Creating a ‘best of both worlds’ solution will involve taking a different approach yet maintaining efficiency and productivity.
Switching to remote + office working patterns inevitably has pros and cons. On the face of it, the benefits outlay the disadvantages.
- No loss in productivity (and in some cases increased productivity)
- Employees are happier with flexible arrangements
- Improved work-life balance
- Lower overheads
- Employees save money on travel and lunch
- Reduces risk of spreading a virus
- Potential to improve employer-employee relationships
- Potential for better employee engagement (more 1-2-1 with their manager and team member)
- Lingering safety concerns
- WFH fatigue
- Potential burnout
- Designing a covid-safe office
- Team-building at a distance
As business leaders lean into hybrid workplace models there are several considerations that should be addressed.
Designing a hybrid office brings its own challenges but no matter which model you choose, technology will take centre stage in accommodating a remote workforce without losing the dynamism of an office-based workforce.
IT Solutions For A Hybrid Workplace
Given the central role digital technology plays in the modern workplace, IT solutions will lead the way when implementing a hybrid model.
Businesses need software and hardware that facilitates communication, collaboration, productivity, security, and employee satisfaction.
The implications for IT teams are extensive; remote-working tools, 24/7 support, user training, cybersecurity risks, collaboration software and video conferencing support and more.
Your IT infrastructure also needs to support the natural growth of your company. Storage solutions and software have to enable companies to adapt easily whether you’re upsizing or downsizing.
In a distributed workforce, employees need to be able to connect and collaborate seamlessly. Cloud technologies foster how modern employees want to work.
Cloud solutions form the backbone of remote working and will take centre stage in the next-generation workplace.
The key to a smooth-flowing hybrid workplace is agility. Employees need the autonomy to work from a variety of locations but will always need access to files, directories and databases.
Cloud solutions stores data centrally and can be accessed from remote locations. This gives your workforce the option to work from anywhere and still have access to applications and files they need on a day-to-day basis.
IT solutions that leverage cloud computing empowers businesses to move faster and decisively without incurring heavy costs. With the right software, you also have the option to bring your teams together seamlessly whether they are working from home or in the office.
Project Management Tools
Keeping track of targets, progress and deadlines are arguably more difficult when you have a distributed workforce. Project management tools like Microsoft Teams enable managers to create working environments for dedicated teams.
A centralised platform all your team members can access ensures everyone is on the same page. Team members can see what work they have been assigned each day, understand their targets and manage their deadlines.
Collaboration is among the chief concerns for managers. Brainstorming, consultations and team bonding are far easier in person.
However, whether your teams are in the office or dispersed in remote locations, collaborative tools enhance teamwork and can provide team members with deeper insights into the bigger picture.
The leading software for bringing remote workers together is Microsoft 365. With innovative tools such as OneDrive, SharePoint, Microsoft Planner and Power Automate, teams can share ideas, inspiration, data and congratulations.
Microsoft Teams also has a video-conferencing feature that can accommodate up to 1000 attendees. Or for webinars and broadcasts, up to 10,000. So if Zoom, Skype or other online platforms fall short, a Microsoft 365 subscription could pave the way to a smooth hybrid office experience.
Instant messaging also gives a distributed workforce to exchange ideas in real-time and keep a record of what was said – which saves you having to type up the minutes of the meeting.
Companies that rely on a help desk or telephone service to conduct customer support will need to install voice over internet protocol (VoIP).
VoIP allows employees to access phone calls from anywhere providing they have access to a stable internet connection. The latest-generation phone system creates a single place for distributed teams to make calls from anywhere at lower costs.
With standard PTSN landlines scheduled to become obsolete by 2025, VoIP will be the go-to telephony solution for businesses anyway. The pandemic has merely expedited the switch.
Employees need to flexibility to work from any location on any device. How companies facilitate IT hardware will be one of the most testing decisions and arguably the most costly.
Laptops are the obvious solution. However, if your current IT hardware set up is desktop PC’s, investing in laptops for an entire workforce is exceptionally costly.
The cost-effective solution is a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. The option is also fraught with difficulties – most notably the increased potential for a data breach.
Companies that take the cost-effective BYOD route must ensure that cybersecurity protocols are in place. Failing to protect consumer information against cybercrime could result in a heavy GDPR penalty.
Defence Against Cybercrime
Cybercriminals were quick to take advantage of employees working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. According to reports, 46% of UK businesses had to deal with a cyberattack last year.
Cybersecurity is a constant challenge for companies adopting a hybrid model. Home networks do not have the same level of security defences as businesses should ordinarily have on a business network.
IT managers should also be wary of employees using personal devices to access systems. Mobile apps are hideouts for cybercriminals laying in wait to steal sensitive data from compromised operating systems.
Malware can go undetected for years. Cybercriminals understand how standard malware detection products work and build spyware to escape detection.
If employees use their personal devices to login into the various applications you use for business operations, malicious actors could have access to login credentials. Cybercriminals may already only be one step away from accessing sensitive data.
Malicious actors have a variety of strategies they use to breach security defences. It is imperative that your staff is given cybersecurity awareness training whether they are working from home or in the office.
Fortunately, there are several IT solutions that tighten up your security defences and give remote workers extra layers of protection.
Microsoft Virtual Desktop has been plugged as a leading solution to tackle the growing threat of cybercriminals targeting remote workers. A virtual desktop provides employees with a secure cloud environment to work in that is separate from your actual network.
A virtual environment also solves the cybersecurity issues for businesses that intend to encourage bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
In addition, IT support teams in London can also sure-up your security defences through remote monitoring software, patch management, installing advanced anti-virus software, and a reliable disaster recovery plan.
Patch management tends to be an IT security service that is mistakenly overlooked. The data breach on the Microsoft Exchange Server at the turn of the year highlighted that leading tech companies are not immune.
The fact of the matter is that any device you connect to the internet can be compromised unless the proper measures are taken. We cannot stress enough how important it is to perform software updates each time a new patch is released by the software company.
In most instances, patch management software automatically updates the latest patch releases. When updates are not automatic, our experts update them manually without having to disrupt operations.
Patches are applied to your entire infrastructure; apps, plugins, operating systems, routers, servers and more. Trying to keep up-to-date with updates when you have a remote workforce is exhausting and not practical. You can’t rely on all your employees to perform updates and in doing so, some updates will stall productivity.
Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication
Remote monitoring services can also detect unusual behaviour together with the device and location of the person attempting to login.
Multi-Factor Authentication provides remote workers and companies with an extra layer of security by confirming their location and proving their identity by asking them to enter a code that has been sent to their mobile phone.
If a login attempt is made from an unrecognised location, your IT team will be alerted and can take relevant steps to strengthen your security defences. Notifications are also sent if a password is changed.
Microsoft Azure and Intune
Subscribers to Microsoft 365 receive the benefits of the tech giant’s cloud-based security management solutions.
The Azure Active Directory is said to help protect 99.9% of cybersecurity attacks whilst Microsoft Intune provides endpoint security, compliance and user benefits for mobile devices. Moreover, IT support teams have the ability to manage device security and policy from a central location.
IT Support Service in London
In the post-pandemic world, the “new normal” is likely to be a hybrid workplace model. With the opportunity to ramp up productivity, provide employees with more autonomy and maximise efficiency, a hybrid workplace has the potential to give you a cutting edge over your competitors.
Naturally, remote working relies heavily on digital technologies and cloud computing solutions that enable your employees to seamlessly access work files from anywhere together with advanced monitoring software to protect your business network from being compromised.
Yet hybrid models could potentially be overwhelming for in-house IT teams – especially when there is a lack of experience with cloud technologies. Before implementing a hybrid model, key decision-makers need to take a remote-first approach and ensure IT solutions are in place from the outset.
Our team of IT experts in London have years of experience planning and managing IT networks from remote locations together with performing cloud configurations.
In other words, we already have the knowledge and expertise to help businesses in London make a smooth transition into the new normal. If you’re planning to adopt a hybrid model moving forward, contact our IT Support in London and avoid common problems associated with remote working.