A hybrid work model includes a combination of in-office and remote work. Employees may be able to decide how they work, or they might follow a set schedule integrating both.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for the hybrid model, but we do know a few definitive things.
First, the hybrid model is one that employees seem to prefer. There are also business advantages, which we’ve seen during the pandemic.
There are concerns that you need to address, though. For example, you need to consider cybersecurity and access control in a hybrid model. How will employees gain access to the resources they need to do their jobs from different devices and locations?
We’re going to address all the core things you should know about a hybrid model, particularly as we’re about to embark on a new year.
What is a Hybrid Work Model?
A hybrid work model can be a lot of things, but at the core, the commonality is that it involves a combination of working remotely and on-site in a traditional office environment.
There are variations of a hybrid model, which include:
- Remote-first: In a remote-first model, operations are very similar to a fully remote company but there are a couple of exceptions. First, the company maintains an office space where employees can work. There also may not be the same level of flexibility for every employee. Depending on their job role, some employees may be required to keep coming into the office. Remote-first will have employees who rely on default of online communication. Dropbox is a large company that announced they were going to be remote-first. They’re maintaining office spaces worldwide, but they say those spaces will be for collaboration and community building rather than solo work.
- Office-occasional: In this model, employees will usually come into the office a couple of times a week. The office isn’t just for collaboration like it is with remote-first. In an office-occasional model, employees could come in for solo work. There could be flexible scheduling or firm guidelines. For example, employees would be expected to be in the office every Wednesday but otherwise could choose where to work.
- Office-first: In an office-first hybrid model, that’s the preferred work environment, but remote work is allowed. This hybrid model was becoming increasingly common before the pandemic.
Why Are Companies Increasingly Implementing a Hybrid Model?
Some core shifts are going on in the world right now that are leading to increased implementation of hybrid models. Most of these shifts were triggered or sped up because of the pandemic.
Businesses had to rethink the physical workplace and how to remain agile.
Since the start of the pandemic, employers have begun to understand they do have the tools and skills available for employees to work remotely, but it also showcased some of the challenges.
Ultimately, employees want the flexibility to choose where and how they work. That doesn’t always mean they want to work remotely all the time, which can lead to isolation and disengagement. However, employees do want to be able to spend less time on things like commutes and spend more time with their loved ones or doing things they enjoy.
Hybrid work decouples the workplace from the actual physical location, and it reshapes the idea of work in general, as well as productivity.
Soon, Generation Z will be the dominant segment of the working population, and in a 2020 study from Salesforce, respondents said they didn’t want to work from home only. Their preferred work situation, according to that survey is splitting their time between remote work and being in an office.
On an individual level, the appeal of working remotely includes the ability to shape work-life balance the way we want it to be and based on our values.
Cloud-based solutions make collaboration easy, no matter the physical location. At the same time, younger employees may not have the space at home to set up a full office the way they’d like it to be. Younger employees also value the opportunity to spend face-to-face time with employees and build relationships.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Hybrid Workplace?
If a hybrid work environment is on your list of strategic priorities for 2022, it’s important to be realistic about both the pros and the cons.
The upsides of a hybrid work environment include:
- Hybrid work speaks to the preferences of many employees and offers them a sense of flexibility they value.
- You can recruit talent regardless of geographic boundaries.
- Many employees flourish in an environment where they can focus on the work at hand and not on things like office politics.
- There are reduced infrastructure costs
There are downsides to hybrid work, however. Cybersecurity can be a big one. You have to think carefully about how you will implement secure access to the resources your employees need.
It can also be more challenging to promote your corporate culture and facilitate engagement in a remote environment, and collaboration can suffer.
Managing Cybersecurity in a Hybrid Environment
Since cybersecurity is one of the biggest possible downsides of a hybrid environment, it’s worth talking about on its own.
In traditional models, the cybersecurity strategies used particularly by SMBs have relied on things like firewalls and perimeter defenses. This is known as the castle-and-moat network security model. It works well when your employees are all on-premises. The pandemic showed us that it doesn’t work well when employees aren’t on-site because there isn’t a perimeter.
Most employers rely heavily on the cloud, which completely eliminates the perimeter in many cases and creates more potential entry points for cyberattacks.
In the early days of COVID-19, employers didn’t have time to think about how cybersecurity would be affected. Now, we know many of the effects of remote work on cybersecurity, and employers can begin formalizing policies accordingly.
A few things to know about security in a hybrid work environment include:
- Since perimeter defenses aren’t enough anymore, organizations need to shift to thinking about endpoint devices and the users. Which endpoints are your employees using for work? This can be overwhelming if you have BYOD policies, so if possible, you might require employees to only use devices you issue.
- Employees have to be trained on best practices specific to remote work. For example, they need to understand the risks of public Wi-Fi networks, having strong passwords, and phishing emails.
- Identity and access management (IAM) solutions will be a big part of cybersecurity strategies in 2022 because they’ll be able to combat many issues with a remote environment. For example, they’ll eliminate the risks of bad password habits using multi-factor authentication paired with single sign-on. Identity and access management not only strengthens cybersecurity procedures and paves the way for zero-trust security but can also help improve employee productivity.
- Employers will have to understand that cybersecurity awareness and training are strategic priorities. Employee training needs to be ongoing rather than one-and-done. The costs of not doing so are way too high.
Other Hybrid Work Considerations
The following are some other things to keep in mind about hybrid work models and what they might look like in 2022.
- Talk to employees about what they want. Whenever you’re thinking about making a shift, go straight to the source rather than trying to guess.
- Offer options, but don’t go overboard. Employees like to have options and flexibility, and they like to feel in control of how they work. At the same time, you don’t want to offer so many options that it’s overwhelming for them or you.
- Have clear policies and procedures for everything from how you expect employees to work, response times, and cybersecurity best practices. If you don’t already have a formal hybrid work policy, it’s time to create one.
- Are there legal implications of hybrid work you need to factor in?
- Embrace technology, but don’t get too excited so that you’re introducing a lot of tools that are going to complicate things. Stick with the basics.
- Training and development need to be part of your hybrid model, just like they would be if everyone were working onsite. You want to make sure that you’re extending new opportunities for employees to grow with the company even if they aren’t in the office. Don’t overlook your remote employees.
- The experience needs to be consistent between working in-office and remotely. Don’t make your remote employees feel like they’re less-than.
While 2020 through this year have been challenging and led to a lot of changes, hopefully, 2022 is the time you can embrace these changes and turn them into something positive. If that involves moving a hybrid model or maybe refining your current hybrid approach, remember to address the challenges head-on.
Recognize there will be headwinds, but with strategic planning, you can overcome them and have a more productive, engaged workforce.