When the pandemic hit in the first quarter of 2020, Canadian businesses had to reconfigure their working setups to keep operations running optimally. But as the situation gradually improved, businesses have begun opening up again, albeit slowly and with some restrictions.
Staff are returning to their places of work, usually in rotational shifts that allow them to work some days at the office and other days at home. In some organizations, select teams are required to report to the office, while the rest of the workforce are allowed to continue telecommuting. This new hybrid work environment is becoming a part of the new normal, but like any innovation in the workplace, it comes with a unique set of challenges that your organization must overcome.
Why adopt a hybrid work environment?
COVID-19 has upended how we work, and it has also given rise to a new kind of hybrid work setup consisting of both office-based employees and remote workers. This arrangement promises to deliver the benefits of both remote working and traditional co-locational working, thus putting organizations in an optimal position to drive growth.
When properly implemented, a hybrid work environment allows employees to enjoy the increased flexibility of remote working while facilitating seamless collaboration between colleagues through face-to-face communication. On the other hand, a poorly set up hybrid work environment can cause misunderstandings, impede collaboration, and reduce productivity.
How to prepare your business for a hybrid work environment
Creating a hybrid work environment entails planning extensively, strengthening team dynamics, and investing in technologies that can support your changing needs. Here are some points to consider.
Your hybrid work environment should be unique to your business
Every business has a unique history, set of company values, target market, and value delivery strategy. You will have to consider all of these factors to come up with a hybrid setup that works for your company. Some of the role-specific questions you should ask are:
- Why do particular employees or teams have to perform their work in the office?
- To what extent does an employee or team need to collaborate with others?
- What types of meetings are best to have in person?
- Do certain employees/teams need to be in the office on the same days for in-person meetings and collaboration?
Apart from deciding on the best setting for particular tasks, you must also take into account your employees’ points of view. Each member of your staff has experienced the pandemic differently and is in unique circumstances that can affect how they deal with a hybrid work environment. As such, you should also consider the following:
- How do your employees feel about working in the office versus at home?
- How comfortable are your staff with big changes — do they feel overwhelmed or disconnected? How do these changes affect their productivity?
- How will you select the days when employees can work from home?
To create an effective hybrid workplace, you must be able to balance your employees’ personal preferences and the tasks you think could better benefit from closer support in the office.
Consistency and flexibility shouldn’t be at odds
Instead of adopting so-called tried-and-tested practices for hybrid workplaces, aim for consistency and flexibility. These two concepts may sound contradictory, but they’re not. Be consistent when it comes to allocating days of the weeks to different individuals or teams; doing so creates structure and encourages dependability. At the same time, be flexible when it comes to non-scheduled days and give staff autonomy over where they want to work. It’s crucial to follow the rules you set, but it’s also critical to leave some room that lets you update the rules if they don’t work.
Provide tools to keep productivity and engagement up
Employees must further sharpen their communication and IT skills to maintain productivity and develop critical competencies in the hybrid workplace. Providing them with the tools they need will not only make their transition to hybridity smoother but will also help preserve company culture.
For instance, because various teams are always coming to and working from the office, there’s very little opportunity to build intergroup activities and routines. It’s easy for teams to get disconnected from each other, so everyone must be more intentional with their communication efforts.
Giving your employees the right tools such as reliable Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, Microsoft Teams for collaboration, Microsoft 365 for shared documents, and cloud-based versions of business applications for easy “work from anywhere” access can facilitate efficient communication that is essential in building strong relationships among team members.
Using services like Citrix or Microsoft Remote Desktop, for instance, allows your employees to have secure remote access for Line of Business applications from wherever they're working. This means that your company won’t need to shift to cloud versions of traditional applications because remote teams will be able to access these using remote session tools.
And don’t forget cybersecurity!
It’s critical for every business to secure its data, but even more so when workers are moving in and out of a protected environment. Make sure that your staff use a virtual private network (VPN) to access your systems, especially when they’re connecting from public places with weak Wi-Fi security. A VPN encrypts a user’s IP address and the data they send and receive over the internet, thus keeping their identity and information secure.
Some other ways you can fortify business cybersecurity defences include:
- Data access management – Limiting user access based on a particular employee’s roles prevents internal threat actors and hackers from misusing or abusing access privileges.
- Mobile device management (MDM) software – It provides additional security measures by limiting what apps can be downloaded to a device and which features of an app can be accessed. An MDM solution also allows IT administrators to remotely wipe the data in laptops, phones, tablets, and other mobile devices in case these get lost or stolen.
- Authentication beyond passwords – Enabling solutions such as two-factor authentication and passwordless authentication makes the user identity verification process more secure, as these methods require inputting user credentials that are difficult to fake.
- Cybersecurity training – Having regular cybersecurity training sessions such as phish testing will keep employees' security awareness high and make them more wary of potential cyberattacks.
Creating a hybrid office environment that works can be daunting — but you don’t have to face the challenges alone. Let the experts at XBASE Technologies prepare, secure, and manage your hybrid IT infrastructure, so you can focus on building an efficient and productive workplace in the new normal and beyond. Call us at 647-697-7710 or drop us a line today.