A hybrid work environment—where some people are working from home, some people are working in the office, and some people are doing a little of both—has become the norm. The lingering nature of the pandemic, tempered by the hope of widespread vaccination, plus the corporate world’s embrace of remote work adds up to one viable path forward for most organizations: an indefinite hybrid work model.
In some ways, from a collaboration standpoint, a hybrid environment is even more challenging than a fully remote one, in which individuals may be scattered but stick to one or two devices at their dedicated workspace.
Now that these new forms of work have become semi-permanent, it is a good time to take stock of your technology infrastructure to determine its readiness to securely empower your workers in a hybrid office. A well-planned infrastructure that takes a long view of the organization’s expected growth can enable your teams to work together, securely and seamlessly, despite the challenges of fluidity.
Here are some things to keep in mind as we all prepare to change how we think about the office environment.
With traditional technologies built for in-office work, like on-premises virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs) and virtual private networks (VPNs), there are many limitations when entering the remote workspace in which provisioning can become painfully restricted. These issues are increasingly prevalent in the new world of work. Upwork estimated that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025, an increase of 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates, meaning scalability will be a key success factor, particularly for IT.
Whatever tools and solutions an organization considers going forward, it is important to remember that the solution must be scalable for this new environment. We are no longer in “Band-Aid mode,” trying to find temporary fixes for an emergency. This is a long game as many organizations will operate in a hybrid model for the foreseeable future.
Most organizations should prepare to grow as they normally would, despite the current circumstances. Therefore, IT teams should be ready to support current employees and onboard new ones operating in any physical location, often on multiple devices, in multiple locations. Scalable IT solutions allow teams to continue to expand without running into avoidable volume issues.
Sharing information is vital to collaboration and productivity. Ensuring that this information stays secure is even more fraught in a hybrid environment because 1. You have physical movement in and out of private networks, 2. You have individuals who may be working fluidly between company-issued and personal devices, and 3. You likely have security measures in various states of rollout and update.
To maintain security, solutions and processes should account for the “bring your own device” reality, as well as seamless remote roll out and management of updates, despite operating in multiple IT environments and circumstances.
There is also the looming specter of advancing cybersecurity threats and scams that target individual employees, all of which are increasingly prevalent in a remote work landscape. The rapid adoption of remote solutions early in the pandemic created new vulnerabilities for organizations pivoting quickly to remain productive. Whatever security measures are in place, it will fall on the IT teams, along with their vendor partners, to educate and protect workers, whether they are in the office or not. (Alerting them to new risks and prompting them to check for security updates on corporate, personal, and mobile devices, for example.)
The Right Tools
Teams require tools uniquely built for remote collaboration, such as Microsoft Teams and Yammer. These are tools that foster collaboration and make it easier to share ideas in real-time, regardless of where people are situated.
Digital tools must also take the places of, or at least supplement, the capabilities possible in physical environments but lost in virtual ones. For example, Pacxa’s internal teams relied heavily on whiteboarding during meetings to plan and visualize complex infrastructure layouts, and when the transition to video meetings arose, we began leveraging Microsoft Whiteboard to continue whiteboarding in a new way.
The key, of course, is to enable remote access to the apps, resources, and data that people use regularly. Workers must be able to easily retrieve and share data with a consistent experience across environments and in a secure manner.
Another consideration for these tools is incorporating verified external users, such as consultants and vendors, whose participation may be crucial. The infrastructure must support external users while upholding security protocols and managing data governance. Pacxa is employing strategies like Conditional Access policies to help organizations provision and manage access, and stop malicious activity.
Making the most of the hybrid model for the long term depends on the IT decisions that your organization makes today. Lay the groundwork for secure and productive collaboration that will enable your teams’ continued success and growth for the future ahead.