Monday, 9 May 2022

A guide to making hybrid work over the long term

What is the future of remote work now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted? Will hybrid be the new “new normal”? Find out more in this blog.

What is the future of remote work now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted? Will hybrid be the new “new normal”? And, if so, how can you make it work for the long term?

The Grant McGregor team considers a few tips to help make hybrid work for your organisation and your people.

Work changed during the pandemic. For many, especially those in knowledge-based organisations, remote work became the norm. Now that restrictions have been lifted, many are expressing a desire to get back to doing the things they used to enjoy. But how does that apply in the workplace?

Hybrid is the most popular option

Research from the beginning of 2022(1) found that 57 percent of UK employees would prefer to go back to a hybrid working arrangement, with some working from home and some working in the office.

Only five percent of respondents said they would like to work from home all of the time, leaving 38 percent preferring to work from the office all the time. Interestingly, this contrasts with findings from March 2021(2) by the University of Strathclyde, when 31 percent of respondents said they would prefer to work from home all the time.

These preferences are being felt by employers. The CIPD’s Employment Survey 2022(3) found that 37 percent of organisations reported an increase in requests for flexible working during the last six months. Many employers are keen to respond positively to these requests. The CIPD found 42 percent of organisations are more likely to grant requests for flexible working than they would have been before the pandemic.

How can organisations respond to the increased desire for hybrid working?

Of course, not every role is suitable for remote or hybrid working arrangements. This causes some organisations to hold back from offering hybrid working arrangements, because of a perceived unfairness when offering them only to certain roles.

It is for this reason that the CIPD(4) emphasises the need to consult and collaborate with employees when designing hybrid working practices. This should include the development of clear and transparent policies about eligibility for such arrangements.

Furthermore, managers need to navigate these changes collaboratively with their staff. Gartner(5) emphasises that organisations must help employees to navigate expectations around hybrid working so that everyone can successfully balance empathy and performance requirements.

Supporting managers and staff to make the best of hybrid work

Moving to a hybrid work model has implications for leaders and managers as they need to adapt their management styles to fit remote team needs. The Harvard Business Review recommends such adaptation should include:

• Support for synchronous and asynchronous communication

• Brainstorming

• Problem solving

• Codifying knowledge online

• Virtual socialisation

• Teambuilding and mentoring

In addition, the CIPD highlights the need to rethink performance management, remote communication and collaboration and relationship building.

The practical considerations to support effective hybrid work over the long term

During the pandemic, many organisations leant heavily into technology, especially cloud and digital collaboration solutions. This often meant supplying and remotely provisioning laptops and mobile devices, as well as introducing new software solutions such as Microsoft Teams.

Best for remote provisioning

When you’re shipping devices to your remote workers, you want to be able to provision and manage those devices remotely. For this, you’ll need Microsoft Autopilot. It’s designed to enable zero-touch deployment – helping to minimise IT efforts and ensuring users don’t need to come into the office to get the device set up. As well as ensuring pre-provisioned, business-ready devices, it enables the remote configuration of BitLocker encryption and other applications for better security – such as Microsoft Intune.

Best for endpoint protection

Endpoint management is absolutely vital if you are going to secure all the devices connecting to your network and accessing your corporate data. To achieve this, we like Microsoft Endpoint Manager. It provides unified endpoint management of corporate and BYOD devices of all kinds in a way that helps you to protect your corporate data. Use it in conjunction with Microsoft Intune to set application and usage policies that match your organisation’s own risk appetite. The other option is BitDefender Gravity Zone. This highly rated anti-virus solution is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses which might not have the enterprise-grade Microsoft licence agreements in place.

Best for remote use of on-premises or legacy applications

VPNs might offer secure access to the corporate network, but they can be expensive. And with all the extra network traffic that happened overnight in March 2020, many organisations were forced to rethink their rules about which traffic used their VPN. While cloud applications could neatly by-step this problem, on-premises or legacy applications couldn’t. This is where Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop comes into its own. With it, users can securely login and use those applications running in Microsoft Azure with a fantastic user experience.

Best for securing access to cloud applications

With users directly connecting to cloud-based apps outside the VPN, the best way to add an extra layer of protection to those user experiences is to implement multi-factor authentication. There are several ways to do this, including using a Microsoft Authenticator app on end user devices.

These technology solutions are straight-forward ways to tighten up the security and ease the management of your hybrid working arrangements. However, they’re not the only considerations. You may want to review your office environments – switching to a “hot desk” style environment so users need only a single laptop or mobile device whether they are working at home or in the office. This keeps overheads down and makes life easier for users and for IT.

Furthermore, the Harvard Business Review(6) highlights the need for additional attention to data security and regulatory compliance requirements.

Communicating the benefits for organisational advantage

The 2022 survey by the CIPD found that 41 percent of organisations say that hybrid and home working has increased their organisational productivity and efficiency. This sentiment is shared by employees; the survey found 43 percent of employees say they are more productive when working from home or in a hybrid way.

But perhaps the greatest advantages with providing flexible and hybrid working arrangements, are around recruitment and retention. The CIPD has found that 56 percent of organisations believe it is important to provide flexible working as an option when advertising jobs. They see this as a key way of attracting staff and addressing skill or labour shortages. This is confirmed by employee findings(7): 38 percent of UK workers said they could look for a different job if their employer didn’t allow flexible or hybrid working.

What next?

Would you like technical advice about how to better support flexible and hybrid working arrangements in your organisation?
The Grant McGregor team is on hand to help! Call us on: 0808 164 4142 or contact us below:

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Further reading:
If you are using Microsoft Teams as your remote collaboration tool, then you might like to review three of our recent blogs.

They detail some of our favourite new Microsoft Teams features:

8 Cool Features You Should Be Using in Microsoft Teams

Another 8 Great Features You Should Be Using in Microsoft Teams

New for 2022: Ten Great New Features in Microsoft Teams

Other essential security reading:

What’s changed with Cyber Essentials? A review of the NCSC’s update to the scheme.

Practical steps you can take right now to protect your organisation from the heightened cyber threat as a result of the war in Ukraine.