As companies near the one-year mark of the sudden shift to a 100 percent remote workforce, corporate leadership is forced to consider a new vision. Sure, remote work was a “thing” before the pandemic hit, but it was usually a day or two a week, generally a perk reserved for management. COVID-19 became the great equalizer — everyone logged in from home every single workday.
Over the last 11 months, we’ve learned a lot about what works (and what doesn’t). Organizations have had to test and fortify their systems to support remote teams, practices and communication preferences have changed, and employees and management have grown increasingly confident that productivity and innovation can continue outside the confines of corporate headquarters.
This does not mean that workers will never return to the mothership, nor are they likely to spend five days a week in the office post-pandemic. The scales are no longer swinging from fully on-campus to totally remote; rather, they will balance in the middle. This is why we’re starting to hear so much buzz about hybrid work environments.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic recently wrote in Harvard Business Review that our next normal combines the “power of historical opposites: where we were once ruled by ‘either-or,’ we are now seeing the rise of ‘and.'” He points out that “the ability to make seemingly incompatible alternatives coexist is unfolding as a pretty generalizable strength, both at the organizational and individual level.”
Looking at it from this perspective, a recent Global Workplace Analytics survey, The Business Case for Remote Work — For Employers, Employees, the Environment, and Society, points out that companies could save up to $11,000 per employee if team members worked in the office part of the week and elsewhere (be it a customer site, hotel, their apartment or a coffee shop down the street) for part of the week. On a macro level, if 48 million employees spent half their time working remotely, overall savings to companies could hit $500 billion a year according to the study. That alone makes a pretty solid business case to consider going hybrid.
On the employee side, there are pros and cons to working from home, just as there are heading into the office every day. Different, positive dynamics develop, however, when people are given the flexibility to choose where they work best and under what circumstances. Chamorro-Premuzic notes that by allowing employees to curate their own work experience, organizations can help them satisfy personal, psychological and professional priorities. This could lead to greater productivity as well as a more creative and intellectually stimulated workforce that drives innovation forward — in addition to cultivating a loyal workforce.
In order for this to happen, however, certain technical aspects have to be addressed. Employees need a connected experience. Their systems must work just as well from their remote location of choice as they do in the office, without placing a greater burden on IT teams. This is a very real concern because no matter how great the savings are or how positive morale is for embracing a hybrid model of work, an organization cannot risk the security of its systems in a world where devastating cyberattacks are occurring at an alarming rate. Bad actors persistently seek out any endpoint that presents even the smallest opening, one that perhaps hasn’t received the latest security updates and patches.
Maintaining a combination of local endpoints, mobile devices, and remote machines can be a daunting task — especially in this new world of work. It might involve the setup and management of separate content delivery networks (CDNs) and often accompanies a host of VPN and performance issues as IT administrators try to configure content and software packages and deploy security updates to tens of thousands of endpoints at precisely the moment they are needed.
The complications are enormous, especially on top of all the other tasks IT teams are charged with. This is why so many enterprises have accelerated their digital transformation plans, eyeing a move to the cloud. Cloud-based systems alleviate the strain placed on networks while adding a new level of flexibility. Cost-efficiency is an added bonus as well. But, going full cloud is a massive undertaking — one that comes with its own issues, such as reliable content delivery. As a result, many enterprises find themselves in a new kind of hybrid environment.
The OTHER Hybrid Environment
Enterprises are searching out IT solutions that can help them bridge the gap between on-premises and cloud so that they can harness the benefits of both: the speed, scale and reliability of on-premises with the flexibility and cost-efficiency of the cloud. The catch is finding solutions that make the experience of managing endpoints, regardless of their location, much more consistent.
Fortunately, these solutions are now hitting the market. Enterprises, like their workers, will no longer be forced to choose between two opposites in order for systems to work seamlessly. IT administrators won’t have to manage two different CDNs or contend with extensive VPN or bandwidth issues to ensure that workers can function just as well out of the office as they do in — and as they toggle between the two.
New technologies that combine rapid, scalable content delivery, distribution and storage extend the boundaries of the enterprise network very effectively. They can cover the entire internet so that IT can securely exert total visibility and control over all endpoints, regardless of where they are. Best of all, these solutions enable enterprises to move forward with their digital transformation at their own pace, without any negligible effect on workers or system performance. This is the key to a successful hybrid workforce — and it is ready today.
As first published in BetaNews.