A few weeks ago, the New York City government announced that it is ending full-time remote work for up to 80,000 city employees starting on May 3. Beyond signaling a massive shift in NYC’s fight against COVID-19, this move is also meant to signal the private sector that companies should be planning their return to city offices as well.
However, it is not going to be as simple as throwing open the doors and welcoming back employees. Almost one-third of people who have never worked remotely in their lives did so for the very first time at the onset of the pandemic. Last month, about the same number of people, were always working remotely and an additional 25 percent were sometimes doing it. One of the harsh truths to come out of the pandemic is that with the right technological support, not only can people work from home as productively as they work from the office, but many employees like working from home. At first, there will most likely be a surge of office workers returning, thankful they can physically see colleagues again, go to lunch together, and just get an overall change in their environment from their near lockdown status.
Once the novelty wears off, however, employees may long for the extra productive hours they had when they didn’t have to commute. Some may have fallen into routines with childcare that are more suited to remote work. In any case, these scenarios will all add up to the same outcome: most employees won’t want to give up their work from home arrangements permanently and companies will have to adapt accordingly. What does this mean for your corporate IT? Mainly it means the incorporation of more flexible IT infrastructure in what, pre-pandemic, might have been a rigid IT setup.
Tech for a hybrid workweek
Though we’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out post-COVID, most technology blogs point to a hybrid workweek where employees split their time between home and an office location while taking their work resources with them to wherever they are working that day. At the onset of COVID-19, many firms opted to try to move their in-place infrastructure to a remote setup. They had employees either carry out or ship their monitors, docking stations, and even desktop computers to their new home offices. Some opted to make do with their laptops, but most have wanted to bring the comforts of the office, such as larger monitors, with them as they transition to remote work. This means that once the office does reopen, all the company-owned equipment is going to have to come back. Employees are going to have to figure out how to move forward without these office comforts in their homes. Enter…the Hybrid Environment.
With a few minor investments, companies are quickly and comfortably assisting employees in setting up productive home office environments. First and foremost, it’s important for your company to examine its current IT infrastructure to see which ‘temporary’ solutions need to become permanent to support a hybrid environment. From an environmental perspective, this may mean re-evaluating the number of licenses you currently have on-hand for remote access such as your VPN or cloud services.
If your firm is considering a transition to the cloud, now may be an excellent time to see it through. A properly configured cloud environment will allow for the secure access of information from outside of your on-premise office. From a secondary standpoint, you may need to invest in more ‘physical’ remote infrastructure such as mobile UBS screens, power supplies, and docking stations. Compared to a full workstation, this relatively small investment will allow your employees to move seamlessly between their home office and their on-site location.
Mobile device management
As you build up your hybrid environment, you must also focus on connectivity time between the various sites. In this vein, we are talking about mobile devices. Whether you decide to go with Bring Your Own Device (BYDO) or a company-owned device policy, your firm will need to have some sort of mobile device policy and infrastructure in place, such as Mobile Device Management (MDM), to facilitate the secure availability of data and applications for your employees.
Firms without experience in deploying MDMs to their employees may find it difficult to start a program from scratch. If your firm has not engaged with mobile device technology during the pandemic, now is the best time to get started before pandemic restrictions are fully lifted. Consider engaging with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) with experience in MDM deployment to help facilitate your mobile device rollout.
Work from home benefits the employer too
Hybrid work environments do not just offer benefits to employees. A well-placed hybrid environment can also offer the employer immense returns in the form of higher productivity among employees. If employees can work outside of your office securely, then they can dedicate the hours that might have been spent commuting towards productive work.
Employers may also benefit from the ability to reduce their real estate footprint which will lead to cost-saving in both maintenance and utilities. Add to that the potential infrastructure savings realized from switching to a cloud environment and the amount of savings can be substantial.
Finally, employers should consider one other benefit that is often overlooked with a hybrid environment: the ability to recruit from outside of your geographic location. The pandemic has shown us that employees can work from almost anywhere without losing productivity. Why not apply that concept to your hiring plans? Your hybrid environment may allow you to offer a working solution to a candidate who lives much further away than your current employees.
One possible scenario is your new remote employee need only visit the office once a month or even once a quarter. This may also allow your firm to access candidates from parts of the country with a lower cost of living, thus making your salary offers more competitive. A perfect candidate need not be overlooked simply because they are in another part of the country.
Whatever the benefits may be, hybrid work environments are here to stay and that’s not a bad thing. A global study by Workplace Intelligence found 61 percent of business leaders and workers say the pandemic has positively reshaped their perceptions about remote work. Many employees seem to like it and if done correctly, companies can benefit from it. The sooner firms start planning to make it part of their permanent environment, the better off they will be.
Need help with your hybrid work environment?
As an MSP experienced in cloud transformation, Infoaxis can help you plan and execute a technology plan to enable your employees to work from home and office seamlessly. Contact us today to get started.
About the Author
Joshua Silberman, CISSP, CCSP, CISA, is a cybersecurity leader responsible for the direction, design, and development of Cloud Transformation and Cybersecurity at Infoaxis.
Reach Joshua at 201.236.3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.