Hybrid Work. Hybrid Business

Hybrid-work-hybrid-business

Work has changed, and so with it how businesses must organise their workforces and processes. WeWork partnered with independent research firm Workplace Intelligence to survey the C-suite about how the hybrid working model develops in their enterprises. The results were stark: One out of two employees would prefer to spend three days a week or

Work has changed, and so with it how businesses must organise their workforces and processes. WeWork partnered with independent research firm Workplace Intelligence to survey the C-suite about how the hybrid working model develops in their enterprises.

The results were stark: One out of two employees would prefer to spend three days a week or fewer in the office, and when they do go in, they want to be there five hours a day or less. And 64% of workers would pay out of their work pockets to access a hybrid working space.

“After the pandemic, these differences are likely to become even more notable,” the survey concludes. “Most employees say they want to work from home more often—but highly satisfied and engaged employees want to spend much more time at locations outside of their company HQ (37%), and much less time at home (27%) than their less-engaged peers. Workers with low satisfaction and engagement want to spend just 17% of their time at other locations and 46% of their time at home.”

To make these changes a reality, companies will need to embrace technologies, as the MIT Technology Review Insights describe: “Innovative technologies are crucial. Technology is crucial to the success of hybrid work efforts post- pandemic. Besides video conferencing tools like Zoom and collaboration applications such as Slack, organisations need to consider cloud-based applications for everything from file sharing and document management to scheduling, training, and hiring. While tools and processes to boost cybersecurity are key, emerging technologies using AI/machine learning as well as augmented/virtual reality should also be examined.”

And strategic changes are already being made: WANdisco, the LiveData company, has announced a permanent switch to a four-day working week for the business. The move allows all WANdisco employees to choose to move to a 40-hour working week over four days, paid at the same contracted salary and all benefits staying the same. Fridays are expected to be the default non-working days for most employees, but this scheme is flexible.

David Richards, CEO and Co-founder of WANdisco, said: “It may feel counterintuitive to many business leaders, but a four-day working week is now an inevitable economic reality for us all – and it’s only a matter of time before many others will follow suit.

“It’s worth remembering there’s historical precedent. In 1973 when UK commercial use of electricity was limited and forced a three-day working week, most people expected a proportional 40 per cent drop in productivity. Much to everyone’s surprise, productivity in fact went up, as people found ways to work effectively within the new time structure. What’s more, John Maynard Keynes predicted back in 1930 that the working week would be drastically cut, to perhaps 15 hours a week, thanks to technological advancements and changing priorities.”

Taking the pulse

To gain insight into how businesses are changing, what hybrid work, and how hybrid enterprises will evolve, Silicon UK spoke with a range of professionals to gain their perspectives and predictions.

[LW] Lee Wrall, Director, Managed Services Provider, Everything Tech.

Lee is the founding Director, alongside Ruth Hall of Managed Services Provider, Everything Tech, with offices across the UK. Lee has over 22 years of experience working in SME IT and became a Certified Microsoft engineer in 2000 before setting up Everything Tech in 2010. He is passionate about helping SMEs get the best out of technology and believes in bringing technology from big corporates to the SME/mid-market to help them achieve strategic business goals.

Lee Wrall, Director, Managed Services Provider, Everything Tech.
Lee Wrall, Director, Managed Services Provider, Everything Tech.

[HN] Helena Nimmo, CIO, Endava.

Helena Nimmo, CIO, Endava.
Helena Nimmo, CIO, Endava.

Helena joined Endava in May 2019 and has global responsibility for Internal Tech across the Group. Nimmo has over 25 years of experience in change and organisational design through product development, data management and technology transformation. Before joining Endava, Nimmo has worked in multiple sectors and various organisations, including Thomson Reuters, Cancer Research UK, Fujitsu and Symbian. She started her technology career with Nokia.

 

[AS] Adam Seamons, Systems and Security Engineer, GRC International Group.

Adam Seamons, Systems and Security Engineer, GRC International Group.
Adam Seamons, Systems and Security Engineer, GRC International Group.

Adam has an extensive IT background working within industries such as manufacturing, packaging, learning and development and Information Security. Along with IT systems and infrastructure support, he manages the internal Cyber Incident Response for GRCI Group and its subsidiary companies.

 

[RM] Ross McCaw, founder and CEO, OurPeople.

The OurPeople app is the brainchild of Ross McCaw, our CEO. He saw the problem and envisaged the solution.

Ross McCaw, founder and CEO, OurPeople.
Ross McCaw, founder and CEO, OurPeople.

[NS] Nic Sarginson, Principal Solutions Engineer, Yubico.

Nic Sarginson, Principal Solutions Engineer, Yubico.
Nic Sarginson, Principal Solutions Engineer, Yubico.

Yubico helps companies like Google secure 85,000+ of its employees against online fraud, platforms like Gov.uk to help protect gateways against cybercriminals, and within the UK government and defence departments to secure their users.

 

[MB] Martin Bodley, Director and Global Head of Bose Work.

Martin Bodley, Director and Global Head of Bose Work.
Martin Bodley, Director and Global Head of Bose Work.

Martin is an expert in the hybrid working space, overseeing the development of Bose Professional’s VB1 Videobar conferencing device, which was launched last year – offering premium video and audio in any meeting space to enable hybrid working. Previously, he founded a startup, ZiipRoom, which developed a more straightforward and mobile-first meeting experience solution before being acquired by Bose.

 

[PP] Phil Perry, Head of UK & Ireland at Zoom.

Phil Perry, Head of UK & Ireland at Zoom.
Phil Perry, Head of UK & Ireland at Zoom.

Phil is responsible for delivering on Zoom’s mission to empower people through video communications in the UK & Ireland. Working with his team, Phil ensures Zoom provides the best experience for its customers while creating an efficient, inspiring, and engaging the company by instilling a high-performance culture. He is a true entrepreneurial leader with over 20 years of experience in the unified communications, collaborations and telecommunications industry. His previous positions have included roles at Twilio and Arkadin.

 

[MR] Matt Roberts, Practice Lead Workspace Solutions, CDW UK.

Matt Roberts, Practice Lead Workspace Solutions, CDW UK.
Matt Roberts, Practice Lead Workspace Solutions, CDW UK.

With over 18 years of experience in IT solutions, Matt leads a team of Modern Workspace-focused architects who enable CDW customers to reach their business goals and deliver a great end-user experience using Workspace Technologies & Solutions.

 

How has the switch to remote hybrid work influenced the technologies workers are now using?

[MR] “According to our research, 94% of companies increased their investment in technology during the pandemic. The transition to hybrid work dramatically altered the critical technologies employees must use to maintain efficient output and remain safe and cooperative in the modern workspace.

“Understandably, with employees still mainly working from home, collaboration solutions such as instant messaging, video calls and interactive meeting functions are vital to ensure that communication between employees remains smooth and accessible. However, physical offices will need to change too. Occupancy tracking solutions that can monitor distancing have become a priority. This capability allows employees to return to the office and facilities to create their own track and trace solutions that identify which employees are potentially at risk following an outbreak.

“Thermal screening technology is also vital for organisations to open premises safely. These screening solutions can be integrated into building access control systems, ensuring only those who have passed screening measures can access the workplace. Technology is now a key part of the door-to-door employee office experience, and this trend is not going anywhere.”

[PP] “One of the many benefits of hybrid work is the increased levels of flexibility for employees. This must be reflected in the technology that workers use. By strategically mixing remote and in-office work, businesses can ensure that staff remain efficient, productive, but most importantly, happy in their roles. For this to become a reality, the right technology has to be in place to support them.”

[NS] “With the decentralisation of workforces comes to the decentralisation of security. Where previously workforces were secured by company-wide networks and technologies, the move to hybrid work necessitated the introduction of new technologies. Since there is often more than one person in a household working from home, usually for different organisations, the home network can now be viewed as a less secure version of your favourite coffee shop’s free Wi-Fi.

“To mitigate these risks, organisations have had to introduce authentication methods that are stronger but also simple to implement and use. For example, multi-factor authentication (MFA) – at a minimum, basic methods such as SMS codes, but ideally more advanced methods, such as hardware tokens. In addition, the actual networks need to be either secured with end-to-end encryption or with robust Zero Trust policies enforced, together with strong Identity and Access Management technology systems in place if they aren’t already.”

[LW] “I think the video call has most significantly influenced the technologies that workers are now using. Pre-COVID, video conferencing, for most companies, was not even on the radar, and was certainly not considered a key way of conducting business. Now it has become the norm. Some employees may love holding a virtual meeting via Teams, Zoom or Google Hangout, while others may hate it. However, the reality is that many meetings can be effectively and efficiently carried out online, which greatly reduces the need for travel and therefore reduces emissions and the impact on the environment.”

 

Is the consumer tech that many workers are using fit for purpose? Do we need a new tech category built for the hybrid worker?

[HN] “As more and more workers remain ‘hybrid’, perhaps only visiting the office two or three times a week, companies will need to carefully consider the tools at their disposal. In addition, the pandemic has dramatically increased our reliance on messaging apps and virtual meeting software, and these will need to be constantly evaluated to ensure they are fit for purpose.

“Perhaps of greater importance is the issue of cyber security. Many people are working from home and using their usual cyber protection tools, which may not have the sophistication of those used by companies that handle great amounts of sensitive data. Cyber security is a Board-level issue that must be taken seriously—standard consumer tools may not be up to scratch.

“As hybrid working gains pace, we may see a widespread evaluation of the tools we’re using and even smaller companies needing to spend money to ensure they are providing the right ‘in-office’ experience at home. Whether this is in the form of paying for more licenses for corporate-level technology solutions or by providing specialised equipment for staff, we may well see a category form specifically for the hybrid worker and sitting in the middle of corporate and consumer technology.”

[MB] “While there are benefits to employees using their own devices for hybrid working, employers must be mindful to ensure they are still appropriate for the workspace. For example, a consumer-grade product may work in a pinch, but when used day-in and day-out, the lack of performance and durability will lead to meeting inefficiency and fatigue and usually a breakdown of the physical product.

“We are increasingly seeing the adoption of ‘bring your own meeting’ (BYOM) by businesses, giving employees the flexibility to use their personal tech devices and link them up with in-office video conferencing systems. However, rules and regulations need to be put in place to ensure that the technology is suitable for employees’ needs, safe to be linked up to the network and manageable by the IT department.

“This means that a good portion of the consumer tech may likely perform poorly if used for collaboration in the hybrid workforce, particularly in an open space or meeting room. Having IT leadership thoroughly vet potential options helps maintain the right level of flexibility, allowing employees choice without compromising security and performance.”

[PP] “There’s a lot of tech already in existence that can be enhanced for the hybrid world without necessarily having to start from scratch. However, there are clearly pain points borne from hybrid working that employees’ are unlikely to have experienced previously, and new features need to be introduced to help businesses fix these. For example, it can be more difficult to see or hear colleagues when some are working in the office while others are at home. At Zoom, we introduced Smart Gallery to help bridge this gap, using the latest hardware and AI technology to build individual video feeds for in-room participants. This allows remote participants to see a clearer, more visible view of all colleagues, when a few team members are in the same room.”

[NS] “Unfortunately, organisations have found that their security strategies, and the technologies involved in these, are not fit for purpose. Yubico’s 2021 research into ‘cybersecurity in the work from anywhere era’ found that 42% feel more vulnerable to cyber threats while working from home, with 39% feeling unsupported by IT, while 62% reported not having completed cybersecurity training for remote work. The report also revealed a degree of overconfidence in spotting phishing attacks, which remain a top cyber risk for organisations. Phishing continues to grow in volume and sophistication and is consistently cited as the root cause behind over 80% of the data breaches we see daily and weekly basis.

“To mitigate this, user authentication needs to be phishing-resistant and built for the purpose. The challenge facing the IT department has been to make that a secure, yet simple process. The technology to solve this challenge does exist, organisations just need to implement it in a way that works for their employees.”

 

Many workers forced to work remotely for the first time suffered tech and application overload. Is a ‘less is more’ approach now a clear trend where more integrated applications reduce application anxiety?

[RM] “Alert fatigue has become a real problem for today’s workforce. With a surge in app-based solutions being introduced to help businesses tackle hybrid communication, employees are becoming overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information being shared, which is causing many to disengage or delay their responses.

“With a mountain of information to digest, teams simply aren’t engaging with weekly or monthly company newsletters and with so much fluidity, these are often out of date by the time they’re read. As a result, we have seen a growing trend in businesses delivering information in a similar style to social media platforms – smaller bite-size chunks and multimedia formats.

“Video has been a hugely popular way of doing this. By sharing company updates and information in this concise, specific and engaging format, efficiency has improved along with employee sentiment, while miscommunication has reduced.”

[AS] “Any change causes disruption and pain. Preparation, forward thinking and good management are the only sure-fire ways to smooth transitions. Businesses that had already embraced some level of remote working, cloud services, etc, have had an easier ride. Organisational IT that has investment and plans in place, along with adoptions in new technology, have been able to pivot and continue working through the disruption.”

[HN] “Someone working from home does not necessarily have immediate access to in-house tech support and may suffer downtime or inadvertently create issues when trying to set up applications. Managing multiple apps that are new to them and have come precisely because they are now working from home may also come as a surprise and shock.

“Before a company decides to roll out yet another application to its staff and add more tools to already-crowded desktops, it is important that they really consider the user and their ability and understanding. Simplifying by looking at improving or replacing applications and introducing smaller improvements over a longer period might prove to be more beneficial as this can allow for a more incremental approach that is less overwhelming. Digital acceleration and tech adoption should be thought of as ‘step-by-step’ rather than all at once, allowing workers to be properly trained and familiarised with technology at a reasonable pace.”

 

Have we resolved the security issues mass remote working presented to many businesses? What does the security landscape look like when considering the new normal of hybrid remote working?

[NS] One-time passcodes (OTPs) sent by SMS and mobile authentication apps are the most popular forms of two-factor authentication (2FA) being introduced in this ‘work from anywhere’ era. Yet, while any form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) offers better security than just a username and password combination, they are vulnerable to phishing, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks, SIM swapping and account takeovers. And on the usability side, while keying in an OPT may seem easy, multiply that by the number of logins and apps used each day, and friction soon stacks up. It’s a fairly cumbersome additional step that users will soon tire of. There’s also the added issue of having a mobile charged within the signal and available to be used.

“Hardware-based security keys provide strong authentication while at the same time reducing friction at login, compared with other multi-stage authentication protocols. What’s more, security keys that meet FIDO2 and WebAuthn standards help pave the way for interoperability. This evolving modern authentication ecosystem is helping deliver security and usability, while also meeting the need for portability, compatibility, and scale. In this way, strong authentication helps smooth the migration towards passwordless, a migration that makes secure, user-friendly tools the future for authentication.”

[MR] “Security is an ongoing conversation, and comprehensive assessments must be carried out so that businesses can identify security needs and future threats. During the pandemic, 60% of IT decision-makers felt that remote working increased vulnerability to cyberattacks, and 53% of those with a return-to-work strategy believed that these plans made them more exposed. This hyperawareness of security risks is key to resolving these issues. Although in its infancy, the new security landscape associated with hybrid working will be characterised by discovery.

“To protect the company while the workforce is distributed, discovery workshops will need to be held with customers to find out the information they have and the level of protection it needs. When rolling out new devices to end users, information needs to be moved from the old device to the new device. By undertaking discovery at the transition phase, companies can ensure that back doors aren’t left open.”

 

Do businesses also need to pay close attention to EX when developing their hybrid working technologies as we move into a post-pandemic environment?

[RM] “EX is the most important thing when developing and implementing hybrid working technologies – what employees don’t want is simply another platform that mimics those they already use in their everyday lives. A successful workplace communications platform should address all employees, whether desk-based or deskless and should aim to remove chatter that is not targeted to specific team members. Employees should be able to navigate the platform easily, have access to the information they are seeking quickly, and share updates in a variety of different formats.

“Teams should be able receive the targeted information they need, when they need it and on a platform that is considerate of how they best digest this information – rather than those that are simply designed and regurgitated for the entire company. Ultimately, this will make comms more personal by reducing unnecessary updates and ensuring leaders have a clear view of engagement across the business.”

[MR] “With the “great resignation” underway across sectors, companies need to do whatever it takes to retain employees, including investment in EX. The right hybrid technologies can offer positive employee experiences, bolster productivity, improve retention, support recruitment, and help organisations maintain, or achieve, a competitive edge.

“The pandemic sparked exponential changes and demonstrated how productive remote work can be. In this next phase, organisations must foster a positive environment for employees and allow them to feel more active at work, ensuring more collaboration takes place than we would have historically had. Failure to implement a positive experience will not only mean that companies forgo the potential workforce-motivating rewards but could also begin to diminish its competitiveness. This exists as stark warning for those organisations that refuse to take EX seriously.”


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels