Talent Management

An IT Leader’s 5 Priorities for Creating a Successful Hybrid Work Environment

8min 15 Jul 2021

Hybrid work is gaining traction as the favored work model for many businesses. There’s a belief that this model can give us the best of both worlds as it bridges the flexibility of remote work and the social interaction of working in an office alongside colleagues. 

Adding to this trend, a whopping 9 out of 10 employers are feeling the pressure from their teams to make a long-term shift to either remote or hybrid work. This pressure is only getting stronger as more and more companies decide to switch to an entirely distributed workforce and offer flexibility as needed.  

Before we dive into how IT leaders can create an environment for hybrid work to thrive, it’s important to note from the outset that not all hybrid work models are created equal. 

In fact, a recent guest on our podcast, Raj Choudhury (a leading voice on ‘Work from Anywhere’ and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School) notes that there are two versions of hybrid work: ‘good hybrid’ and ‘terrible hybrid’. The latter happens when members of the same team decide to come to the office on entirely different days so they never get to actually work together. 

For the good hybrid approach, Raj identifies three principles to stick to: 

  1. Maintain uniformity– When the team is coming into the physical office, every team member should come. 
  2. Get everyone to first work remotely– Even when an employee shows up in the office, they have to continue behaving like a remote worker because there might be colleagues who are working from home that day. They’ll still have to hold remote-inclusive calls, write down knowledge, and maintain asynchronous communication. 
  3. Refrain from taking away the flexibilityof working from anywhere  For Raj, organizations shouldn’t impose a set, weekly number of days employees come into the office. Instead, he advises considering time in the physical office as a percentage, i.e., employees need to come in 25% of the time. This could look like working from anywhere for 3 weeks, then going into the office for 1 full week. 

While a hybrid work environment can offer the promise of the “best of both worlds”, it also requires the right IT setup and processes to function properly. To ensure you’re following the ‘good hybrid’ work approach, here are five key priorities IT leaders need to consider and prepare for. 

Optimize for team collaboration and communication with hybrid work 

Collaboration and communication are two of the areas that pose the most challenges when adopting a hybrid work model. That’s because these were the biggest struggles remote teams had during the lockdown, as well as prior to 2020 when companies were considering distributed work. 

As you’re preparing your organization, think about how you can create seamless collaboration and communication experiences for your employees. This will ensure that both your remote and in-office talent reach their full potential. 

But how can you do that? 

By removing sources of friction. 

The first step is to take a good look at past events, tasks, and conflicts, and take time to discuss them with your team.  

Consider what your approach to specific situations is when working from the office and brainstorm potential roadblocks in collaboration and communication that could occur when at home. Gartner recommends using your past experience with working from home to highlight successful experiences and keep them within your day-to-day workflow. 

By now you’ll be familiar with the mindset change needed to adapt to asynchronous work. The next challenge is to design a working environment that maintains good communication when switching between remote and in-office environments.  

One way to move forward with this, which we already mentioned, is to make sure everyone communicates in a remote-first manner even when they’re in the office. This way, a level playing field is created for all employees no matter where they are, and messaging and files are kept centralized where both in-office and remote employees can access them. 

Another tool to maintain strong communication is the virtual water cooler, as Choudhury suggests. These calls can actually create more connections than in a physical office and should be mandatory to avoid having only the same people on a video call. 

Security regardless of location 

Naturally, most IT leaders prioritize communication above all else. Their previous main focus was to find a way to ensure there are no gaps in their remote communication process. Now, their future outlook is redirected towards balancing communication and maintaining security while constantly switching between home and the office.  

51% of leaders want to ensure that collaboration is secure for all parties, particularly given the recent spike in cyber-attacks. 

Wrike study reveals 61% of IT team leaders will dedicate their core IT budget towards security over the next year. This is part of their approach to maintain data integrity, decrease risks such as data breaches, and ensure employee data privacy. 

So what are the major action steps you and your team can take to maintain a secure collaborative environment? 

  • Add DNS protection to employees’ devices to prevent them from accessing dangerous websites that could be risking their privacy and your company’s data. 
  • Establish a secure password policy, requiring employees to change their passwords regularly and use distinct passwords for every account. 
  • Get your team to regularly update the apps and software they’re using, be they for work or personal purposes. 
  • Choose apps that offer multi-factor authentication to prevent unwanted individuals from entering their accounts. 
  • Have your team members use a VPN service to encrypt their Internet traffic 
  • Consider having a consultant instruct your employees on the best practices of online security on a regular basis. 

One of the best ways of getting a head start towards a fully-secure work environment is to provide every employee with a device to be used only for work. You can set these up with the right apps and settings to protect your company’s intellectual property and sensitive business information.  

But if you’re letting your team work on their own devices, in addition to ensuring regular updates are made, you’ll need to create a solid information security plan you can rely on within a hybrid setup. 

Reimagine the office space while keeping home workspaces suitable 

As an IT leader, you’ll find that the emergence of hybrid work as a popular model brings up new responsibilities. You’ll now be rethinking ways of organizing the office space and incorporating daily tools and equipment into employees’ homes.  

This said, the pace at which organizations are adopting new office technologies has sped up considerably. 

With hybrid work, an office is no longer a place where individuals have to go. Instead, they choose to be there to have a face-to-face meeting, brainstorm their next project, or create physical products and mockups. 

The new office should become a place that supports hands-on work and visual presentations along with ensuring teammates stay connected at lunch, over a cup of coffee, or through a fun team activity. This means it’s time to ditch the cubicles and long rows of computers that limited people’s opportunities for team bonding.  

All other work processes that don’t require collaboration or physical presence can be kept at home where employees can focus on their independent tasks instead. 

An IFMA survey reveals that 56% of SMEs will shift their company’s budgets away from the physical workplace and towards improving employee digital experiences — including better and more secure apps, home office stipends, and reliable Wi-Fi hardware. This supports inclusion and allows team members to work from anywhere without missing the technologies they have in the office.  

Testament to this is the fact that a quarter of companies in the US have already decided to change to a smaller office space but, crucially, most aren’t leaving their old office spaces altogether. 

Rather, business leaders are opting to change the office layout, switch pathways, and add new equipment to keep people working from home connected with those in the office. 

Support employees with new tech 

It’s crucial for leaders to reconsider what IT support should look like in a hybrid environment.  

The hybrid model provides the efficiency and speed of remote work, combined with the connection of in-person work. As an IT department, you can leverage this mix to provide support to your employees when it comes to collaboration struggles and tech problems. 

Some of the most common hurdles your employees will bump into are tech issues like apps or equipment not working or someone not having the correct DNS settings. 

That’s where IT comes in to ensure troubleshooting either personally or through a person whose main role is to support employees with tech crashes. 

You’ll also want to consider purchasing the right tools to help you monitor and fix devices remotely. Remote Access Plus, Rescue by LogMeIn, or the classic TeamViewer are good solutions to start with.  

In time, a security or tech consultant can help your team members find better ways of accessing their documents and make easy fixes to their devices or network connection. 

Bring HR processes into the flow of your hybrid work 

Bringing your HR operations into your team’s workflow includes adding key processes and policies into daily tasks. 

IT leaders should be centrally involved in this because it will ensure better adoption of new technologies and ways of working. 

In turn, bringing key HR processes into the flow of work will create more opportunities for employees to stay connected and productive.  

Also, switching away from outdated tools and being able to integrate many HR functions into a solution like Microsoft Teams, for example, will not only lead to greater adoption but fewer manual integrations between tools in your ecosystem. 

Talentsoft facilitates hybrid work 

Overall, in the new world of work, it’s more important than ever to bring HR processes into the flow of work. Seamless, user-friendly experiences when it comes to HR processes like performance management and learning, will play a part in your employees remaining engaged and invested in their jobs, wherever they are working from. 

There are two key points to keep in mind when choosing your next HR stack: making use of native integrations to speed up administrative duties and keeping all data within one single platform. 

We believe HR operations should be brought as much as possible within “the flow of work”, so employees can seamlessly complete HR processes within the tool they use every day. Talentsoft’s Microsoft Teams integration facilitates: 

  • A real-time feedback culture: The Continuous Conversation tool, available natively within Teams, creates a culture of feedback around objectives and key results (OKRs). This allows you to keep projects and OKRs in sync with your performance reviews, and enables close daily collaboration between managers and employees. 
  • Time saving when searching for information: Save time by using our Interactive Knowledge Base HR chatbot that answers your people’s common HR questions, right within Microsoft Teams. This reduces employees’ wait time for administrative inquiries, speeding up work to prevent project delays and miscommunication. 

For this setup to work, make sure you centralize your data with a strong core HR. 

Talentsoft Hub works as one central source of the truth where you can store your HR data with peace of mind. Its flexible data model (primary, secondary, or hybrid) means you can implement it quickly and get value as soon as you start using it. 

Read more on the ‘Work from Anywhere’ movement and what it means for a proper hybrid approach to work. 

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