Operating a Hybrid Work Model Without Compromising Security in the Modern Workplace
By the end of 2021, 45% of full-time employees were working remotely at least some of the time. Nine in 10 workers said they wanted to continue with that approach. A year later, though, a cooling job market has shifted bargaining power to employers, and a growing number are calling workers back to the office. Large enterprises from GM to Google are implementing their return-to-work plans, negotiating and fine-tuning along the way.
Where does that leave your company? Alternative investment firms have pursued a variety of approaches, with smaller businesses generally favoring onsite staff and larger companies allowing teams more freedom of choice.
Yet most firms will end up with a hybrid approach. Depending on their business function, some of your teams might need to be onsite most of the time. Others can work effectively from home. The majority will fall somewhere in between.
But the success of your firm’s hybrid work depends in large part on your technology infrastructure and capabilities, especially cybersecurity. Here’s how to get your hybrid model right for the modern workplace.
Enabling Your Hybrid Work Model
Regardless of where you stand today, if you’re like most firms you’ll end up with some form of hybrid work going forward. Hybrid will become necessary to attract and retain younger workers and to keep your entire workforce satisfied, engaged, and productive in their jobs.
When designing a hybrid strategy, don’t think in terms of rules for which days of the week teams should be onsite. Instead, start with the onsite-to-remote ratio you think will be right for your firm – given current business requirements balanced against employee expectations. Then implement the IT infrastructure and cybersecurity protections you need to support that balance.
Any effective hybrid work strategy requires a cloud-based IT architecture. If your firm is still completely on-prem, with no workloads in the cloud, your journey will take a bit longer. But whether you’re just starting out or farther along your transition, avoid a big-bang cloud migration.
Rather, make steady but incremental changes that minimize business disruption and allow employees to adapt to new ways of working. An effective starting point for many firms is to move email and productivity applications to the cloud with Microsoft 365, while keeping files on-prem in the short term. Once that has become routine, you can move documents to Microsoft OneDrive and implement a cloud-based collaboration platform such as Microsoft Teams.
Balancing Security, Mobility, and Functionality
You’re now ready to move core business applications to the cloud. Taking a lift-and-shift approach, where you simply migrate existing software to your new cloud environment, can be more economical in the short term. But you won’t gain the advantages of cloud-native applications, such as built-in capabilities for advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
Cloud-native solutions will also support mobility, enabling employees to access core functionality from their tablets and smartphones. That’s essential for a hybrid workforce that operates remotely at least some of the time. A majority of investment firms today are making sure their applications are mobile-enabled.
Most important is to pay close attention to cybersecurity. A hybrid work environment presents new security challenges. With employees working remotely, the edge of the network is more diffuse and vulnerable. Your people can become the weakest link in your cybersecurity chain.
The solution is to define key personas or roles for your organization and group users by those personas. Identify and document how each persona consumes applications and accesses data. That way, you won’t make inaccurate assumptions about the devices, software, and information your people need to do their jobs. Just as important, you can put in place the permissions and access controls appropriate for each persona.
Essentially, you’re balancing security, mobility, and functionality. To protect your business and maintain compliance, you need security. To support a hybrid workforce, you also need mobility. Then it’s a matter of giving your people as much functionality as you can’t while ensuring security and enabling mobility.
Providing a Consistent Employee Experience
Ultimately, you want your employees to have a consistent experience whether they’re in the office or working remotely. They should be able to move seamlessly among headquarters, satellite office, home office, and on the road, accessing the same applications in the same way, regardless of device or location.
For instance, employees shouldn’t have to access Microsoft Teams differently on their desktop and their mobile devices. They shouldn’t plug their laptop into a conference room or work pod and discover the connection doesn’t work. Technology should become the driver of the modern workplace, not the stumbling block.
But if you implement your hybrid-enabling technology effectively, you gain advantages that deliver new value over time. You benefit from the flexibility not only to allow teams to work wherever they’re most effective, but also to adapt your hybrid strategy as needs change. That capability will give you competitive advantage and better equip you to pursue new business opportunities and growth.
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