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Mixing it up: 5 ways to prepare for a hybrid working future

Last week, Nationwide Building Society announced that it will be giving 13,000 of 18,000 employees – a whopping 72% of its workforce – the choice about where they work after stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. This is in response to a staff survey, in which 57% of their employees said they would prefer to work from home full time and 36% said they’d like a mix of home-based and office work*. And they’re not the only ones. This is the latest big name to get on board with hybrid working, following other commercial giants including British Airways, BP, HSBC and Lloyds.

So why the trend?

Quite simply, people have been working from home – and they like it. Workers have had a taste of life without having to iron a shirt, sit in 45 minutes of traffic or juggle ‘life admin’ around the 9-5.

But more importantly, businesses are seeing the benefits too. There’s a glint in the eye of the FD as cost-savings become apparent – more of the workforce at home means paying out less for real estate, infrastructure, utilities and company cars. Sustainability-savvy organisations are also seeing ways to slash their carbon footprint, with fewer emissions generated from premises and business travel.

Companies of all sizes will be looking to make the switch to a hybrid working model in 2021. This will have a big impact on IT – so if you’re one of them, take a look at our top 5 considerations to help you prepare.

1. Watercoolers & whiteboards

Most companies are now familiar with using online conferencing tools. But connecting employees goes beyond the virtual meeting room. One of the biggest challenges of remote working is recreating those ‘watercooler’ moments which bond people on a personal level and make them feel part of a team. Without this, workers can feel disconnected and less able to share ideas – impacting innovation in the workforce. Similarly, group brainstorms around the whiteboard are much harder without physically being in the room. Luckily, many providers are stepping up to the plate with added features such as the latest updates to Microsoft Teams. It’s vital to look at all the ways in which people would normally connect in the office, in order to research digital tools that can achieve the same ends.

2. It’s all about the experience

In a standard office, it’s likely that employees will have the same or similar device setup. But whilst desks might be carbon copies of each other, people’s homes are not. A traditional PC arrangement that suits someone with a dedicated space, is not appropriate for an employee who works from the kitchen table and needs to pack up at the end of the day. There may be noise distractions, in which case audio technology will need to be added to the tech bundle. With this in mind, you may feel it’s time to consider introducing employee choice as part of your IT-strategy. Of course, hybrid working means employees will still come into the office part of the time – but this will affect the provision you offer on site. Hotdesking or ‘hoteling’ are likely to become the norm, coupled with a focus shift to meeting spaces and greater demand for group conferencing technology.

3. Security: keeping a grip on the reins

As remote working scaled up in 2020, so did cyber threats. Phishing, business email compromise and web application breaches all skyrocketed as IT teams battled to defend their network’s walls. Switching to a VPN, configuring it properly and keeping it up to date will improve business security. But IT Managers also need to keep in mind that a significant percentage of breaches are caused by user error or ignorance – interacting with phishing emails, shadow IT and mixing personal and corporate devices. To stay in control, security training for all remote workers must be considered as part of your strategy.

4. Is your head in the Cloud?

Cloud computing has a big part to play in the hybrid working model. As on-premise working reduces, companies may look for other ways to reduce their physical assets – including reducing on-premise hardware. We predict that many businesses this year will consider moving some, or all, of their infrastructure to the cloud. If you’re among them, don’t forget to include a cloud back-up strategy in your move.

In addition, the increasingly popular ‘as-a-service’ model for software and applications offers various benefits to those adopting hybrid working – with ease of access for users and opportunities to scale up or down as required in a changeable economic landscape.

5. IT Teams – forever the office heroes

We know IT teams are smart – but even they can’t be in multiple places at once. Not physically anyway. Businesses adopting hybrid working will need to make sure they have remote management and support technology which offers the same level of assistance expected in an office environment. Role-specific training will be important too. It can’t be assumed that everyone will know how to use devices, or how to go beyond the basics of applications to make the most of their features. Office workers have always relied on IT teams to come to the rescue when things go wrong. That, at least, is unlikely to change!

There’s a lot to think about for businesses making the move to a hybrid working model. Luckily the experts at IT Corporation are here to help. We can recommend a range of devices, software and solutions to support you in your next steps – so why not reach out and get in touch?

*Nationwide tells 13,000 staff to ‘work anywhere’: