Last week, Salesforce announced that they will be rolling out permanent remote work plans for all employees, and re-imagining the use of their office headquarters in San Francisco. This was not a decision made in a vacuum by leaders alone, but a direct response to feedback from their employees. After surveying employees they discovered they had two important desires:
- Nearly half of all employees wanted to go into an office a few times a month; and
- 80% of employees stated they want to stay connected to a physical space.
Once it is safe to return to the workplace, Salesforce stated their global workforce will only go into the office one to three days a week. And plans are already underway to transform their space into a “community hub” with a great focus on connecting and collaborating.
I predict that many organizations are collecting similar feedback from their employees at this time, and deciding whether to wait out the “storm” of the pandemic, move to a fully remote workforce, or adopt a hybrid model similar to the one Salesforce is implementing.
Hope is on the horizon with falling COVID-19 case numbers in many geographies and the distribution of vaccines underway. And yet, while many companies plan to re-open their doors, this doesn’t mean everyone is prepared to go back into the office, or that work will return to “normal”. In reality, a hybrid model will likely be in effect for the foreseeable future for several reasons:
- While many workers are ready to return to the office, others cannot due to health/other reasons;
- Having proven their effectiveness regardless of work location, employees expect more flexibility going forward;
- Some organizations cannot put precautionary measures in place within their current footprint, or are considering shrinking their footprint to recoup costs; and lastly,
- The opening and closing of businesses is in flux during these uncertain times.
What is certain is that an effective hybrid workforce model is no longer “nice to have”, but a critical business imperative and part of a sound business continuity plan. And so, in 2021, leaders and particularly IT managers face a new challenge – shifting focus from a speedy remote workforce solution to an optimized hybrid model fit for the long haul.
This will require efforts across four key areas.
Fostering a connected culture
When everyone worked remotely, the playing field was levelled. As companies move toward a hybrid model, they must avoid any form of divide between in-office and remote employees. IT leaders play a critical role in bridging the gap – ensuring technology solutions allow all employees to be productive and enabling the collaboration needed to accomplish team goals.
Can you enhance or replace your current solutions to support more connected teams? How will your company hold effective meetings with half the team in the office and half attending virtually? These are samples of questions to consider as you build out your hybrid model.
Keep in mind, IT alone cannot establish a hybrid workplace culture. You may be charged with the “how” of the solution, but HR and management must provide the “what and why” – cascading new norms and expectations to employees.
The right hybrid workforce strategy requires the right technology infrastructure. Organizations need secure, high-performing solutions that are flexible enough to be used when employees are in the office or at home – making tools available when and where employees need them, including outside of “office hours”.
Whether you rely on on-premises infrastructure or have doubled-down on cloud-based solutions, challenges to be addressed include fluctuating performance, security risk, complexity and cost.
You’ll also need to consider the devices on which work is carried out. The lines between personal and work devices continue to blur. Upside – you may be off the hook for an expensive investment in individual workstations. Downside – you’ll need to ensure that worker-owned devices…work. Many remote workers experience performance issues that put them at a disadvantage, yet getting under the hood of every device is a lengthy (painful) undertaking.
Underpinning device performance is the network used to access corporate tools and information. Those in the office are blessed via their proximity to your high-powered infrastructure, while remote employees may be engaged in constant “battle of the bandwidth” with family members, especially for Virtual Private Network (VPN) users Stalling, error messages and frozen screens may have been the running joke in 2020, but it won’t cut it long term.
Lastly, if you’re still using VPN technology, keep in mind that a hybrid workforce was simply not designed for it. Remote workers conducting business and personal computing can drive too much traffic for the VPN and company network to handle and creates more security risks.
Choosing the right infrastructure to support your hybrid workforce can be daunting. Tehama’s cloud-based DaaS solution was designed to overcome these challenges – enabling workers on any device with any internet connection to securely connect back to corporate systems via a virtual desktop, regardless of location.
Addressing unique security challenges
Security may have been hastily addressed in 2020 in the rush to get remote workers up and running. Multiple point solutions were adopted and certain operations quickly moved to the cloud. However, given increased data traffic, the overlap of personal and work devices and sophisticated cyber threats, these security models aren’t sustainable.
2021 is the year to get serious about securing the hybrid workforce. A critical focus for IT and security, a more integrated approach is needed to manage network and endpoint security, and ensure strong identity control.
While organizations may look to bolt-on more security solutions, significant time and money can be saved by adopting a single solution that offers all the security controls needed for remote access to data and systems. Comprehensive security functions are built right into the Tehama DaaS -- limiting risk exposure by keeping sensitive data secure via strong identity control, access management, and collaboration using a secure file vault.
Monitoring the employee experience
You can have the best infrastructure and devices but if the user experience is sub-par, the hybrid work environment will be a constant drain on productivity, engagement and IT. To adapt to the needs of the hybrid workforce, understanding and addressing the digital experience of employees is critical.
Many organizations use surveys to gather data on performance issues and how much time workers spend troubleshooting with IT, yet these are infrequent and don’t enable just-in-time solutions.
Thankfully, there are now solutions on the market that allow you to monitor and optimize employees’ physical or virtual desktops. Tehama recently introduced our Desktop Intelligence and Automation solution, an add-on service that allows IT administrators to centrally manage all physical and virtual devices – gaining insight into desktop performance and user experience while making it simple to automate critical updates. This helps IT managers understand trends, predict future needs and address issues proactively.
The hybrid workforce is here to stay
While pandemic restrictions have changed how and where work gets done, even after restrictions are lifted, there is no sign of returning to the status quo. The latest news from a world-wide brand like Salesforce makes that clear.
As always, IT leaders will rise to the occasion – meeting the needs of the hybrid workforce by leveraging key learnings from 2020 and building out a more effective, secure and streamlined technology strategy that – unlike COVID-19 – will be around for the long haul.
If your hybrid workforce is looking for a remote work solution that fits this model, Tehama can help. Book a demo today to discover the fastest, easiest, most secure way to deploy a virtual workforce.