Alan Hayward, Marketing and Sales Manager at SEH Technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the way that companies across the world operate. Whilst many businesses are planning to start moving employees back into an office environment, others are considering a hybrid workplace. A recent global business survey commissioned by Xerox Holdings Corporation found that organisations are becoming more comfortable with remote working, as attitudes and policies from executives and IT decision makers have shifted during the lockdown period. Among the countries included in the research, 86% of respondents in the USA stated there has been an increase in confidence, with the UK and Germany following closely at 80%.
While employees may not be returning to the office all at once, or as often as they once were, businesses need to support a hybrid workforce and put plans into place to make sure they are prepared for this long-term transition.
Creating a hybrid office policy
The biggest challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic was not to extend employees remote working capabilities, but to ensure the company had guidelines in place to help employees adjust to their new working environment. A hybrid workforce must be agile, working alongside the ever-evolving market, meaning employees will continue learning and gaining new skills to improve their work capabilities. For organisations, this means adapting and responding to changing business needs by developing its culture to remain productive and embedding it throughout the business.
As a result, businesses need to create and prepare a hybrid workforce policy to make sure employees understand the workplace changes and can follow the right guidelines. The first step involves identifying which team members this policy applies to. For instance, who will be working from home, who will be based in the office and how long will this be for? There are a lot of factors to consider and businesses need to list out all of the possible scenarios to make sure the guidelines are sufficient. This then needs to be clearly communicated to employees, checking that everyone understands what is expected of them.
Investing in the right tools
Respondents in Xerox’s survey also reported challenges from the sudden transition to remote working, with 72% claiming their business was not fully prepared from a technology perspective. As a result there were a number of technology gaps that became evident during this period, with 70% of IT decision makers re-evaluating their budget spend and companies increasing investment in remote technology resources or tools to support a hybrid workforce.
With employees splitting their time between the office and home, businesses need to consider utilising tools that will allow teams to work remotely, productively and securely in the longer term. In addition to investing in hardware such as laptops for remote workers and desktops for those working in the office, it’s also important to make the most collaborative technology to ensure team members can collaborate and continue working together on projects without any constraints. There are a number of communication tools out there and it’s up to the business to find the best solution that suits their changing needs.
Selecting a remote access solution
Traditionally, businesses would offer remote access to the company’s network via a VPN. However, with more and more employees requiring access to resources from home or in the office, this solution has proven to be problematic for a hybrid workforce in terms of scalability and flexibility, leading to many companies considering alternative tools.
Dongle servers will easily allow employees to access their work from home and share USB dongle devices via the network. Not only can dongles be used via LAN connections, but also via VPN, VLAN, and the Internet. This ensures employees can stay productive whether they are working from home or in the office. With an encrypted point-to-point connection between the user and the dongle server, businesses can dynamically assign which employee is authorised to access each dongle, ensuring everyone can retrieve everything they need. Users can also request access as soon as a license becomes available, and once the software has been used by that individual, it will be securely relocated to the next in line.
While managing a hybrid team presents its own set of challenges, companies need to recognise the need to prepare its workforce to make this transition. Many remain uncertain about how best to approach it and are reluctant to make significant changes to their business operations. During this period of ‘new normal’, business leaders need to understand the importance of building a hybrid workforce policy that supports employees and is clearly communicated to them. They also need to consider the possibilities that new technology and ways of working will bring, but also ensure that they are equipped to realise the huge benefits that these developments will offer to drive better success in the long term.