Moving on from ‘react mode’: Evolving your hybrid workplace strategy

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As we emerge from one of the deepest crises in a century, the pace of change shows no sign of abating. "Business as unusual" is common practice in many industries as they are reinventing themselves for a new era.

Digital investments are addressing changing customer needs, operational resiliency, new sustainable business models and other external factors. Hybrid working models have been adopted across many industries and are becoming the most permanent change resulting from the pandemic.

Without any doubt, hybrid work has been a technological success and unimaginable a decade ago. But a crucial question is whether the current hybrid working model is truly future-proof?

The answer is no. The current hybrid work model was assembled overnight as an emergency response to a worldwide crisis, but the circumstances and business requirements we are facing today are substantially different. It's not survival or "keeping the lights on" that is the primary goal anymore. Instead, today's organisations need a workplace strategy that can support business agility and growth for a new era.

Therefore, what's new? What needs to change to make the current hybrid work model future-proof?

First of all, a hybrid workplace strategy needs to address many of the technical problems currently endured by both employees and IT departments.

  • IDC research shows employees are primarily struggling with basic IT problems, such as device performance and logging in to enterprise apps and resources. Furthermore, they're concerned about the security risks derived from home networks and often unmanaged, personal devices.
  • IT departments suffer from equally painful challenges. Their IT support teams cannot keep pace with the volume of helpdesk tickets, aggravated by their limited visibility of IT assets. As a result, they have difficulties in promptly identifying IT failures or security vulnerabilities.

These challenges should not be taken lightly. If left unattended the business will ultimately suffer. On one hand, IT departments cannot carry on in "firefighting mode" and work tirelessly. However, on the other hand, poor user experience is impacting employee productivity, morale and even job attrition. Clearly, with one-third of employees currently working hybrid, there's a lot at stake.

Hybrid work is the most desirable workplace model for employees but it is also the most difficult to implement. To make it successful, organisations need to strike the right balance between IT management, security and end-user experience. IDC proposes an integrated approach with the following initiatives:

1. IT teams need to move away from a fragmented and complex management environment, and instead operate with an integrated, single platform – a "single pane of glass" - across all devices. Aided with intelligent analytics and automation, IT support can become more proactive and prevent major IT failures and downtime.

2. Security needs to be built-in rather than bolt-on. This is now more urgent than ever and can be achieved through the following:

  • A Zero Trust model best fits the perimeter-less cloud-based infrastructure of the modern workplace. If implemented well, Zero Trust can be invisible to employees and give them quick and secure access to a wide range of resources by utilising single sign-on, biometrics or other ways of authentication.
  • Network security should adopt a SASE-based approach, which IDC surveys show as the top security investment in the new workplace.
  • Endpoint detection and response needs to go beyond traditional signature-based approaches and identify new and unknown threat vectors with behavioural analysis.
  • Employees must ultimately be the first line of defence in a hybrid work organisation. Awareness campaigns and dedicated security training are essential for good cyber hygiene.

3. End-user experience should become a top KPI in the success of hybrid work strategies. According to IDC surveys, 1 in 3 employees are actively looking for a job, and working experience is, after salary, the main reason for wanting to quit their jobs.

No employer wants to be a victim of the Great Resignation in their own organisation; however, why are about half of employees finding their technology unsatisfactory from their very first day at work?

More needs to be done. Streamlining the onboarding process with pre-configured PCs and optimising the end-user experience with automation and intelligence can be highly beneficial for both stretched IT departments and disgruntled employees.

So, as we re-imagine the new workplace, technology investments cannot be decoupled from end-users and the business goals of the organisation. As such, both security and IT teams need to work more closely together and with other non-traditional stakeholders including HR and individual business departments.

Building the new hybrid workplace is a journey and there's no quick or easy path to follow. Trusted IT partners with strong capabilities in end-user experience are highly sought-after.

About the Author

Angela Salmeron has over 10 years of experience in the ICT industry and is currently a research director with IDC's European Future of Work research service, based in London. In this role, she provides coverage of key technology trends across the Future of Work, including the digital workspace, security and trust, collaborative platforms and the augmented worker.

Learn more about Dell Technologies and VMware solutions: Unified Workspace | Dell Technologies United Kingdom.