Since the pandemic, employees everywhere have settled into a routine of remote work. As companies plan for the future, they are trying to decide on the best path forward for the future of work. The pandemic demystified the process of working from home and, as a result, many organizations are looking to a new hybrid model that combines remote work and office collaboration. While Covid-19 forced us into the “remote work” or “no work” ultimatum, there have been surprising benefits.
Increased Productivity And Improved Employee Satisfaction
The secret fear that employees working from home would be less productive proved to be a fallacy. In fact, according to my company’s recent global survey of 260 senior executives, C-suite executives revealed that remote workers significantly improved their productivity since working remotely. Increased efficiency may be attributed to not commuting, minimized workplace distractions and more freedom to work during the hours that are best for each individual.
Working remotely is one of the most desired offerings for job seekers. According to Mom Corps, a national flexible staffing firm, 42% of employees would take a salary cut in order to have more flexible work options from their employers. The fact that employees are willing to take less pay in exchange for the ability to work from home shows the value that employees place on work-life balance. Respondents to our survey also found remote employees have improved their work-life balance and retention rates by 46%. With flexible work plans, employees tend to be happier, which makes them want to stay loyal to their companies.
Lowered Business Costs And Reduced Carbon Footprint
Hubstaff recently surveyed 400 business owners on their pandemic insights and found that remote work helped prevent layoffs in 66% of companies, and 44% of companies expected remote work to increase profits. By not having to maintain a physical building, employers can dramatically cut costs of rent, office supplies, utilities, etc. and can reinvest cost savings for growth.
The earth is also experiencing environmental benefits from reduced travel, which has taken the stress off of our overburdened transportation systems and roads and has contributed to a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emission across the globe. This year, Carbon Brief experts predict the environmental impacts of the coronavirus lockdown will contribute to the largest-ever annual fall in global carbon emissions.
A Shift To Remote Operations
The way we work has changed dramatically. After experimenting with employees working from home, many companies have made changes for the long haul. Google announced that its roughly 200,000 employees will continue to work from home until at least next summer. Facebook is also extending its work-from-home policy until July of next year and Twitter told its employees that they can stay home indefinitely.
Businesses that never offered remote work before are now embracing it. In contrast to work-from-home policies prior to the pandemic, our survey found that more than 80% of respondents believe employees will spend at least one-fourth of their time working from home in the future.
Many companies are now planning to reduce office space, or have already, as they expect a significant number of their staff to continue to work remotely in 2021-2022. Organizations around the world are considering alternative hybrid models to support the future of work, which includes in-person communications and remote operations.
What Will The Hybrid Workplace Look Like?
Since the pandemic started, companies have reconsidered how to best use their office spaces. While many companies will likely still retain physical offices, it’s clear that they will not be the same. There will be a change in the way we work in them and how physical structures and office layouts will be used for collaboration.
For example, one strategy might be to have specific days for in-person meetings and collaboration, and then other days allocated for remote work. In-person meetings might be reserved for brainstorming sessions, introducing new projects, or team-building exercises, while remote days would be for work that can be performed individually. The office could be redesigned and reorganized by getting rid of cubicles and creating more collaborative meeting spaces.
Managing Cybersecurity In The Hybrid Workplace
As organizations shift to the hybrid model, implementing new strategies is critical to securing remote employees, protecting their digital assets and guarding against cyberthreats. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered an accelerated migration of business applications and infrastructure into the cloud. According to our survey, 76% of companies adopted cloud services faster than they had planned, which unintentionally increased attack surfaces and created security gaps for hackers. In fact, the FBI reported up to 4,000 new cybersecurity complaints per day, a 400% increase, after the onset of the pandemic.
Many companies reacted well and moved quickly to support customers and suppliers and to connect a remote workforce with equipment. However, this reactive approach only goes so far; it’s important for companies to consider a long-term plan on how to provide security to employees and protect their digital assets at a time when cybercriminals have a bigger attack surface to target. The time has come for a more strategic approach to security as companies settle into new hybrid workforces that support remote work.
Covid-19 has challenged and changed how many of us do our jobs, yet with good direction, thoughtful strategies and the right technology, working remotely in a hybrid workplace can be a change for the good in the post-pandemic world.
Note: A version of this article initially appeared in Forbes.