Are organizations prepared for the hybrid work switch?
As COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue to gain traction globally, more organizations are moving towards a hybrid work reality. Despite the rise in new variants of the pandemic, many businesses feel that a hybrid working environment is the best way to keep their employees secured and also maintain productivity.
Initially, most organizations were forced to consider remote working when the pandemic was at its peak, but since then, with concerns that remote working may slow down productivity, some countries are allowing organizations to have their employees back working in offices.
Today, businesses around the world are developing long-term plans and working models for their employees — regardless of if they are working in-person, remotely, or a mixture of the two that has become known as the hybrid working model. The uncertainties due to the pandemic have made organizations wary that business continuity can be ensured should any future situations arise.
Regulated industries, especially banking and finance have begun recalling their employees to fully return to work in their offices — but with the flexibilities of hybrid work arrangements. The American Banker reported that Citigroup has requested employees to return to their offices at least two days per week in certain branches in the US.
Wells Fargo has also delayed plans of bringing back employees to work while Goldman Sachs will require anyone entering its offices, including employees, clients, and other visitors, to be fully vaccinated.
In the tech industry, Amazon relaxed its return-to-work plans and said it will allow corporate employees to work remotely up to two days per week. Microsoft has decided to operate with some employees on-site while others continue to contribute remotely.
Interestingly, Google expects 60% of its employees to be working on-site for a few days a week, with 20% working in new office locations and 20% working from home. Facebook’s offices are expected to open to full capacity in October, but employees who can work away from the office may request to do so. Apple has also requested employees to work in offices at least three days a week.
As such, with a hybrid workforce, organizations can be assured their employees can maintain productivity whether they are in the office or remotely situated. While the hybrid workforce does sound promising, keeping employees secured is still a concern. Organizations need to understand what is needed to secure their hybrid workers.
Securing the hybrid work place
Securing the New Hybrid Workplace, a new study from Entrust showed that 91% of employees are in favor of a hybrid work environment. The study surveyed 1,500 business leaders and 1,500 general employees from 10 countries to better understand how workers from the manager level to the C-suite are preparing for a new hybrid workplace.
“With the uncertainties of the last year and a half, many organizations are well-adapted to remote work. With leaders planning the future state of their workplace models, we wanted to ask how they are adapting security and identity for the hybrid workplace: how are leaders and employees prepared to protect data and sensitive information?” questioned Anudeep Parhar, Chief Information Officer at Entrust. “How will office security evolve? Will adapting to hybrid workplaces multiply vulnerabilities…or will enterprises choose smart security strategies to enable employees wherever they work?”
Among the key highlights of the study is that a majority of companies are seen to be moving to a long-term hybrid approach. More than half (54%) of employees reported up to six instances of lost productivity due to network access issues, while leaders cite home internet security and leakage of sensitive company data among their top security challenges.
Of the countries surveyed, respondents from Germany indicated the lowest productivity impact due to network access or login delays, with 49% reporting that they have never had an issue, and 27% reporting only 1-3 incidents experienced. By comparison, in the United Kingdom, only 25% reported no issues and 34% reporting 1-3 incidents.
In fact, home office data security continues to present new challenges. Businesses need to change their data security approach now that employees are more decentralized than ever before. However, while data security is a priority for leaders with 81% saying their company has offered employees training on it, only 61% of employees said their company offers this training, indicating a communication gap.
In Japan for instance, 65% of employers said they have offered data security training for the hybrid work model, but only 36% of employees felt they were offered such training.
Maintaining and enhancing security in the office environment
With some employees making their way back to the office, the ongoing pandemic raises the stakes of physical security to include health, safety, and infosecurity as well. Companies must now consider best practices when they begin to open their doors to visitors outside their internal workforce once more.
As some companies have not made it mandatory for their employees to be vaccinated, having visibility on who comes to offices is key as well, especially should there be an outbreak of cases in the office.
Entrust found support for organizational visitor management is overwhelming, with 96% of business leaders and 93% of employees agreeing that it is important for their company to have a system in place that logs and tracks visitors who enter and exit the building when employees work in the office.
Business leaders also agree that it is imperative to consider the intersection of data security and work from home standards. Fortunately, it appears that the introduction of hybrid work has resulted in a step in the right direction for workplace data protection.
While it’s uncertain how the surge in new variants will end up affecting these decisions, there’s no denying that a vast crosssection of companies may eventually want most of their employees working back in their offices. The hybrid workforce may be the best option, for now, to ensure productivity is not disrupted.
6 June 2023