Why the Future of Work is Hybrid

Our Roundtable Sessions are invite-only events hosted by peers for peers that bring together a select group of senior IT leaders from across industries for topic-driven, intimate dialog on current trends and topics. We hosted this Session featuring a group of CXOs and other IT executives. The group met remotely to discuss why the future of work is going to be hybrid, led by the VP of IT Infrastructure & Operations for an industry-leading air, ground, specialty and residential fire services and managed medical transportation organization. This Session was sponsored by Zunesis.

September 15, 2021

When the pandemic began, most organizations were forced to provide a remote work environment on some level.  This presented a challenge in terms of creating the right infrastructure and keeping the environment secure.  As we continue to transition and evaluate new ways of working, it seems that a hybrid work environment for most organizations is here to stay. The infrastructure and security challenges, as well as cultural challenges, will continue to shift as things evolve.

Why hybrid work is here to stay

The organizations of all attendees are moving toward some sort of hybrid model, but these models are still evolving. Nevertheless, there’s a degree of similarity and consistency across companies. There are three tiers: one in which all employees are fully remote, one where some are remote and some in the office, and those that are entirely in the office.  

One of the driving factors in continuing a hybrid environment is that employees want to keep their work environment flexible; therefore, organizations are accepting that work will not go back to a pre-pandemic model.  

The challenges of hybrid work

One of the most considerable challenges that executives discussed was getting devices for employees to enable their remote work.  The BYOD model is shifting away due to security and connectivity issues. Companies have had the time to evaluate their security posture, and stock for computers, webcams, and other items has leveled out in the past few months. However, one participant said that there was some pushback from some parties not showing a willingness to use the devices the company purchased.  

Other executives cited budget as another hurdle to overcome; however, several of the attendees have been able to access funds from various government programs to fund their infrastructure changes.  One attendee mentioned the American Rescue Plan Act and funds available through that, specifically for such changes.  As far as security, things like leveraging proper onboarding and offboarding procedures, tools like VPNs, and adopting a zero trust mindset seem to be table stakes.

How to know if you're winning the hybrid game

Unfortunately, measuring the success of a hybrid environment does not have clear KPIs.  One of the attendees said that their number one measurement of how employees are adopting is whether they're using what was deployed while also considering if the company culture is still in place.  Executive attendees stated that leadership styles must change to be successful and to keep the culture flourishing, and to achieve that involves trust and accountability.  

The other way some executives measure successes in a hybrid environment is simply on the premise of whether things are getting done.  This can be measured on a more micro level, such as by project.  If things are working well in one area of the organization, their strategies should be shared with other areas to emulate those strategies.

Keeping culture alive in a hybrid environment

Keeping people engaged while also maintaining the company culture is proving to be a considerable challenge.  One executive said they have a hybrid approach for their employees where sometimes they have a majority of their team in the office and sometimes only a handful. They like having the best of both worlds where employees have the flexibility, and they still achieve the human interaction of face-to-face collaboration when everyone is in the office.

Most of the executives that agreed said that they are either encouraging or mandating specific days in the office so that people can still connect in person.  The biggest challenge everyone agreed on is engaging and onboarding new employees and immersing them in the culture, even if they’re a fully remote employee.

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