Tech-Mar Blog

Navigating the Hybrid Workforce: IT Challenges and Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally shifted perceptions of remote and office-based work. While some employees are returning full-time to the office, a hybrid workforce model is becoming standard for many organizations. With this model, staff split their time between working onsite and remotely.

According to a McKinsey survey, over 90% of organizations will be combining onsite and remote work post-pandemic. But effectively supporting a hybrid workforce poses new complexities, especially for IT teams. In this post, we’ll explore the unique IT challenges arising from hybrid work and provide best practices to enable secure collaboration, productivity, and experience equality across distributed teams.

Defining the Hybrid Work Landscape

First, let’s outline some common characteristics of today’s hybrid work environments:

– Split locations – Employees divide their weeks between the office and home. Schedules can be set or flexible.

– Distributed teams – Group members are dispersed across multiple worksites and geographies. Some may be fully onsite or remote.

– Fluid shifts – Workers move between locations as needs and preferences change, instead of being permanently assigned to one site.

– Dual-use spaces – Traditional offices are reconfigured to enable collaboration as well as focus work.

– Permanent remote staff – While others shift locations, some employees work remotely full-time based on role, location, or preference.

– Evolving policies – Organizations are still fine-tuning policies around scheduling, meetings, travel, and technology access under hybrid models.

With diverse needs across the workforce, IT teams face escalating challenges to deliver reliable, secure technology experiences at scale.

IT Challenge #1: Supporting Security & Compliance

Perhaps the biggest priority is maintaining robust cybersecurity and compliance with fragmented teams and workflows. Key risks include:

– Data protection – Sensitive company data is more dispersed across home devices and networks vulnerable to theft and unauthorized access.

– Endpoint security – Personally-owned devices used for work may lack antivirus software, encryption, and security patches.

– Network risks – Employees on unsecured public networks expose company data and systems to snooping.

– Regulatory compliance – Hybrid work may impede ability to monitor regulated activities like financial trades or customer service calls.

– Credential management – Ensuring workers use secure passwords and multi-factor authentication consistently becomes harder with hybrid locations.

IT teams must implement comprehensive security technologies, policies, training and auditing to reduce data, network, device, and access risks. Cloud access security brokers, VPNs, and endpoint management tools provide control across distributed environments.

IT Challenge #2: Maintaining Consistent Collaboration

Fragmented teams struggle to collaborate virtually as seamlessly as when co-located in one workspace. IT must provide intuitive tools for:

– Video meetings – Solutions like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet bridge distributed teams through video conferencing, screen sharing, whiteboards, polls and breakouts.

– Instant messaging – Chat apps like Slack and Teams enable quick communication, knowledge sharing and status updates between dispersed co-workers.

– File sharing – Dropbox, SharePoint, OneDrive and similar tools centralize team files and allow synchronized editing.

– Digital workspaces – Platforms like Asana, Trello and Notion provide shared virtual workspaces to manage projects, workflows, documents and tasks.

– Time tracking – Apps like Hubstaff, Timely, and TSheets give visibility into distributed worker activity and attendance.

IT should standardize platforms across the organization and offer training for optimal adoption.

IT Challenge #3: Supporting Hybrid Workspaces

The office environment must be retooled to enable seamless collaboration between remote and onsite employees in meetings and work sessions. Necessary technologies include:

– Video conferencing equipment – Hardware like interactive whiteboards, TVs, cameras and microphones enhance video collaboration in conference rooms and open workspace areas.

– Dual monitors – Allow individual workers to optimally video conference and work on their devices simultaneously.

– Noise-cancelling headphones – These reduce ambient noise that can disrupt remote participants.

– Enhanced WiFi – High-bandwidth wireless throughout the office prevents video lag and dropouts for remote staff.

– Digital signage – Displays outside rooms can indicate if a space is in use for video meetings and share scheduling.

When office layouts, furnishings and technologies are not optimized for hybrid teams, collaboration suffers.

IT Challenge #4: Supporting Employee Mobility

With varied work locations across the week, employees require mobile hardware and seamless roaming access to systems. IT must enable secure productivity on the move by providing:

– Laptops – These standard portable devices enable work from any site with consistent access to apps and data.

– Secure connectivity – Multi-factor VPN ensures authenticated access to corporate resources from any device or network.

– Cloud storage – Platforms like SharePoint, OneDrive and Google Drive make files available on demand from any approved device.

– SaaS applications – Web-based software-as-a-service tools are accessible from anywhere online.

– Managed devices – Enterprise mobility management (EMM) secures and controls access on employee-owned smartphones and tablets.

With the right mix of mobile gear and cloud services, workers can be productive both in and out of traditional offices.

IT Challenge #5: Managing Evolving Tech Stacks

Inconsistent access to hardware, software and services across sites negatively impacts experience and productivity. IT must manage this complexity by:

– Assessing needs – Survey staff to inventory what tools they require in the office versus home for their role.

– Standardizing platforms – Minimize variability of software, services, and collaboration tools used across the organization. Provide access to authorized apps from any device or location.

– Scaling hardware – Have extra laptops, chargers, headphones, and other accessories available to staff who split time between home and office setups.

– Optimizing provisioning – Automate delivery of approved apps, configurations and accessories to new hires or employees who change locations.

– Centralizing data – Ensure critical files saved locally are also synced to cloud or network storage for universal access.

– Clarifying policies – Set expectations on technology access, transit and provisioning as workers shift sites.

With deliberate technology lifecycle management, IT can smooth out access inconsistencies that impact hybrid employee effectiveness.

Adopting a Hybrid-First IT Strategy

To meet these challenges at scale, IT leaders should embrace a “hybrid-first” strategy focused on:

– Securing distributed access through multilayered models encompassing networks, devices, people and data flows.

– Provisioning cloud-based collaboration tools that centralize team interactions in a shared virtual workspace.

– Building office environments equally optimized for onsite and remote users.

– Supporting workforce mobility via optimized laptops, wireless connectivity, cloud storage and web apps.

– Managing fluctuating technology needs and access through automation, standardization, and policy.

This approach focuses on flexible, secure delivery of technology resources and data to each team member regardless of when, where or how they are working.

While hybrid work introduces new complexities, with the right solutions IT can help organizations unlock its full potential — engage employees, safeguard assets, and drive productivity across distributed teams now and into the future.