A hybrid workforce is a type of blended workforce comprising employees who work remotely and those who work from an office or central location. This way, employees can work from the places they want to, either in a central location, such as a warehouse, factory or retail location, or in a remote location, such as the home.
However, a hybrid workforce isn't just about working from home or working from the office; rather, it's about helping employees achieve a flexible work-life balance.
Hybrid workforces enable employees to work in a setting that's most comfortable for them. If workers feel they are more productive in one location versus another, they can choose to work in that environment -- or work in a combination of the two.
The hybrid workplace model has also put the health, safety and psychological needs of workers first by allowing for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey from Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) expected the number of employees working from home to double into 2021 and after the eventual post-pandemic landscape. Additionally, at their Directions 2021 virtual conference, IDC predicted employees will have a choice about including a hybrid workplace model -- with about 33% of employees still having to work on site full time.
What is the hybrid workplace model?
Hybrid workplace models blend remote work with in-office work. Instead of structuring work around desks in a physical office space, hybrid work generally enables employees to structure work around their lives. Hybrid workplaces aim to balance employee productivity with reduced stress and less commuting. In this model, companies give employees some degree of choice regarding whether they want to work in the office or remotely.
No matter which option they choose, employees must accomplish their work and meet their individual goals. Done correctly, a hybrid workplace enables employees to be more productive and encourages employee engagement.
How does a hybrid workforce work?
A hybrid workforce is similar to a remote workforce in that employees work from a location outside of the office. The difference, however, is that hybrid workforce approaches are not entirely remote.
The hybrid workplace approach may look different among different organizations.
For example, some employees might work from home, while others work in the office indefinitely. In contrast, others may work in the office and then switch working locations on a set schedule. Some employees could come into the office occasionally, then complete the rest of their work remotely.
Additionally, a company might allocate certain days for in-person collaboration and meetings, and then schedule other days for remote work.
Why a hybrid workforce?
A hybrid workforce means a company can combine the benefits of remote work with the collaboration opportunities of in-person work in a physical location.
A hybrid workforce helps improve employee productivity while helping workers enjoy a better work-life balance. In addition, companies can save money on rental or property costs because some employees will be working remotely, so they won't need to occupy as much office space.
How to secure a hybrid workforce
As organizations shift to the hybrid workforce model, it's critical they implement new strategies to secure remote employees, safeguard their corporate data and protect against cyberthreats.
Here are some ways to better secure a hybrid workforce:
- Update cybersecurity policies. Many organizations haven't updated their corporate cybersecurity policies to reflect the fact that more employees are working remotely. Companies should write new policies to keep corporate data secure no matter where employees are working. For instance, implement and enforce a policy that requires two-factor authentication, so every employee must provide two pieces of information to sign into the corporate network.
- Provide security training. Employees who work remotely don't have any IT support staff on hand to help with any problems they may encounter. Consequently, organizations should educate workers on how to protect themselves while they're working from home or other off-site locations. They should offer remote employees training and resources to help them understand how to reduce cyberthreats and continue to update these resources when new information becomes available.
- Establish a separate network. Companies should create new virtual private networks (VPNs) to enable remote workers to connect to the corporate network. Doing so will boost an organization's existing security protocols and also increase protection for remote employees, allowing them to work from any device and from any location.
- Audit the corporate devices of remote/hybrid workers. Businesses should update the corporate devices on their network security systems for all remote/hybrid employees. IT support staff members should audit those devices regularly to ensure they're running properly and that all the latest patches have been installed.
- Limit workers' access to corporate data. Remote workers will be less likely to use their corporate devices for personal reasons if they know the amount of data they can use is limited. As such, they may log into unsecured websites on corporate devices less often, minimizing the exposure to cybersecurity threats.
- Perform penetration testing. Companies should test their corporate devices to determine how vulnerable they are to cyberattacks, analyze the results and implement necessary updates to enhance security.
Hybrid workforce leadership
If an organization wants its hybrid workforce to succeed, its leaders need to:
- Drive the performance of in-office and remote employees without having to closely monitor or supervise them.
- Advocate for employee development to make certain that workers have the skills they need to be productive.
- Communicate across various channels to lead in-office and virtual teams.
- Establish practices that ensure employees in the office are in sync with those working from home.
- Talk with remote and in-office teams about how to best work together in a hybrid workforce environment.
- Develop team culture and rules throughout in-office and remote teams.
- Require that all-team meetings take place online because hybrid meetings aren't fair to those not physically in the space.
- Set weekly priorities and objectives so workers do the most important work first.
- Help all employees manage their stress levels in this hybrid workforce model.
Pros and cons of a hybrid workforce
The pros of implementing a hybrid workforce model include:
- Cost savings. Companies that implement a hybrid workforce model can save money because they don't have to lease as much office space. Remote employees can save money on commuting costs.
- Increased productivity. Productivity increases because remote employees can, depending on the person, be less distracted and better concentrate. Because employees are working remotely, absenteeism is also reduced – for example, they can likely still work if they have colds. This also lowers the possibility of spreading germs.
- Access to wider talent pools. Organizations that implement a hybrid workforce model can hire local employees or workers located anywhere in the world.
- Lower attrition. Workers who are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance are generally happier and, as such, become loyal and stay longer at their jobs.
The cons of implementing a hybrid workforce model include:
- Teamwork/collaboration may suffer. Tasks that require a lot of teamwork and collaboration are easier to accomplish in the office because employees are better able to interact and share ideas. Collaboration tools can help mitigate this, but it may still not be the same to some employees.
- Hybrid employees introduce security The risk of cybersecurity breaches increases when employees work remotely because they may expose sensitive corporate data by using unsecured public Wi-Fi, downloading unsafe applications or downloading malware by clicking on unsafe emails or websites.
- Divisions between in-office and remote employees. In-office employees may feel their remote colleagues aren't working as hard as they should because there's no in-person oversight. And remote employees might feel the opportunities to advance in the company are greater for in-office colleagues because their managers see them every day.