Is Your Business IT Optimized for Hybrid and Remote Work?

Introduction

There has been a dramatic increase in people working remotely in the last decade. According to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people working from home at least one day a week has grown more than 100 percent since 2005. The trend is only expected to continue as more and more businesses recognize the benefits of a hybrid or remote work model. The shift to a “telework” model has made it possible for employees to work in the office where they live and/or have a home office. As a result, more and more employees are working from home regularly.

Two key trends are driving the need for hybrid and remote work. The first is the changing nature of work. Technology has allowed more people to work remotely, and businesses realize that they can save money by not having to provide office space and related services for employees. The second trend is the growth of the gig economy. More people are choosing to work freelance or contract jobs, and businesses find that they can save money by not taking on workers as employees. These two trends have advanced hybrid and remote work arrangements.

The benefits of hybrid and remote work

Assuming your company has not already done so, should it lean into the remote work trend? There is a lot of discussion these days about the benefits of hybrid and remote work. Some people are still on the fence about it, but there are many reasons to consider making the switch. First, let’s start with what hybrid work is. In a nutshell, it’s a blend of in-office and remote work. You might have some team members who work from home part-time, or you might occasionally work from home yourself. The beauty of hybrid work is that it allows employees to have more flexibility while maintaining a sense of connection to their team.

Now let’s talk about the benefits of remote work. First and foremost, it allows employees to have more control over their schedules. They can take care of personal errands or appointments during the day without using vacation time or PTO. Another benefit of remote work is that employees are more likely to be productive when they have options. Employees can choose their schedule and decide when to work and how long. Lastly, an employer does not need to furnish a remote worker with office space, parking space, or other office-centric resources or accommodations. The savings to the company can be substantial.

How to evaluate if your business is IT optimized for hybrid and remote work

Remote working is a growing trend that’s gaining momentum. As businesses adopt hybrid and remote work practices, their IT systems must be optimized for these work styles. Poorly designed or outdated IT systems can decrease productivity and increase employee turnover. By ensuring your system is up-to-date and optimized for hybrid and remote work, you can help your employees be more productive and less likely to leave your company. This will require evaluating multiple aspects of your business IT infrastructure in the context of supporting a geographically diverse workforce without sacrificing security, productivity, and collaboration.

First, ask yourself if your company’s network is ready to support remote workers. Is your company’s Internet connection fast and sufficiently reliable to handle multiple remote desktop connections and remote file access? Do you have a VPN or other secure remote access solution in place? Are your firewalls and anti-intrusion software up-to-date and effective against remote threats? Have you tested the network’s security and performance with remote workers in mind?

If you’re not sure, hire a consultant to help you beef up your security protocol. Then, make sure you have the right tools to allow employees to work remotely. This might include video conferencing software, cloud-based storage solutions, and secure chat platforms.

Here are some ways to optimize your business for hybrid and remote work:

  • Make sure your company’s technology is up to par. If you’re going to support a remote workforce, you need to have reliable technology to handle video conferencing, remote file access, and other bandwidth-heavy tasks. This means ensuring that your internet connection is fast and reliable, that your security is up to date, and that your file servers and authentication tools are functioning correctly. Opening up internal systems to a remote workforce introduces a range of security risks and considerations. You’ll need good IT support to implement secure access for file sharing and remote connections. Additionally, make sure that all of your employees are trained on using the technology correctly.
  • Invest in good communication tools for your workers. The importance of clear and effective communication is readily apparent in a hybrid or remote work environment. Employees can no longer rely on leaning over their cubicles or gathering around the water cooler to have a conversation. Yet, the necessity of good communication for the success of a business is as great as ever. It’s vitally important to find the right communication tools for your hybrid / remote workforce and that they use them effectively. Consider the size of your company, the type of work done, and your organization’s culture when choosing tools. Companies have effectively used systems like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams to hold virtual meetings for remote workers. Messaging and chat systems like Email and Slack can also be effective for communication and collaboration.
  • Establish a clear communication strategy. Ad hoc communication can be more difficult in a remote or hybrid work environment, so taking steps to formalize a communication strategy is key to your company’s success. What goals do you want to achieve with your communications? How will you ensure that all employees can participate? Define your goals and make sure everyone is on the same page. Make sure that everyone understands the importance of communication and how it can benefit the company. Create a culture of communication and welcome feedback from employees. Educate your team on how to communicate effectively.
  • Take advantage of tools and services to help with geographic diversity. For example, if a worker is in one location but needs access to a system in another geographic area, an employer can provide that access by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Virtual desktops are also very useful for hybrid and remote work situations, allowing workers to access the same tools and desktop environment no matter where they are. Consider adopting an integrated cloud-based productivity suite to replace disparate desktop solutions: enterprise-wide email, calendar, and collaboration tools like Google Workspace and MS Office 365 provide this work-from-anywhere functionality.
  • Update the company phone system for remote use. While your workers may be distributed among various offices and work-from-home environments, your company’s phone system still needs to allow clients and vendors to reach their intended party. It’s essential to update your phone system to support remote use so that employees continue to have access to the company phone system, no matter where they are. Depending upon the age and type of system you have, this can involve anything from a few simple configuration changes to completely replacing the system. Most modern office phone systems support remote workers with functions like call forwarding, ring groups, and virtual extensions, so it’s important to choose one that will fit your company’s needs. Some things you’ll want to consider when choosing a phone system include the number of extensions you’ll need, whether or not you need voicemail or conferencing capabilities, and how much bandwidth the system will require. Updating your company phone system for remote use can help ensure that all employees have access to the same communication tools.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are many benefits to both hybrid and remote work for companies and workers alike. Technology changes are needed to accommodate remote work, but these changes are worth making to reap the many rewards. Companies should consider offering remote work options to their employees, and employees should explore the possibility of working remotely if it is available to them. By doing so, everyone can enjoy the benefits of a more flexible, productive, and happier workforce.

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