Cracking the hybrid work code

The next wave in work is already here, but not every company is brave enough to ride it. Here’s why the future will be won by those willing to make work work better.

ARTICLE | 5m read
August 11, 2021

Few dared to see it. But it’s been there for years, waiting for the world to wake up to its potential. Now, hybrid is everywhere — screaming from billboards, lighting up news feeds — and there’s no putting it back in the bottle.

So, what now? How will you ensure digital security when on any given day, over half of your people sit beyond your firewall? How will you build resilience into your operations so that when the next crisis arrives, you’re ready to react? And how will you guarantee all voices will be heard in the meeting, whether they’re across the room or across a continent?

Hybrid shouldn’t be a hassle. Hybrid is about taking the best of what was, and melding it with the best of what may be — and making it your own. If the experiments of the past 18-plus months have proven anything, it’s that uncommon levels of productivity, collaboration, and empathy are achievable when you give people the space and tools to work on their terms.

That’s not to say operationalizing a hybrid model will be easy. Organizations should brace for bumps and bruises, but they should also embrace a spirit of experimentation, secure in the knowledge that sometimes a tactic will fail — and sometimes it will succeed beyond their wildest ambitions.

Making hybrid work work is the most critical business challenge of the next few years. But the biggest challenges have a habit of bundling the greatest rewards. Here’s why hybrid work is a code worth cracking.

A chance to reimagine old tech

Though many organizations have resolved the digital access and uplink headaches they wrestled with at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many relied on stop-gaps that were anything but secure. A hybrid work model presents IT leaders with a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stop relying on Band-Aid fixes, and to reimagine their technology needs from the ground up, putting end users — i.e., their people — at the core of the experience.

The promise of hybrid work is that it gives business and IT leaders peace of mind on two fronts: One, workers who arrive at the office are protected behind an on-premises firewall. Two, organizations that have taken this opportunity to upgrade their IT infrastructure can be confident that their remote employees are using secure technologies to access the tools they need to do the best work of their lives.

A chance to humanize the workplace

Depending on who you ask, remote work has led to unprecedented levels of productivity and burnout, happiness and depression. Business and IT leaders, then, should view hybrid work as a golden compromise — an approach that melds the best of the past year-plus with what’s been missing from it.

Gartner reports that six in ten workers feel more productive in a hybrid work model. By combining the best of both worlds, businesses and employees alike are positioned to reap the benefits.

And some of those benefits are more valuable than any number on a balance sheet could express. By adopting a hybrid-first approach, organizations signal that they acknowledge the commitments their employees — particularly caregivers — have outside of work, and make accommodation for them. Seeing employees in their fullness takes practice. Hybrid work is a step toward that worthy goal.

If this all sounds a bit lofty, consider Gartner again: Employers who provide more holistic support to employees enjoy a 21% increase in high performers. Hybrid work requires leaders to embrace a radical new work ideology, and empathy plays a fundamental part.

A chance to thrive

The pandemic has shown there are significant benefits to both working remotely and working in an office environment. Whether the metric is well-being, productivity, diversity of the talent pool, or individual workers’ progress in their roles, each can be measured and prioritized in a way that for decades has largely eluded organizations.

The hybrid era is making work more fluid than ever. Where work gets done, how work gets done, and who does the work has evolved significantly over the last year-plus, and will continue to do so. To succeed, organizations should means-test their ability to adapt to a distributed workforce, and modernize their employee experience without compromising data, app, and employee security. When they commit to this work, business leaders set their organizations up to get the best from their people. IT teams are freed to trial, deploy, and sometimes, cut out technologies like never before. And employees are empowered to chart their own course to individual progress.

An intelligent hybrid work model is the perfect tool for decoding — and realizing — these benefits.

Learn how to design a hybrid work experience that avoids the constraints of the past and puts technology to its best use. Get the 2021 Smarter Workplace Report.