What is hybrid work?
A hybrid work model is the blending of in-office and remote work. An employee in this model may divide their time between commuting to the office and working from other locations. Alternatively, a hybrid work model may also involve a mix of full-time remote and fully on-site employees. Explore additional hybrid work topics:
Explore additional hybrid work topics:
- What does the hybrid work model look like?
- What are the advantages of hybrid work?
- Why is hybrid work becoming more popular?
- Hybrid work: The next evolution of remote work
- What is the difference between hybrid and remote work?
- Advantages and disadvantages of hybrid work
- Citrix solutions for a hybrid work model
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Hybrid work is a relatively new concept. With the rapid rise of remote work as well as the numerous real-time, cloud-based collaboration tools that enable it, the term now most often refers to a working arrangement that involves splitting work time between:
- A traditional in-office workplace
- A worker’s home or other chosen workspace
Although not every organization is able or willing to adopt a hybrid work model, many companies have at least considered it as a way of preserving their pre-pandemic office work cultures and office space investments while meeting employee expectations for greater flexibility. In other words, hybrid work can help strike a balance between employee and employer preferences.
A well-structured hybrid work model—one where a typical workweek includes a few days on site and the rest remote—can be ideal for collaboration, productivity, and the employee experience. Gartner has found that only 30% of employers are concerned about preserving their workplace cultures in a hybrid work world1, and that team members who say culture has improved as a result of working remotely are 2.4 times more likely to report high employee engagement2.
However, getting hybrid work right requires careful attention to how applications are accessed, especially beyond the four walls of an organization’s offices. Secure internet access, zero trust security and other protective mechanisms are essential for a successful hybrid workplace.
In either case, hybrid work deployments are all about flexibility. They’re meant to provide a “best of both worlds” setup that optimizes:
- Autonomy: Some employees prefer being in the office whereas others like the solitude of being at home. Hybrid work options can provide the right employee experience for both groups and in turn support a culture of inclusion and autonomy.
- Productivity: Hybrid work can boost productivity by empowering remote workers while simultaneously keeping the option open for in-person interaction and collaboration as needed.
- Worker retention and recruitment: The flexibility to work outside the office at least some of the time is a key job perk. An organization offering hybrid schedules may be better equipped to retain employees than one that doesn’t, and to recruit from anywhere.
The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, the employer focus on workplace culture and the evolution of cloud collaboration and security tools have finally brought hybrid work to the forefront of the modern workplace.
In theory, hybrid work has been viable ever since employees were first able to work from home. In reality, it’s only recently become practical for organizations as a way to support the widespread move to remote working after COVID-19. Simultaneously, a proper supporting toolset has emerged in the cloud, one that’s capable of being easily ported and used across hybrid work locations.
Undoubtedly, cloud-based applications have been vital to the rise of hybrid work:
- Even if a worker is far away from an organization’s main office space, they can still be productive as long as they have access to cloud software for file sharing, web and video conferencing, and other key collaboration functions over the internet.
- Ideally, such applications will be as safe to access from someone’s home as they are from within an office. Shielding access to them while preserving an intuitive employee experience is one of the key challenges in hybrid work.
- Secure cloud applications mean that both in-office and remote employees can be productive, with location less important than what (i.e., apps, documents, data, etc.) they have access to at any given time.
Many company executives seized the golden opportunity presented to them by these cloud, web, and virtual applications to enable remote work, and from there, hybrid work. Because 100% remote work is not necessarily the best or only option for many organizations—either because they wish to maintain an office presence or think it’s good for productivity and collaboration to have some face time—hybrid work has become a happy medium between the office and the home.
Embracing the Hybrid Workforce
Download the full report to see how a zero trust approach helps support secure hybrid work.
Remote work has grown significantly since the early 2000s, when it was still a fringe practice for most organizations. Employees who couldn’t commute, lived very far from a company’s main location, and/or were offered the rare option for remote work were the only members of the remote workforce until the late 2010s.
Now that remote work is much more extensive, organizations have sought ways to integrate it more deeply into their overall operations and employee experience.
Some have done so by going fully remote. However, hybrid work is more realistic in most instances where companies are eager to bring employees back into their offices, and to give everyone more flexibility in choosing where and how they work. In this way, hybrid work is becoming the future of work.
Hybrid work is a superset of remote work; it includes everything practiced under remote work and then adds in some on-site components. Accordingly, a remote workforce can be incorporated into a hybrid work model. Let’s look at how hybrid work and remote work stack up.
- Hybrid work: Office or remote work environment.
- Remote work: Non-traditional workspace (home, public space, etc.)
- Hybrid work: In-person meetings, email, phone calls, collaboration software.
- Remote work: Primarily collaboration software (e.g., for video conferences) and email.
Application access security
- Hybrid work: Possibly a traditional network perimeter (for on-site); for offsite, a mix of secure web gateways, web application firewalls, and other secure access service edge (SASE) mechanisms, in addition to older safeguards like single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA).
- Remote work: No conventional network perimeter to protect; remote work security consisting of SASE, zero trust network access (ZTNA), VPN alternatives, MFA and SSO.
Effect on productivity
- Hybrid work: Gives everyone the flexibility to find the workplace that works best for them.
- Remote work: Ideal for workers who are experienced telecommuters or are comfortable working in isolation.
Hybrid work has distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to remote work. Allowing a remote workforce to work in the office some of the time can be a potential boon to collaboration. Or, it can be a drag on productivity if secure access isn’t properly facilitated and there’s no clear-cut hybrid work policy.
Pros of hybrid work
- Flexibility and productivity: In a hybrid work model, employees can choose the location that best fits their preferences and workstyle, which in turn allows them to do their best work. Companies can also recruit more broadly, instead of being restricted to only-local or only-remote candidates.
- Employee wellbeing: Employees don’t have to be forced into an all-remote or fully in-person environment. The level of autonomy that comes with flexible work is often good for employee engagement and happiness.
- In-person connections: Hybrid work offers the option for in-person interaction and meetings, which some employees may prefer, and which can provide a useful alternative to the fatigue induced by constant video conferencing.
Cons of hybrid work
- Security complexity: Hybrid work creates all the same security-related challenges as remote work (no network perimeter, access from numerous mobile devices) on top of the challenges of securing a traditional centralized workplace.
- Challenges with burnout and frustration: Workers may struggle to find a workstyle that’s optimal for them. The mixing of in-office and remote work may blur the boundaries of the workday and create work/life balance issues, for instance. Difficulties with consistently accessing cloud apps can also be exhausting.
- Problems with morale: Employers and employees may have differing perceptions of what constitutes the “right” way to maintain work schedules, even though the arrangement is nominally flexible. This disagreement can diminish morale.
Under a hybrid work model, on-site and remote workforces both need secure application access that does not diminish the employee experience. Secure access solutions from Citrix help organizations strike the balance between productivity and security:
- Citrix Secure Private Access implements the contextual security controls that are critical for determining which users should be granted access to key applications across hybrid work environments.
- Citrix Analytics for Security provides the proactive insights necessary for proactively identifying and addressing security risks.