According to a recent study by Stanford University, “an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time”. While a large portion of us have been working from home (WFH) due to the pandemic, it’s likely that at least some employees will eventually migrate back to the corporate office once the COVID-19 situation is under control. That said, there are benefits of WFH employees – or for employees who wish to work in a hybrid workplace setting. If that’s true for your organization, now may be the time to investigate whether it makes sense to make flexible workplaces a permanent fixture. Let’s explore how hybrid workplaces are created are along with the pros and cons of this model.
Creating a hybrid workplace
From a technology standpoint, creating a hybrid workplace is more than just handing employees a laptop and giving them a remote access to apps and data. Instead, a hybrid workplace is a major architectural change from an application and service delivery standpoint. The goal for a hybrid workplace infrastructure is to provide the same level of application access, performance and security both inside the corporate network as well as outside. Most often, this requires that the IT department migrate apps, data and services to one or more public cloud service providers (CSPs). Doing so allows users seamless access to digital corporate resources no matter what location they work from.
Benefits of hybrid workplaces
A key benefit of hybrid workplaces is that they allow employees to perform their job duties from practically any location they choose. A 2020 HBR study shows that productivity can actually improve in certain professions when employees are allowed to work from home. Therefore, it may be wise for businesses to offer a hybrid environment to employees that can prosper from it. The migration of services into public clouds gives the IT department the ability to allow employees to access these resources directly instead of having to first backhaul traffic through the corporate network.
Additionally, moving to a hybrid workplace forces the IT department to implement much-needed security architecture changes to protect all users – not just those working from within the corporate office. Distributed workforce security tools such as zero trust and secure access services edge (SASE) architectures will help create a complete, end-to-end security framework with which to operate and manage a hybrid workforces.
Drawbacks of hybrid workplaces
While the benefits of hybrid workplaces are clear, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks. For one, many IT departments continue to manage applications and data housed within private data centers. Thus, it becomes far less efficient to access digital resources while working remotely. To truly build-out a hybrid workplace architecture, migrating as many of these applications and services to the public cloud is a critical step. Failing to do so can result in suboptimal end-user experiences.
Next, some IT departments struggle with creating new end-user policies and tools that help protect the business from lost or stolen data. As workforces move outside the cybersecurity protections deployed within a corporate network boundary, data becomes much harder to monitor and track. This is especially true in situations where IT departments deploy traditional desktops and lack the necessary controls required to keep data from leaving those desktops.
Finally, hybrid workplaces can create gaps in communication between employees and teams that previously did not exist. If changes to how employees collaborate and share data while working remote is not properly addressed, it can create significant slowdowns in productivity. Thus, processes and tools must be implemented to close this communications gap and to allow geographically dispersed employees to work in shared-data environments.
Setting the foundation for a successful hybrid workplace environment
It’s clear that hybrid workplaces are indeed the future of work. As mentioned, cloud computing plays and major foundational role in any successful hybrid workplace rollout. The cloud can not only offer uniform access for in-office and remote employees, but modern cloud security tools can also provide seamless data security as users flow between locations. Most businesses have already leveraged cloud services in one form or another. If hybrid work is your goal, it’s wise to continue migrating apps and services as quickly as possible.
Additionally, IT architects are finding that an investment in virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) or desktop as a service (DaaS) can significantly streamline the management of hybrid workers. Virtual desktops can also help from a data loss prevention (DLP) standpoint as all data resides securely within the VDI or DaaS infrastructure. Therefore, the combination of cloud-based apps and services along with virtual desktops create an excellent foundation for hybrid workplaces both now and into the future.