What does hybrid work mean to you?

· Covid19,hybrid work,CyberSecurity,Microsoft

Covid changed our lives forever and it will continue to do so. Where we find ourselves today is the so called ‘new normal’, a world of workplace flexibility and hybrid work. But what is hybrid really?

I struggle with the concept of new normal, as for me normality has always been whatever is happening today. The role of a businessperson is to respond and adapt to customer and employee needs and provide the best possible solutions to those stakeholders. The role of a businessperson is to respond and adapt to customer and employee needs and provide the best possible solutions to those stakeholders.

Throughout Covid the ability to work efficiently within companies depended not just on their industry but also on where those businesses were in their journey to the cloud and the provisioning of mobile/flexible working for their staff.

There’s no doubt in my mind that there were plenty of organisations that had bought into Microsoft 365 already, but users were still only using their tried and tested applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook). There was power and a great deal of satisfaction in the realisation that as they needed to solve different remote/hybrid working challenges, they already had the solutions within the Microsoft 365 platform, and it was simply a case of education and training to enable and empower their users.

That, however, was only stage one of the evolution. I speak to many people who think that they’ve been doing hybrid since the first lockdown, but I disagree with this.

Running your meeting on Teams does not mean you’re doing hybrid work.

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When everyone was working from home and connecting in for a video meeting, they all had the same experience. As businesses returned to the office, we began to see a new challenge. Some people might be onsite and sat in a meeting room whilst others are still dialling in. When we reopened our offices for those staff who wanted to return, I quickly realised there was a challenge.

In my own business I remember being sat in a meeting room with a number of colleagues in person, and we sat there looking at all the external delegates on the big screen, conversation and interaction was good until we needed to use the screen to share a dashboard pertinent to the meeting. We could all see the content but no longer could the people in the room see the remote attendees.

 Hybrid work is here to stay, the reality of this is that we will often need to work with people (colleagues and clients) some of whom will be physically present and some remote. The challenge that we have is to make the experience of the meeting or interaction equal for everyone. I now have two large screens in my meeting rooms, one for shared content and one for remote attendees, so that we can always see everyone that is participating in the meeting.

We cannot turn back time on the way we work, it has forever changed. We need to continue to think differently about the way we operate. Hybrid isn’t simply replicating the old ways in a digital form. A true hybrid work strategy means reinventing the way work is done digitally, while respecting the best of how we used to work. There is not a one size fits all approach but adapting and embracing the new will make businesses more attractive to staff and more competitive.

Hybrid working requires a business to rethink how work and collaboration is done digitally, whilst combining that the best elements of conventional teamwork. Microsoft 365 brings a wealth of software tools and supported hardware to empower business leaders in supporting their people and processes whilst also addressing the specific needs of differing working locations. For example, there is a brilliant new Teams Rooms innovation, where Microsoft Teams can recognise people in a room and show their profiles and independent video feed. This technology helps participants identify who is in the room, who is speaking, and more broadly helps facilitate stronger communication through non-verbal cues.

Hybrid working should also be examined from the perspectives of all stakeholders. Too much talk is about the business rather than the staff. There is an undeniable skills shortage across all sectors. Hybrid working allows you to attract staff from a much bigger talent pool, whether that be geographic or needs based. There is so much skill available which is disregarded because the applicant can’t work conventional work hours or has other needs. The lives, wellbeing and work/life harmony of our employees is essential and businesses who embrace that will undoubtedly benefit.

At the same time, working from multiple locations through multiple connections does increase the threat surface and open your hybrid workplace to increased cybersecurity risks and it is imperative that you consider this in terms of having the right tools, training and support.

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Cybersecurity is a fundamental hygiene factor in doing business today. The ICO continue to evolve the requirements around training and education (mandating action for new starters within one month of employment), but it doesn’t stop there. One of my books is titled ‘The Human Firewall’ and one of its points is that contrary to the often-discussed notion that employees are our greatest risk, it is also true that they are our greatest line of defence.

Business owners need to turn their attention not just to cyber security, but more importantly, CyberResilience. Ensuring that staff have the right tools for the job and that they are properly and securely managed and configured is essential. Microsoft 365 has a powerful array of impactful tools within the different levels to assist in this critical business best practice; from user identity and device management, applications, email, and data.

Every hybrid project or innovation that you do must be secure by design, consider the training needs, the security options and the processes or policies that you apply to your teams. Poor planning or execution opens the cybersecurity threat gap as staff find workarounds to enable them to get on and do their job, the right tools and the right deployment mitigates that risk.

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The hybrid workplace is evolving and the solutions you put in place will need to evolve too.

My advice is to experiment, observe and adjust your approach accordingly to ensure that you have the right tools and the optimum working environment for the needs of your staff and the commerciality of the business.

I hope this helps, do please let me know your thoughts.

Rob May