The combination of remote and in-office work has emerged as the leading choice, offering the best of both worlds for employees and businesses alike. While this arrangement brings many positives, it can leave you exposed to numerous hybrid working risks.
As hybrid work moves from temporary to permanent status, now is the time to assess whether the pandemic-induced actions rapidly implemented to support a remote workforce will adequately safeguard your business over the long haul. After all, 74% of U.S. companies are using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model. And 63% of high-growth companies are on board with “productivity anywhere” hybrid-work model.
Here are five hybrid working risks worth addressing within your digital infrastructure and wider risk management strategy:
Cybercrime continues to grow in sophistication, and businesses adopting a hybrid work model must maintain their vigilance, with robust controls surrounding data security.
The technological complexity associated with a work-from-anywhere approach – employees using their own equipment, taking part in business meetings from public spaces, sharing data on unsecured networks – can put sensitive or confidential information at risk. And sometimes it’s hard for employees to appreciate exactly what kind of information is considered confidential.
The onus is on organizations to invest in security literacy through training and support. Human error also can be minimized by controlling access to sensitive data and establishing a clear audit trail detailing access and actions surrounding the data.
Similarly, contractors, vendors, and other third parties may expose you to their own hybrid working risks. Make sure that they have equally robust IT security measures in place for remote workers – and regularly reassess the status to identify any security or operational issues that need to be addressed. The ability to see the full picture of your cyber risk in real time will leave you better placed to take the appropriate actions.
Working remotely in a more relaxed setting can blur the lines between the personal and corporate worlds. Employees may lower their guard, saying or doing things – like accidentally sharing confidential information or making inappropriate comments about a coworker – that they wouldn’t ever do if they were physically in a more formal office environment. Employees also might use their business email accounts for personal communications, potentially exposing you to phishing attempts or other threats.
Maintaining company standards when staff are at home or in the field requires regular, clear, and consistent communications on policies, protocols, and behaviors considered appropriate within your business culture. Integrated risk management software that centralizes jurisdictional requirements and seamlessly integrates relevant HR data can help reduce work from home risks.
Demotivated and divided teams
With some members in the office and others at home, the team can easily become disconnected. Remote employees may feel out of the loop, especially when it comes to mentoring, coaching, or career opportunities. Office-based personnel are naturally more visible, which may increase their chances of being selected for key projects or promotions. Culture, values, and ethics also can be harder to instill, especially among new team members.
If your company is committed to the hybrid model, you’ll want to put well-crafted policies in place to ensure that remote employees are not at a disadvantage when it comes to being selected for key projects or promotions. You’ll also want to periodically reassess, say, the status of who is being promoted to make sure these policies are carried through in the real world.
For some employees, the prospect of even a few days in the office can potentially upset the applecart. Many people who started working from home because of the pandemic found they were more productive and less stressed – and would like to continue working from home, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.
In fact, a recent study of more than 32,000 workers worldwide found that 64% of the workforce would consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time. And more than half are willing to accept a pay cut to guarantee the flexibility of a hybrid approach.
In today’s tight labor market, taking a hard line on in-office attendance can put you at risk of losing possibly your greatest asset – your people. After all, the job market is buoyant with opportunities for fully remote roles. Businesses need to understand the views of the workers and reach mutually agreeable ground to minimize turnover and other hybrid working risks. Consider this also as an opportunity to reevaluate how people and processes are managed and take steps to foster employee engagement, fulfillment, and productivity.
Business leaders report that 64% of their workforces are skeptical or anxious about their future within a hybrid workplace. That being the case, you can help people feel more supported and secure with:
- The right equipment and tools – in or out of the office
- A well-defined corporate culture and relationships built on trust
- Policies that minimize stress among workers
- Leadership that is trained to spot red flags and empathize when a member of staff may be struggling
Providing clarity on the organization’s commitment to hybrid work and expectations can also help counter employee stress.
Effectively managing hybrid working risks can be a be productive, profitable, and sustainable for organizations – while providing flexibility, variety, and fulfilment for employees. And that’s a balance good for everyone.