April 29, 2022
While there’s been quite a bit of talk about employee preferences, it’s only recently that businesses are assessing how hybrid and remote workplaces have actually affected their bottom line.
A recent Accenture report indicates 63% of high-revenue growth companies are committed to hybrid workplace models, while companies that reject hybrid models are more frequently associated with negative or zero growth. On the surface, hybrid and remote work becoming mainstream was highly disruptive to business as usual. But it turns out that working from home, or anywhere, is business as usual…usually.
Will Hybrid Work Last?
Prior to the pandemic, many employers had a lot of doubts about remote work and its impact on productivity. However, as it turns out, productivity didn’t plummet, and not having to house all of their workers under one roof has saved many companies quite a bit of money. In fact, a hybrid workplace solves many challenges of the modern workforce in one rather elegant solution.
An employer that can properly accommodate remote work increases flexibility, promotes work life balance, reduces stress, and eases frustrations associated with commuting. Perhaps not surprisingly, only 9% of workers expect to return to fully in-person workplaces if and when their offices reopen, and 64% indicated that the ability to work from anywhere would affect their decision to remain with a company. To put it bluntly, hybrid and remote work is here to stay.
That said, hybrid and remote work has put a terrible strain on many IT departments. And while many IT staff have carried the additional burden admirably, after two years, it’s time to make things easier for your entire staff, IT included.
The Challenges of Remote or Hybrid Work
The pandemic showed us that companies as well as employees can thrive with hybrid workplaces. The resulting explosion of digital tools has been incredibly helpful. However, while remote work solves quite a few big problems, it also creates a few of its own.
The typical home network isn’t designed to handle a heavy workload, and remote workers may experience frustration with their tools not performing as well.
While many digital tools claim to support remote collaboration, they don’t always live up to their promises. Instead of boosting inclusion and a sense of community, poor collaboration experiences can do the opposite.
In remote and hybrid workplaces, employees frequently access sensitive data and valuable infrastructure on their network and on their own devices. While company-owned devices may be properly outfitted with modern cybersecurity tools, an employee’s private cell phone or tablet (or their child’s) may not be.
Five Questions You Should Ask Before Setting Up a Hybrid Office
1. What IT Staff Will You Need?
Hiring additional full-time IT staff to optimize hybrid and remote work has been a challenge for many businesses recently, regardless of budget. It might not even be the best solution. Working with an IT provider gives you access to an entire team of experts, who can scale their services up or down as needed. Either way, it may take additional help to make sure downtime is limited, and your data and infrastructure are secure.
2. How Secure Will You Be?
Small and midsize businesses are far from immune to cybersecurity threats. In fact, small businesses are the target of 75% of ransomware attacks, and 60% of small businesses that suffer a data breach close within six months of the attack. It’s no accident that SMBs have been targeted by cybercriminals; they know smaller organizations frequently don’t have the staff or the tools to protect themselves in a hybrid or remote working environment. That said, a reliable network isn’t out of reach for SMBs. A network that’s properly optimized for hybrid or remote work should allow secure endpoint access, protect your data, detect and block attacks, and be extremely easy to manage and configure.
3. Will Communication Be Easy?
Businesses are made up of human beings, and organizing our efforts through communication has always been our greatest strength. Online collaboration tools can be a life-saver, but only if everyone is using the same interface, and enjoying a common experience. Your ideal virtual workspace should easily exchange messages and files, allow users to find conversations and documents quickly, allow for private messaging, video meetings and group chat, and incorporate a whiteboard for brainstorming sessions.
4. What Do You Need Your Network To Do?
Your network should prioritize security. That’s a given. But beyond that, you should consider which capabilities your business really needs. For example, if you’re a cloud-based business, then a subscription-based network that’s managed in the cloud would probably be the best fit. You have more options than ever when it comes to your network provider and your online tools, which is always a good thing. However, it also means you’ll need to be more strategic about your choices.
5. What Support Will You Need?
Perhaps the greatest strength of smaller organizations is their agility. But the more tools and devices your employees are using to accomplish their wide variety of tasks, the more disruptive any downtime can be. Many network solutions include responsive technical support and training, so any failures can be quickly addressed.
Cisco's Hybrid Work Solutions
If you have been struggling to find intuitive and affordable solutions within your budget, Cisco offers a wealth of collaboration, network and security tools that are specifically designed to accommodate SMBs and hybrid work environments.
Instead of toggling between various online tools, and trying to trace conversations across multiple platforms, which can be frustrating, Cisco’s Webex integrates calling, messaging and meetings into one single and secure platform. Webex includes the following features to make collaboration easy, from anywhere:
- Built-in high-definition voice and video calling
- Noise cancellation
- Integrated devices and headsets
- Message, file share, and one-click calling for people inside and outside your organization
- Integrated scheduling
- AI-powered transcriptions
- People insights
With Cisco AnyConnect Security Mobility Client, remote workers can take advantage of enterprise network connectivity, which makes life significantly less frustrating for workers as well as IT admins. Cisco AnyConnect offers more capabilities than a traditional Virtual Private Network (VPN), with additional tools to easily identify users and strengthen security.
Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi 6 also allows you simple, yet sophisticated ways of managing Wi-Fi congestion with an intuitive dashboard, and can better support the number of devices your employees are using to access digital tools. Even a smaller internal IT staff can easily monitor application use, time of use and who the heaviest users are. This system is scalable, and allows clients to modify their network and add devices in minutes.
There’s also a Cisco solution perfectly tailored for small businesses. The Cisco Business Portfolio is value-priced, yet built on many of the same technologies as enterprise-class equipment.
Solutions for Small and Midsize Businesses
Cisco’s solutions have been designed to offer the sophisticated tools and expertise that enterprise-scale businesses have enjoyed for years to smaller organizations. One of the key benefits of any of these solutions is they’re easier to budget for. Smaller organizations can access all of the latest technology, without significant upfront cost.
Furthermore, these solutions are easy to use and manage, and offer built-in support mechanisms when you need additional help. They’re designed to reduce the burden on any internal IT staff while boosting productivity.
How To Save on Cisco Solutions
As a Cisco Gold Partner, Marco can provide convenient bundling options to help you save on multiple solutions, including secure communication and collaboration tools, as well as scalable and integrated security solutions. Our technology experts are on-hand to talk with you about your organization, your goals, and what solutions might help your staff, whether in person or remote, work smarter, faster and better.