How to Build a Hybrid Work Environment Today for Tomorrow’s Hybrid Workers

Last year, COVID-19 necessitated a rapid migration from corporate to home offices, confronting many businesses with a connectivity crisis. And you and your IT team responded.

Now, as stay-at-home orders expire and more businesses open, a new challenge for you and your IT team comes into focus: Rapidly reshaping the workplace into a hybrid model where work and workers flow fluidly between remote locations – such as employees’ homes, public libraries, or any place remote workers choose to operate – and conventional company facilities, such as corporate HQs and branches. 

Why? Because in one recent survey more than half (57%) of U.S. employees polled responded they won’t return to a job, post-pandemic, that doesn’t offer remote work as an option.* In short, today’s remote workers want to become tomorrow’s hybrid workers, supported by flexible network infrastructure that enables secure anytime, anywhere collaboration with colleagues and customers wherever and whenever they are on the job.

But how should you and your IT team respond to the next change in work?  Is extending both enterprise-level connectivity and security to home environments the next logical step? We say: Yes! The best approach is treating each home as you would an edge location. Check out the 3 steps below to learn how to ensure the safest and most conducive environment for you and your workforce.

3 Fundamentals of Hybrid Work Environments

A hybrid work environment network is optimized for remote traffic, looking and feeling the same to employees working from home on their own devices as when working in the office on company devices. This means, just like your edge locations, the home locations on your hybrid network must have these fundamental features – regardless of when and where people log on to the network:

  • Secure Connectivity & Access: Security is as strong at a worker’s home on wired or wireless devices as it is at a corporate desk using company equipment – with baked-in policies and processes, such as regular updates and upgrades. Along with improving technology, the move to a hybrid environment must also include shifts in policy, user education, and overall workplace culture. Security standards held at the office should be expected and executed along the edge – for example, some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) should become standard operating procedures for all workers.
  • Enhanced Communication & Collaboration: Whether brainstorming with colleagues or managing relationships with customers, working together with ease in an intuitive environment is a priority that fosters staff productivity, retention, and recruitment. Since virtual collaboration is no longer just a “nice to have,” you need to do all you can to make remote work “feel” the same as working in the office – ensuring your employees can and will embrace the virtual workplace more readily. Learn more about creating a digital workplace where your employees can collaborate anywhere, any time, and on any device.
  • Centralized, Zero-Touch Control: Everything automated and together under your supervision ― from provisioning and onboarding to managing and troubleshooting. As remote workers communicate and collaborate with intuitive ease, so do you and your IT team – monitoring critical measures such as quality of service (QoS) and executing crucial tasks such as troubleshooting.

A Secure Network Architecture for Hybrid Work Environments

We recommend fortifying connectivity and security at edge locations – i.e., home offices – by upgrading to this equipment:

  • A software-defined network (SD-WAN) for greater bandwidth, less latency, heightened security, global access, centralized control, and better performance for critical applications outside the office. With SD-WAN, your organization will be in a better position to meet the performance and security needs of a hybrid workplace – including increasing your network efficiency depending on where people are working at any moment.
  • Ready for WiFi-6 & 5G for the leverage of superior data rates that support new applications and greater network capacity, enabling rapid scaling of users and devices by your IT team and granting employees work wherever they are located. And as wireless and mobility become “the new network,” WiFi-6   will also prepare you for the slew of IoT devices making their way into enterprises.

Ready to Build? We Can Help

Black Box is a full-service network solutions provider and Gold Cisco Partner. Join one of our webinars to learn more about extending enterprise-level connectivity and security to remote workers through hybrid network environments. Click here to register for an upcoming event. Or, contact us for a one-on-one conversation  about meeting the challenges of supporting hybrid workers.

*State of Remote Work, COVID Edition 2020: How employees across the U.S. feel about working remotely in a post-COVID-19 world, their new workplace expectations, and what employers need to know to recruit and retain top talent; OWL Labs, Global Workplace Analytics

A hybrid work environment network is optimized for remote traffic, looking and feeling the same to employees working from home on their own devices as when working in the office on company devices. This means the home locations on your hybrid network must have these fundamental features.

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