Hybrid work is the combination of in-office and remote workers for an organization’s employees. In a hybrid work environment, some employees might work remotely, others may work on-premises, and others may split their time between working at the office, working from home, or working from other locations such as coffeeshops. Many organizations consider hybrid work the evolution of remote work, enabling employers to better integrate remote work into overall business processes while delivering a similar employee workplace experience for remote workers.
Although some organizations have adopted a fully remote workforce, most organizations have found that hybrid work is a better solution that enables companies to bring workers back into the workplace while offering flexibility to work remotely when office visits are unnecessary.
Hybrid work has become viable thanks to the emergence of supporting tools both in the workplace and in the cloud that eases collaboration and communication between employees working from multiple locations.
Adoption of hybrid work models accelerated during the Covid pandemic, as employers struggled to maintain corporate culture and employee satisfaction while meeting business goals including collaboration. Even as the pandemic wanes, many organizations have adopted hybrid work as a permanent model going forward.
Hybrid work enables employees to decide whether to work remotely or on-premises and can contribute to increased productivity and better work experience, especially if long commutes can be avoided. Hybrid work also provides an opportunity for employers to recruit and hire personnel who are not located near their workplace, thus providing a broader pool of potential candidates.
Having the option to split time between remote and on-premises work also promotes employee well-being and can enhance engagement and job satisfaction. Many employees choose to travel to the workplace for meeting and in-person interaction on certain days, and work remotely on other days. A Gartner study found that workers who say workplace culture has improved as a result of remote work are more than twice as likely to report high employee engagement.
The flexibility offered by hybrid work provides the best of both on-premises and remote work, enabling employees to work autonomously or in groups, and many employees see the option of working from home at least part of the time as a valuable benefit that can help increase employee retention.
Since employees in a hybrid work model are both on-premises and working remotely, provision must be made for access to applications and tools that enable work-from-anywhere capabilities in a secure environment. Many organizations rely on cloud-based tools to achieve this; other organizations use a combination of software as-a-service (SaaS) cloud-based applications and traditional on-premises workloads secured by VPN or other secure tunnel.
SaaS application enable employees to be productive wherever they have internet access, and cloud-based collaboration platforms have become the norm since the pandemic, with many organizations using cloud collaboration for meetings even when all the attendees are in the same building to take advantage of recording and transcription tools that are widely available.
Another cybersecurity approach many organizations are taking is the adoption of zero-trust endpoint security, which eliminates the assumption of ‘safe’ connections between endpoints, applications, and data. By requiring every transaction to be authenticated, zero-trust enhances security for remote workers even if they are utilizing unsecure Wi-Fi at the local café.
Providing secure access to applications for both on-premises and remote employees demands a careful review of access methods, especially for remote users. Hybrid work presents the same challenges as remote work including the lack of a network perimeter and the need to support access for a broad variety of devices from virtually anywhere, as well as securing infrastructure located on-premises.
Network access – and bandwidth – can be a dealbreaker for some remote workers. Even the best cloud-based applications are useless if employees cannot access them due to spotty internet or outages. Each employee should have a contingency plan for dealing with internet outages at their home or remote work location.
Some employees may resist a hybrid work environment, either because the want to return to the workplace or because they do not want to return to the workplace. Employees may wrestle with finding a work pattern that is right for themselves and supports the work/life balance that is important to them and their loved ones. Hybrid work can make the boundaries between work and home blurry and even lead to employee burnout.
- Remote work is a subset of hybrid work. Hybrid work combines remote work with on-premises work in combinations.
- Remote workers mostly collaborate using conferencing software, hybrid work adds face-to-face meetings and phone calls to the remote model.
- Remote worker security primarily involves secure access service edge (SASE), zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and VPNs. Hybrid work adds traditional network security for on-premises employees along with a mix of email and web gateways, firewalls, and SD-WANs for flexible secure access.