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Don’t Let Operational Risks Corrupt Your Hybrid Model

Companies navigating hybrid work must consider its impact on operational resilience and mitigate three major operational risks posed by the new work model.

Hybrid work offers the flexibility of remote work while maintaining the option for in-person connection, but it also intensifies operational risk.

According to Gallup, 77% of workers in remote-capable positions anticipate working in either a remote or hybrid environment this year and beyond. With demand for hybrid options here to stay, organizations must identify and mitigate these risks if they’re going to maintain operational resilience now and in the future.

Operational Resilience

During the pandemic, operational resilience emerged as an essential component of any successful organization. This resilience goes beyond business continuity planning, encompassing a holistic and strategic framework designed to help companies adapt and change during times of uncertainty and turbulence.

As your organization strengthens its organizational resilience, consider the impact of these operational risks often associated with hybrid work models.

1. Talent management challenges

While employees say they’ve found greater productivity and flexibility in hybrid work models, managers face a new challenge in connecting with and evaluating their remote and hybrid employees. The concept of “management by walking around” no longer suffices. It creates a risk of managers favoring on-site employees whose performance can be measured with traditional management tactics. Resilient organizations will invest in their people leaders, equipping them with training and development centered on virtual leadership skills to facilitate stronger connections and relationship-building with remote workers.

Performance evaluation must shift to an outcomes-first approach. Focus less on how long an employee is “in office.” Instead, pay attention to what employees commit to do and whether they do it, no matter where they’re working.

Changes to talent management during the pandemic extend far beyond where we work. Retaining current and attracting new employees will require leaders to commit to:

  • Regularly evaluating employee engagement
  • Reflecting on company culture
  • Demonstrating a willingness to bring agility and flexibility to people processes
  • Understanding that what works today might not work tomorrow

2. Hurdles to DEI initiatives

Many organizations undertook lofty diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals in 2020. Hybrid work can threaten the progress made and even erase milestones if companies don’t pay attention.

A Harris Poll survey found women and people of color express more satisfaction working from home. They are more likely to continue doing so than their white male counterparts. Hybrid work environments require a more complex management approach. These environments can sometimes produce two “classes” of employees: those working in-office, who feel connected to company culture, and remote workers, who experience less connection to the company.

What happens if in-office workers are more likely to benefit from growth opportunities and promotions? There’s a good chance some underrepresented employees will find themselves left behind because they’ve chosen to work from home.

To combat this danger, you must rely on data to determine whether benefits and internal mobility are equitable. Adjust workplace strategies to ensure everyone is on equal footing and judged by their output, no matter where they work.

3. Cybersecurity and compliance threats

When remote work became a necessity, companies quickly pivoted to collaborate digitally. Those changes made it possible to keep working, but they also greatly expanded organizations’ cyberattack surfaces and compliance requirements. Remote employees’ IT behaviors exacerbate those challenges.

Employees’ homes lack the secure connections of an office. In a home environment, people are more tempted to use personal devices to access work materials. Many remote employees also choose to work from public locations like coffee shops, which use unsecured networks.

More than a third of employees in a recent study admitted their cybersecurity behavior at home differs significantly from policies followed while in the office. Only half of the employees consistently reported security mistakes or concerns, such as receiving or clicking on phishing emails, which cybercriminals rely on to launch ransomware attacks.

While remote work has expanded the security perimeter of companies, data privacy hasn’t budged. Data privacy requirements make General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance -- which mandates that companies protect personal data both in transit and at rest -- increasingly complex.

If you want to protect against data breaches and ransomware attacks, update your company’s cybersecurity policy and practices. Implement multifactor authentication. Ensure employee training reflects the latest evolutions in cybersecurity protections and empower IT teams to help employees feel comfortable reporting both suspicious messages and their own mistakes -- without fear of retribution.

Building and maintaining a resilient organization demands flexible and adaptable structures around people, processes, and information. Companies working to find their “new normal” in hybrid models must embrace change and agility to protect information, manage employees fairly and reach DEI goals.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Greg Douglass, Global Lead for Technology Strategy & Advisory, Accenture
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter