Hybrid work is here to stay. The new challenge is making sure it's not the worst of both worlds

Research from Google Workspace finds that the next challenge is keeping both in-person and remote team members engaged.

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In a new report from Google Workspace, hybrid work means anything between full in-person work with limited time flexibility and full remote work with complete time flexibility.

Image: Google Workspace

The debate over all in-person vs. all remote work is mostly over and neither side won. Hybrid it is, according to two new surveys. New research from both Google Workspace and Kaspersky finds a lot of contradictions in how people are feeling about hybrid work. A significant group of workers like remote work but another chunk worries about how to network in that setting. 

"Remote work does seem to result in better physical, social and mental well-being for me as an individual, but it does seem to come at the cost of connection to the organization," said Prasad Setty, vice president of digital work experience at Google Workspace.

The trade-off is worth it for some people as the Kaspersky research found that 61% of employees said they don't feel isolated while working remotely. Also, 37% of respondents said communication with colleagues is better now than before the pandemic.

Setty said the survey showed that only a small percentage of people expect to be fully in the office or fully remote. 

"Seventy-five percent said they expect hybrid to be the default mode for us and the complexities in the responses show the wide variation of people's views and personal preferences," he said.

SEE: Home vs. office: Why there's such a disconnect between workers and employers

The new challenge for leaders is to figure out a collaboration tech stack that supports that balancing stack. Collaboration tools have to work for all workers in all settings. It's a balancing act that requires new management skills and a willingness to experiment. The goal for 2022 will be balancing the best of both worlds: flexibility and productivity for remote people and networking and team building in person.

Here's a look at recommendations from both reports that can help set a hybrid strategy for 2022.

The key to hybrid success

According to Google Workspace's research, "Making hybrid work human," attitudes have shifted enough so that the office is no longer the "natural" place for work to get done. The researchers identify reasons behind this shift:

  • Some experiments with remote work will stick
  • The tech set up is much better now in home offices
  • Attitudes about remote work have shifted

People named the top three benefits of remote work as productivity, well-being and new ways of working, according to the research. Among people who were struggling with remote work, productivity and well-being were the top two disadvantages of working at home. 

This sense of disconnection showed up in several survey findings: 

  • 62% said are concerned about future career prospects due to fewer opportunities to network and build relationships with senior leaders
  • 57% of respondents said they feel disconnected from their organization and co-workers
  • 53% said that limited social interactions with co-workers has had a negative impact on their mental health

The Economist Impact researchers conducted the study which was sponsored by Google Workspace. Survey respondents included 1,244 employees and managers in North America, Europe, APAC and Latin America, from more than 15 industries and from both small and large organizations. In the report, hybrid means anything between full in-person work with limited time flexibility and full remote work with complete time flexibility.

Adapting collaboration tools to hybrid work

According to Setty, the survey shows the need for collaboration tools and hybrid work arrangements to meet these three criteria:

  1. Work is no longer associated with physical location
  2. Time management is key
  3. Autonomy, flexibility and human connection are all equally important

Setty said Google Workspace's companion mode takes hybrid settings into account, with some people together in a conference room and some people dialing in remotely.

"Through companion mode, people in a conference room can use hand raise and make comments and participate in polls without disrupting the experience for everyone else," he said.

Setty said the key to success when implementing flexible work hours is to define clear objectives and key results on a quarterly basis. 

"That way, everyone is clear about who is going to do what and when the team will get together to review all of it," he said.

To adjust to the shift to remote work, Setty said that he changed his weekly, 90-minute staff meeting to two 30 minute meetings to have more opportunities to check in with his team.

Remote work and security risks

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A survey by Kaspersky found that companies are using a variety of tactics to boost cybersecurity as many people continue to work from home.

Image: Kaspersky

Another new survey found that a majority of workers have adjusted successfully to remote work. Kaspersky's survey of 4,303 IT workers from 31 countries found that 61% of employees said they don't feel isolated while working remotely. Also, 37% of remote workers said they are communicating even better with their colleagues now. Still, a significant group — 39% — feel isolated while working at home.

The survey also found that: 

  • 54% of employees said remote work has led to an increase in workload 

  • 61% of employees haven't noticed any difference when it comes to communicating with their teams during remote work

  • 80% of firms have tried to address employee burnout, but only 45% have implemented solutions that actually help to mitigate the amount of workload
  • 42% of SMBs and 43% of enterprises have experienced IT security infringement by employees
  • 45% prefer not to disclose leaks of personal employee data publicly

People are still using non-corporate devices and services for everything from email to resource planning software to web-conferencing platforms, although the use of each of these services has risen only about 3% over the last year. Survey respondents also listed these security issues with working remotely:

  • 42% of respondents cited poor end-user security culture as one of the most pressing issues 

  • 42% of organizations have experienced inappropriate IT resource use by employees

  • 38% of companies reported inappropriate sharing of data via mobile devices

Andrey Evdokimov, head of information security at Kaspersky, said in the report companies need to consider the value of the information and the number of people who have access to it, in addition to protective measures.

"Breaches are more likely to occur in organizations where too many employees work with confidential valuable information that can be sold or somehow used. In this case, if possible, it is necessary to change business processes by decreasing the number of people with access to crucial data, reducing the amount of data available to all employees, and also making available information less attractive for theft (anonymizing data, deleting the last digits of a credit card number, etc.)," said Evdokimov.

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...