News Article

How to Prepare for the Future of Hybrid Work

Here’s the understatement of the year: work has changed. And amidst unprecedented labor shortages and the so-called “Great Resignation,” employers are wise to accommodate changing workforce preferences to boost recruitment and retention efforts.

But as hybrid models take the lead in shaping the future of work, many executives don’t feel prepared to support the operational shift. In a recent survey by Riverbed and Aternity, only 32% indicated that they were “completely prepared” for a transition to hybrid work. Among other challenges, leadership faces new complexities in digital and physical access management that threaten both the employee experience and a company’s overall security posture.

Let’s review how work is changing, what it means for physical access and security – and what you need to look out for as you prepare to implement a hybrid model.

Why hybrid?

After the seismic shifts prompted by the events of 2020, most offices are unlikely to return to their former in-person operational model. For one thing, it’s not what people want.  According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 73% of respondents prefer the option of remote work.

While some companies have made the plunge into a 100% remote format, many hope to retain some of the in-person elements that help to shape company culture – and that also capitalize on existing investments in physical infrastructure. Tech giant Google, for example, known for office perks such as catered meals, coffee bars, nap zones and more, announced plans for the majority of employees to eventually adopt a hybrid work week, spending three days in the office and two working wherever they choose.

More and more executives are coming around to the idea of hybrid work moving forward. 97% of respondents to the Riverbed and Aternity survey indicated they would be comfortable with a long-term hybrid model. Last year, that number was at 30%.

Security is a concern – but it’s not just digital

As more companies get on board with the idea of a hybrid work model, they face new challenges in making the experience seamless for employees. Many are also concerned with the new security risks introduced by managing so much IP digitally. But as potential cybersecurity weaknesses take center stage, let’s not forget about the gaps created from a physical standpoint.

Consider the following:

  1. You’ll be putting your cyber-physical infrastructure to the test.
    In a hybrid model, employees will need to shift back and forth from digital and physical workspaces on a regular basis. That means you need to make sure employees can access both, safely and securely. Linking physical and digital forms of employee identity facilitates the switch – and decreases vulnerabilities from a security standpoint.

  2. Employee access needs will become less predictable.

    Many hybrid models leave it up to the employee to determine which days they will spend at home and which they will be at the office in order to preserve a sense of flexibility and accommodate individual scheduling needs. And even with set schedules for remote and in-person work, the typical Mon-Fri, 9-5 access schedule becomes much more fragmented.

    As a result, the physical access needs of salaried employees begin to more closely resemble those of shift workers. At the same time, many organizations are looking to increase their visibility and tracking capabilities to ensure worker safety in the fight against COVID-19. Managing and tracking physical access for every employee in the hybrid environment is challenging for any security team, but particularly complex for companies with a large staff and multiple locations.

  3. Most physical access control systems cannot handle new complexities.

    Because legacy physical access control systems lack the capacity to manage large scale changes to individual cardholder work schedules, security teams who want to create more tailored physical access policies have had to tackle them by hand, creating multiple reports. The system limitations, coupled with overwhelming manual requirements for managing access, lead many security teams to simply assign 24/7 access for each cardholder – the least secure option.

Make productivity and security go hand-in-hand in the hybrid environment

A hybrid model relies on a cyber-physical infrastructure that allows employees to come and go from a variety of workspaces. The less siloed your digital and physical identity and access management becomes, the fewer security gaps emerge along the way – and the easier it is for employees to get where they need to be – and get work done.

But accommodating more sporadic access needs does not have to mean a manual nightmare. Consider the following preparatory steps:

Start now with AlertEnterprise

Help employees work in a way that fits their individual schedules without opening your company up to new security risks. We can help you facilitate digital and physical identity-based access management, increase visibility, automate policy enforcement and more. The best part? Changing the way you operate doesn’t have to mean a rip and replace. Contact us today to find out how we can help you prepare for hybrid work using your existing systems.