News

The rise of hybrid working – green and easy, with the right IT

Author

Lindsay Harriss

Date

30 Sep, 2021

Category

Blog

With lockdown and the rapid rise in remote working, the pandemic brought with it a swift reduction in CO2 emissions, largely as a result of reduced travel, as substantial swathes of us stayed at home. Now, with the world opening up again, the new trend is towards a hybrid model of both office- and remote-based working which seems set to continue the green gains made. So, here we take a look at this new practice, how it could help save the planet, and the IT that can enable you to make a success of this modern way of working.

All change, again

While remote working was the way to go at the height of the pandemic, as we gradually emerge from the crisis, the working practices of many organisations are steadily evolving into a more hybrid model of both office-based and home working, with many employees dipping their toes into workplace life again. In fact, a recent survey of 583 business leaders by the Institute of Directors found that 63% of businesses intended to adopt this way of working post-pandemic. Indeed, following the lifting of lockdowns, rather than take an ‘everyone back in’ attitude to the workforce returning to the office, many organisations are already embracing a more measured, hybrid approach to their working practices.

So, what exactly does ‘hybrid’ working involve? Well, there are no hard and fast rules where this new practice is concerned. It could mean anything from staff being in the office four out of five days a week, to just coming into the workplace one day a month or less. It could even mean some members of a team working from home full time, while others are 100% office based. The pattern of working really can be sorted out to suit the employer and employee, giving the potential to please all parties involved – maximising productivity for the organisation and benefitting the work–life balance of employees, with total flexibility.

There are also considerable savings to be made by businesses that decide to permanently switch to hybrid working, as they can choose to downsize their office space and save on rental costs, with no need to house so many people on-site at the same time. In addition, business budgets can benefit from a reduced need to provide so many facilities and machines for workers, such as coffee and food provisions, and even printers.

Green benefits

However, the benefits of hybrid working are not limited to the specific advantages it can offer employers and employees, as this new way of working could also have substantial green benefits for us all as well. This was demonstrated by the positive environmental effects of reduced commuting, and less travel in general, during the darkest days of the pandemic. Indeed, according to recent research by the University of East Anglia (UEA), University of Exeter and the Global Carbon Project, the worldwide Covid-19 lockdowns caused fossil CO2 emissions to drop by an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020. Such a record fall can largely be attributed to a sharp reduction in travel, with so many people working from home and also avoiding business air travel, conducting meetings via videoconference instead.

While this degree of remote working is unlikely to continue, hybrid working would certainly help to reduce pre-pandemic levels of travel and associated emissions, even if to a lesser degree, and such small changes can really add up. For example, research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, estimates that if every US resident who could work from home did so for half the week, this would be the greenhouse gas equivalent of the whole New York State workforce being taken off the road – that’s a whole lot of climate-changing emissions eliminated!

In fact, although there is some debate over whether working from home does really reduce carbon emissions overall, as considerations such as home heating and energy usage also have to be factored into the mix, the general consensus seems to be that it does, with one study even finding that net reductions of 77% can be achieved.

Moreover, the green benefits of hybrid working do not stop there, as a side-effect of fewer workers converging on office blocks each day is not just the carbon emissions cut by lower numbers of cars on the road, but also a reduction in the consumption of single-use plastic. This is a possibly overlooked environmental benefit resulting from fewer people purchasing sandwiches and coffees every lunchtime, as all that packaging also takes its toll on the planet, during manufacture and from ending up in landfill.

Furthermore, a reduction in the use of office space, as many companies may decide to downsize this, could help cut energy usage and has the potential to benefit the environment, but only if all factors are considered, such as eco-friendly disposal of office furniture. For this, you could take a leaf out of Hootsuite’s book, as it reportedly managed to keep 19 tons of such material out of landfill, recycling 20% and donating the remainder to local non-profit organisations, when redesigning its Vancouver office.

Rock it with the right IT

So, if you are considering moving with the times and making a go of hybrid working for your business, what do you need to do to really rock it? Well, having the right IT will certainly set you up for success. In fact, it could make the difference between business productivity soaring or sinking, as your workers will need the best tools at their fingertips, wherever they are, to excel. One simple way to achieve this is via a desktop as a service solution, which provides users with direct, secure access to a virtual desktop any time, anywhere and on any Internet-enabled device. Indeed, this can easily help create an ‘everywhere office’, even supporting ‘bring-your-own-device’ practices, for ultimate flexibility.

Communication between your workers, and with customers, is also key to a successful hybrid working environment, so a system that allows all users to keep connected wherever they are, is invaluable. This can be easily achieved with a unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solution, which provides a straightforward way to call, message and conduct video meetings online, via one simple-to-use, cloud-based platform. With this, you can enable your team to interact efficiently from anywhere, whether that be in the office, at home, or on the go, as well as cut down on carbon-emitting business travel with some online meetings instead.

In fact, the whole ethos of the office seems to be shifting towards it being a space where people choose to come to collaborate face to face, when necessary, rather than just a place they have to attend for all their work each day. So, many organisations are redesigning their office areas to make the most of this, with an emphasis on creating collaboration spaces to foster teamwork. In fact, according to a 2021 survey, 66% of business leaders are considering redesigning their office space specifically for hybrid working, and choosing the best IT to make this successful is vital. For example, meeting spaces will now need to evolve so they bridge the gap between remote and office workers effectively, keeping everyone engaged wherever they are located, and specialist meeting room equipment , including interactive panels, audio and visual tools, can enable this. In addition, online meeting room booking systems and touchless technology can help to coordinate appointments from anywhere and keep staff COVID-safe in the new working world.

Finally, with a more widely dispersed workforce than office-based organisations, businesses with a new hybrid working environment will also need to ensure that their IT networks are as secure as possible. Following a steep rise in serious cyberattacks since the onset of the pandemic, with cybercriminals taking advantage of IT security weaknesses resulting from remote working, it is more crucial than ever to strengthen your network protection. This can be achieved via various solutions, such as firewall as a service (FWaaS) and endpoint security, or better still, Prodec Networks’ comprehensive security as a service (SECaaS) solution, which can throw a protective ring of steel around your network and effectively help to keep cyberthreats out.

So, with the world moving towards a more hybrid way of working, it may be an opportunity for business to ‘build back greener’, as the UK Government might say. And, with the help of a handful of simple IT solutions, this could well be the dawn of a far more efficient, environmentally friendly future.

If you would like to set your company up for hybrid working success, and help make the world of business greener, contact Prodec Networks today, to discuss your IT options.

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