Hybrid work adoption is playing a major role in many aspects of strategic decision-making: from real-estate investments to emphasis on cybersecurity approaches that work equally well for remote and in-office employees. These initiatives are likely to remain a top priority in the coming year. These are conclusions by IT service management firm OKTA that with market research firm Statista has surveyed around 500 digital workplace decision-makers from the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden to learn about their organisations after the pandemic.
“The flexible work model approach is no longer just a short-term, stop-gap measure organisations took to maintain operations during a crisis period. It is now the favoured workplace strategy business leaders are relying upon to build resilience for the long term.”
“Hybrid work has become the norm for the vast majority of European companies, as business leaders and boards strive for efficiency, sustainability and fiercely compete for talent.”
Main takeaways from the study:
1: Hybrid working has become the norm.
Although rates of hybrid and remote work adoption vary across countries and industries, the vast majority of European companies are now allowing employees to work remotely as often as three days per week (71%).
All-remote organisations remain a rarity in Europe, but most employers are giving their on-site workers the freedom to choose a few days each week or month to work from home or another remote location.
Many companies are choosing this because it’s widely perceived that remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts. 63% of survey participants stated that they associate remote work with higher productivity, a view that’s especially popular in Sweden and Germany, where approximately one-third of decision-makers say that location is irrelevant to how much employees are able to accomplish.
2: The role of the office is changing.
The fact that 43% of organisations adhere to an office-first approach to hybrid working shows how physical workspaces are still seen as vital for supporting collaboration, strengthening organisational cultures, and building interpersonal relationships within teams. Many companies are reconfiguring their offices to better facilitate co-working and collaboration, with less desk space dedicated to individual work.
62% reported that their company has increased its real estate investments over the past three years, and 94% agree that this real estate strategy is being influenced by hybrid work adoption.
3: Employee experience is driving workplace decision-making.
Overall, employee well-being came out on top as the main driver of decision making. This was closely followed by productivity (except in Germany where productivity took 1 spot).
These objectives are so important that most organisations are adapting operational processes and implementing new technology solutions to better support remote and hybrid workers. 77% said that their organisations had adopted flexible working hours, while many have made substantive investments to counter what’s known as “proximity bias” – the tendency among leaders to favour employees who are physically closer to them within the workplace.
4: The widespread shift to hybrid work remains subject to ongoing reassessment
While the majority of respondents did report that their organisations are adopting hybrid work in some fashion, this trend is still very new. As a result, stakeholders continue to experiment with and ask questions about the working models that their companies are testing.
60% of respondents who have adopted hybrid working stated they would be reassessing their strategies within the next 12 months, with 18% saying they are constantly assessing.
In a new regulation that was approved by the lower house of the Dutch parliament last July, working from home is now a legal right in the Netherlands. The passage of this law has raised questions about regulatory trends elsewhere in the EU: will other countries – particularly those with long histories of maintaining strong protections for workers’ rights – soon follow in the footsteps of the Dutch?.
5: Zero Trust is essential
When asked about their top challenges and priorities when it comes to hybrid working, “improving cybersecurity” occupied the top spot for both.
Identity-based attacks reached an all-time high within the past year, while credential abuse remained the most common threat action taken in attacks resulting in data breaches. Meanwhile, ransomware activity also hit a new peak.
Given these growing risks – as well as the importance of improving employee experience and collaboration – increasing numbers of European organisations are adopting identity-powered Zero Trust approaches to cybersecurity, which provide robust defences in a world where people are the new network perimeter. Zero Trust adoption – especially when it’s achieved by implementing technologies that support strong authentication to all services and seamless access to IT resources for both on-site and remote users – can empower organisations to balance security and productivity, transforming them into mutually-enabling objectives.
“Ultimately, the businesses that will be most successful at building long-term, employee-centric hybrid work strategies will be those that are best able to provide robust security and frictionless access to applications, data, and resources. These organisations will be best positioned to provide their employees with equitable, rewarding experiences in the workplace – no matter where they’re located”, the report says.