A Business Owner’s Guide to Offering IT Support in a Hybrid Workplace

The pandemic has forever changed the way we work. Many businesses were forced to shift much of their workforce to remote work, and even after COVID-19 becomes a thing of the past, a lot of organizations will likely continue with their hybrid workforce. 

But, with this shift came an unprecedented challenge for accommodating both the in-house and remote employees. Business owners must find effective technical solutions for sustaining the hybrid workforce – now and in the future. 

One of the biggest challenges business owners face is in providing IT support. 

If that’s you, then read the rest of this guide to discover effective strategies and tactics for how you can offer IT support in a hybrid workplace.

But first, the basics…

What is a Hybrid Workplace? 

A hybrid workplace is a flexible workplace model designed to support a distributed workforce of in-office and remote workers. 

Some people work permanently from home while others work full time in the corporate facility, whether it’s a traditional office, retail store, production line, etc. Yet others will work a few days at the office and the remainder of the week at home. 

According to recent statistics, the hybrid work model is used by 63% of high-growth companies, and over 98% of employees prefer it to full on-site or fully virtual work. 

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For years, experts predicted that workforces would be more geographically dispersed because of the use of cloud-powered digital tools and software. 

However, due to the effects of the global pandemic, this shift has happened all at once, requiring an equally robust response from managers and leaders in IT. 

The hybrid workplace presents a change to context for workforces, and this has massive implications for IT, some of which include:

  • Extended support desk hours
  • Remote management tools
  • Remote support
  • Work specific user training
  • Cloud enablement of software
  • Provisioning equipment to remote workers
  • Supporting employee provided equipment
  • Enabling multiple forms of collaboration
  • Enabling scheduling, whiteboarding, availability tracking, etc.
  • Appropriate security for distributed work

And that’s not to mention things such as helping facilities to modernize building technologies in order to avoid touch-heavy surfaces. 

IT also needs to partner more closely with HR to enable and enforce policies that will ensure a safe office environment, such as daily health screening and temperature checks, visitor management, and so on.

The bottom line is, IT has a huge role to play in creating a safe, happy, and productive hybrid workplace.

And since the growth of hybrid workplaces is likely to continue in the future, it’s important for business owners to develop IT support solutions for this new workplace model. 

With that said, let’s take a look at the means by which IT support can be offered both in-house and remotely.

How to Offer IT Support in a Hybrid Workplace

So far, we’ve looked at what a hybrid workplace is, the benefits it offers, and the role IT plays in creating a safe and productive hybrid workplace. 

But, how can CIOs and other IT leaders offer IT support in a hybrid workplace? 

Here are a few strategies to consider in the most important areas:

1. Communication and Accessibility

Your business needs to equip everyone to be successful regardless of where they are, virtual, or in-office. 

You can start by listing all the employees’ home office needs such as:

  • Monitors
  • Internet connection
  • Noise-canceling headphones

… and so on

You might consider issuing a stipend for workers can use to cover set up and internet costs, etc. You could even offer a BYOD (bring your own device) allowance to help ease the work of the IT staff.

Neal Taparia, who runs classic gaming platform Solitaired.com, explains, “We noticed our employees weren’t willing to spend their own money to have an optimal home office set up. However, when we offered to cover these expenses, our team didn’t hesitate to get what they needed. As a result, we found productivity increased, especially around the velocity of development for our solitaire games.”

Next, you can start thinking about the organization’s needs. To allow employees to work from anywhere, you might consider the following:

  • Set up a VPN
  • Cloud filing and storage
  • Video conferencing tools
  • Webinar Software
  • Communication and collaboration tools

… and so on.

The main goal here is to make remote work and in-office work interchangeable. Employees should find it just as easy to work from home as it is to do their work from the office.

So, focus your efforts on ensuring that the necessary equipment is made available and that documents can be accessed quickly and easily. Workers must also have efficient ways to communicate with others.

2. Physical Space Access

Offering IT support in a hybrid workplace isn’t just about communication and collaboration. In today’s work environment, it also involves physical space access and capacity management. 

Consider the type of technology you can integrate into your office space as a way to support your hybrid workplace. 

For instance, you might create a touchless office experience to make your employees feel safer. 

There are many ways you can do this, such as installing technology that opens the door when a badge is swiped or turns on the lights when someone enters a room. You might also consider placing digital signage around the office for room availability or even QR codes that employees can use to claim office or desk space from their phones. 

With the right workplace management software, you can limit office capacity and keep workspaces open for a specific period after each use to make sure that the room is cleaned and sanitized properly prior to the next reservation.

Taking the Necessary Cybersecurity Measures

Protecting your network from security breaches is yet another major consideration when offering IT support in a hybrid workplace. 

Data security threats are on the rise, and the flexible nature of hybrid work makes it a lot harder to track which of your employees access data, why they do so, which system they access the data from, what devices they use, and so on. 

For the most part, employees at home are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Homes sometimes run on outdated routers, and personal computers become infected with viruses, leading to increased security risk. 

You must put measures in place to prevent unauthorized entries and protect the data stored in your network, devices, and the cloud. 

You can take measures such as:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Recovery systems
  • Tokenization
  • Encryption

… and so on.

There are many other measures you might choose to put in place. The important thing is to ensure that your security strategy, as well as the technology supporting it, both transition to hybrid as your business does.

Ways to Alleviate IT Costs in a Hybrid Work Environment

It’s obvious that employees expect companies to implement protocols and technology to keep them safe and also enable productivity no matter where they are working from. 

IT leaders have a critical role to play in implementing this technology that connects the entire organization and encourages on-site and remote collaboration. 

But, all of this costs money. 

This leaves business owners with difficult decisions to make that will impact all departments – decisions ranging from the amount of space required to bring in a certain number of people on specific days of the week, how to compensate employees engaged in this model, or even how to prioritize the technologies to implement. 

To help you in this regard, here are some tips for alleviating costs:

  • Implement a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Strategy: Sometimes employees feel a lot safer when using their own devices and equipment that isn’t touched by others.
  • Use a Hoteling Strategy: Consider using an office hoteling system for a flexible agile workplace. It may be a good option for employees who live within a specific distance away from the office.

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  • Save by Choosing the Right Technology: Before rushing to adopt new technologies, take the time to ensure that your technology matches the needs of your business and employees. Additionally, determine whether you’re dealing with fixed expenses or if you’ll suffer variable costs over time. For example, if you purchase software-as-a-service (SaaS), your subscription cost could increase every time you need to renew. Using free alternatives or buying software with a one-time cost is one of the best ways to avoid variable costs. .

For the most part, a hybrid workplace is more cost-effective. It will save your business from pricey real estate investments as lots of employees choose to work from elsewhere. 

Over the past couple of years, a lot of businesses have saved tons of money by shutting down offices and allowing everyone to work from home. 

But, while the overall real estate costs might go down for the hybrid workplace model, IT costs will increase. So business owners must reallocate the budget to IT to cater for more headcount, as well as the additional tools to ensure adequate support and security of the hybrid workplace.

Tools for Offering Support in a Hybrid Workplace

A lot of businesses had to scramble to implement collaboration platforms and cloud-based tools when the global pandemic hit. 

As time went on, remote work started to become the standard, and this continues even today with the potential end of the health crisis in sight. 

However, after evaluating all the benefits that come with it, a lot of businesses are still holding on to the hybrid model, hence the need to find the best technology and tools to support a hybrid workforce post-pandemic.

Here are some tools to consider: 

1. Applicant Tracking System

With a hybrid workplace, you are not confined to hiring employees from a specific city, state, country, or continent. An applicant tracking system will help you handle recruitment and hiring needs electronically.

Examples of applicant tracking software include: 

  • Oracle Taleo
  • iCIMS
  • Greenhouse

2. Collaboration Tools

Team collaboration software will help you and your employees track progress on projects regardless of physical location. It includes instant messaging, cloud storage, file sharing tools, documentation synchronization, online whiteboards, and various other tools.

Examples of collaboration software include:

  • Asana
  • Todoist
  • LiquidPlanner

3. Communication Platform

This is part of the broader category of collaboration tools. You can choose from a wide range of applications to support ad hoc communication in your organization and allow employees to share information when working on common projects.

Examples of communication software include:

  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Workspace

Communicating with employees in a way that is natural to them is important. Using email marketing services to increase engagement among employees like you might do with customers may be a successful way to minimize the need for too much IT support than your budget can handle.

4. Reservation System

If you plan to offer hoteling in your organization, rather than using the same application you use for booking meeting rooms, you might opt for a dedicated tool with multiple hoteling options.

Examples of reservation software include:

  • AgilQuest
  • Archibus
  • Condeco

5. Security Software

Hybrid work environments require a more sophisticated approach to workplace security. You can rely on VPNs or more advanced security measures such as zero-trust network access. Determine the needs of your organization and choose your security measures accordingly.

Of course, the list of helpful tools doesn’t end here.

There are a ton of other tools to consider when offering IT support in a hybrid workplace, including:

  • Document management
  • Video conferencing software
  • Expense management software
  • Human capital management
  • Office capacity management tools
  • Office cleaning automation
  • Employee learning applications
  • Mobile tools
  • Performance management tools

…and much more!

Taking advantage of cloud capabilities will help your organization keep productivity levels up and ensure that all your employees can always access their work so they perform at their best.

Conclusion

As businesses embrace long-term strategies for hybrid workplaces, this creates a whole lot of management challenges most businesses have never had to deal with before. 

But, with a solid strategy for offering both in-house and remote IT support, as well as taking the necessary cyber security measures to protect your data and network, you’ll be able to offer effective IT support solutions to maintain a productive workforce.

Did you find this information helpful? What other challenges have you come across in your efforts to offer IT support in a hybrid workplace? Let us know in the comments below!

Author Bio:

Ron Stefanski is a professor and entrepreneur who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online businesses.  You can learn more from him by visiting OneHourProfessor.com

You can also connect with him on YouTube or Linkedin.

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