Hybrid workplaces don’t have to be two-tier workplaces

Sep 7, 2021
Caroline Japic
Chief Marketing Officer

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Workplaces everywhere continue to be disrupted by the ongoing pandemic as companies make decisions about their off- and on-premise workforce. As the COVID-19 delta variant spawns a second wave of infections across the globe, major employers like Apple and Amazon are once again delaying their return to the office. Meanwhile, companies like Google are straddling voluntary in-office and remote work with a hybrid model.

After a year and a half of adapting to support employees at home, productivity and employee satisfaction are at all-time high. Whether companies opt for a dedicated remote-first or hybrid approach, it’s clear that the workplace has changed permanently. In fact, an estimated 25% of full work days will be performed at home after the pandemic.

But this newfound flexibility brings challenges. Hybrid work introduces ever-rising levels of complexity and risk, including a multiplicity of point product technologies and an increased attack surface beyond an organization’s traditional security perimeter. 

Radically simple solutions for complex security problems

What does this mean for IT and Security leaders trying to protect their infrastructure, assets, networks, data and employees? It means they must fundamentally rethink security – from users to devices, across networks and clouds, applications, and data – as employees are no longer confined inside company networks. And relying on employee cybertraining alone isn’t enough: Recent survey data reveals a shocking deficit in worker cybersecurity hygiene, adding even more pressure to protect company infrastructure. 

Knowing that their environments must be properly fortified, many enterprises are turning to solutions to simplify these complex challenges. Innovations like passwordless technologies and unified security platforms provide radically simple security for a hybrid workforce. And data-driven tools like risk-based vulnerability management platforms cut down on the manual investigation, murky prioritization, and unnecessary remediation under more traditional vulnerability management models. These modern, user-centric solutions help lower organizational risk, cut costs, optimize resources, and alleviate the burden of security management from the user. Simplicity breeds democratization of security–no matter where workers are located.

Preventing a two-tier workforce structure

Security was a lot simpler when everyone worked on site. But remote workers should enjoy the same level of security protection as in-office staff. Shoring up your backend security infrastructure helps relieve some of the pressure on in-office and remote workers; a modern vulnerability management environment closes off targets for hackers, so security isn’t riding entirely on employees’ ability to spot a malicious email. 

It’s also beneficial to help these groups connect simply and securely. Even without face-to-face opportunities with leadership or “casual collisions” between in-office workers, working from home shouldn’t place employees at any kind of disadvantage. But it’s up to corporate leaders to help them bridge the gap. Establishing a collaborative, real-time, and adaptable environment puts remote and hybrid workers on the same footing that in-office workers have always enjoyed, critical for avoiding a two-tier workplace.

Cisco’s Francine Katsoudis recently explored this topic in an article on LinkedIn. As the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief People, Policy & Purpose Officer, the idea posed by a Wall Street Journal article that a two-tier workforce is a necessary evil of a hybrid environment didn’t sit well with her. Katsoudis describes how Cisco, which the Kenna Security team recently joined, has a culture and established processes in place to avoid the inequalities that could too easily arise from having some employees on site and others working remotely. 

For years running up to the global pandemic, Cisco viewed hybrid work as a necessity. Katsoudis points out that at least 37% of the entire workforce was working from home three to five days out of the week prior to the pandemic turning virtually everyone into remote workers. Adopting a flexible, hybrid workforce early on prompted the company to shift the way they measured employee performance and encouraged upward mobility. Ultimately, Cisco employees experienced no adverse effects from their work-from-home status. Promotions, productivity, and job satisfaction of remote workers matched (and in some cases exceeded) those of their in-office cohorts. 

Smart companies, argues Katsoudis, will continue to adapt and decentralize teams, ensuring all employees are heard and supported, and eliminating the two-tier symptom of a hybrid workforce. She acknowledges the difficulty of this, and encourages leaders to dig in and help properly resource their people. 

For today’s hybrid environments, that means providing simplified, democratized security and seamless connectivity and collaboration.

The new normal—and beyond

While 2020 ushered in a new era of unpredictability, it’s unlikely we will ever return to the world we knew. Today’s employees have embraced this newfound flexibility and are even walking away from jobs that are requiring a return to the office.

The good news is that the measures IT and Security leaders (and their colleagues in the C-Suite) take today won’t just see us through the foreseeable future, but they’ll prepare us to thrive, safely and inclusively, for years to come in an ever-evolving workplace.

Learn how to secure your increasingly complex environment and level the playing field by shifting to a risk-based vulnerability management approach.

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