The “”Great Remote Work Experiment”” is nearly at an end. Once the pandemic is finally in the rearview mirror, however, businesses are going to have to grapple with the question of what to do now that remote work during COVID has illustrated that going into an office isn’t an absolute necessity for many types of knowledge workers. Some organizations, citing the value of face-to-face collaboration, intend to return fully to the office, while others, citing the cost of commercial real estate and the proven effectiveness of virtual workspaces, may never go back.
The majority of businesses will opt for something in between.
From an IT perspective, this creates a new set of challenges, including optimizing network infrastructure for a host of unprecedented security and connectivity needs, all while ensuring a coherent and seamless employee experience.
Key to getting a hybrid experience right is balancing the unique demands of the business with the now increasingly diverse expectations of employees themselves. Channel partners have the expertise to advise organizations on hybrid work infrastructure and can serve as the catalyst to ensure that businesses stay nimble, keep up with the pace of change, and prepare their networks for the future of work.
As the roadmap to a standardized hybrid work model continues to develop, here are a few ways that channel partners can help businesses get ahead, while remaining sensitive to employee expectations.
Rethinking How Partners Integrate
One of the fundamental differences between remote and on-site workplace strategies is the level of IT standardization. For example, when an entire workforce is based out of an office, everyone is working off the same networks, connections, and systems–each with its own standard set of security measures. Traditionally, when channel partners deploy a new integrated technology or solution, they build their integration playbook from that set foundation.
When all, or at least some, employees are remote, the number of variables—personal devices and networks—changes considerably. This makes it much more difficult for a channel partner to account for a single infrastructure standard. As the last year has taught, however, employees largely want to maintain their level of technological autonomy. Therefore, channel partners need to be deeply ingrained in customers’ architectural infrastructure from the get-go. With greater transparency, they can better understand where gaps exist among different endpoints and make recommendations accordingly.
Balancing Generational Needs
Employees’ relationship with hybrid work may be nuanced, but there are some clear trends. For one, they have already embraced this approach—PwC found that over half of employees polled prefer a hybrid work week of three days remote, two days in the office. Preferences vary among age groups though. While many organizational veterans value the in-person experience, our research has found that among millennials and Gen Z—the Born Digital generations—90% do not want to return to the office full-time.
Caught in the middle are channel partners, who are charged with supporting an IT strategy that caters to both audiences. To do so, they must embrace the value of workplace flexibility and experience ownership. In deploying new solutions, channel partners are most effective when they hand the power to employees themselves to choose how they work best. Consider, for example, digital collaboration. Only 21% of business leaders use instant messaging apps like Slack or WhatsApp for work purposes, compared to 81% of Born Digital employees. Certainly, any deployment shouldn’t favor one over the other. Rather, partners need to take a holistic approach and communicate to business decision makers the differing preferences of their employees.
A New Path Forward
With every decision, organizations embracing hybrid work are breaking new ground. Never before has there been a widespread redistribution of how and where humans around the globe work. Channel partners, as the connective tissue between unique organizational needs and the innovative solutions of IT vendors, can provide critical insight as the future of work develops around us. It hinges, however, on the mindset of flexibility and mobility that has enabled organizations to not only survive but thrive.
MIKE FOUTS is vice president, Americas, for partner sales at Citrix.