6 experts from the Dutch tech industry share their insights
Back to the office full-time? Heck no! Research shows that employees would rather not be back in the office all week from 9 to 5. The reasons for this vary. Many Dutch people feel more productive when working from home, while others enjoy the extra time they can spend with family and friends. On the other hand, working full-time from home is also not a solution. Collaborating face-to-face is sometimes simply more efficient and the company culture can also suffer from full-time working from home.
The way forward seems simple: the best of both worlds, hybrid working. Especially when looking at younger generations, traditional working models are no longer the norm. For example, recent research from Citrix shows that 94% of millennials and Generation Z no longer want to work in an office all week.
But hybrid working doesn’t happen by itself. It requires more than putting at-home and in-office days on the calendar. So how do you do it successfully? We asked six experts from our Clarity clients to share their views on how to make hybrid working a success.
Productivity, connectivity and security
In a hybrid world, an employee’s digital workplace is as critical to their experience as their physical workspace or company culture. Companies need to empower their employees to do their best work, on their terms. That means they need technology that removes friction where it can and that allows them to spend as much time as possible doing work that adds value.
“A central, digital work environment is a must-have in a decentralized organization,” says Peter van Leest, Regional Director Benelux at Citrix. “Wherever they are, your employees still need a place where they can work together. The beauty of hybrid working models is that you can give each employee the space they need to shape their workdays in the ways that suit them best.”
To be able to work from anywhere, you also need to be able to connect from anywhere. The Netherlands is one of the best connected countries in the world, as Mark de Haan, Senior Vice President Benelux & DACH at GTT, knows. But that is not the end of the matter. Hybrid working, but also the movement towards edge computing and the cloud, for example, are forcing organizations to look at their networks in a different way. Data centers, offices, home workers, cloud applications, temporary work locations: organizations today are connected via all kinds of public networks. “If the Internet is the network, how can you always guarantee a fast, reliable and secure connection for every employee and every application?” The new reality is forcing organizations to look at their networks differently. “Technologies like SD-WAN and SASE are essential in this development,” he says.
All these requirements for the hybrid workplace make the digital infrastructure a whole lot more complex. With that, security becomes more complicated as well. Instead of sharply defined corporate boundaries – the walls of your office building – you’re dealing with widely branched networks. You can’t just give everyone access to the network. But who can you trust? No one, says Van Leest. “Security in a hybrid work environment really only runs optimally through a Zero Trust approach, where user access to applications and information is continuously checked against context.” With a Zero Trust framework, IT can provide secure access to all applications from any device, by not only verifying the trustworthiness of a device or application during a login attempt, but also by continuously testing this trustworthiness with every subsequent action.
In addition, the basic attitude of organizations toward cybersecurity needs to change, says Marc Guardiola, CISO at Secure Managed Service Provider Solvinity. “Many organizations think they can do cybersecurity on the side. But the growing number of incidents in recent years shows that this is insufficient.” According to a recent Security Awareness survey by Solvinity, 80% of Dutch organizations do not install all patches and updates and less than half of them take specific measures to reduce their own vulnerability. “Organizations tend to grossly overestimate their own resilience,” says Guardiola. “And the risks are increasing, especially now that work is no longer concentrated in one location. Organizations that don’t have the expertise in-house to implement sound security policies would do well to enlist the help of experienced specialists.”
Communication, social interaction, and corporate culture
In hybrid work environments, interaction is indispensable. During the first lockdowns in 2020, it quickly became clear that employees craved real connection – though many organizations settled for rather static meetings or Zoom drinks. There’s still a lot to be gained there, so says Zoom itself. “True hybrid working is more than sharing your screen,” says Axel Albrecht, Manager Sales Engineering at Zoom. “Other participants should be able to provide input directly via remote desktop functionalities to take notes, or to brainstorm together via (digital) whiteboarding. By implementing interactivity and personal communication wherever possible, you build more than a ‘digital office’, but a truly new, hybrid way of working.”
All of these adjustments are reflected in corporate culture. In a work environment where not everyone is physically together, organizations must find a way to maintain their corporate culture online as well. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this; every organization has different values and needs.
What is certain is that facilitating hybrid work models is not just an IT party. The HR department has an essential role to play, says Henry Barenholz, Country Manager Netherlands at Workday: “I see HR as a travel guide towards the new normal. Every employee should have a good feeling about new ways of working, and that includes not having the feeling that you end up working in a completely different organization. HR not only has a responsibility to support the physical return to the office, but also to ensure that the organization’s core values are not diluted in online environments.”
He also points to the role HR plays in the professional and personal development of employees. Recent research by Yonder and Workday shows, for example, that 66% of European employees are not well trained in effective home working and that 44% feel they have missed opportunities to acquire new skills and take on new responsibilities. “It’s important for both company culture and the quality of the workforce to remove these types of barriers in hybrid work models. HR should take the lead in this.”
Finally, the success of hybrid working also depends on the leadership style within the organization. “The way employees view their company is strongly shaped by their managers,” says Mark Griep, Country Head at PA Consulting Netherlands. “Stubbornly sticking to management styles based on control and physical attendance is a good way to make new ways of working fail. Ultimately, any digital transformation project is largely human work, with a mutual responsibility: employees need to speak up about what they need to succeed, but managers also need to dare to ask, in order to determine the optimal direction. Only then will they get their teams to join them in the transition.”
The experts agree on one thing: the road to hybrid work cannot be travelled in a single day. To make it a sustainable success, many fundamental aspects of organizations need to change. That takes hard work and belief in the benefits of new ways of working. But, for the organizations that succeed, a future of unprecedented flexibility and productivity awaits.