The future of work is hybrid. What does this mean for Small Medium Businesses?

    For many of us in 2020, the year of the pandemic has begotten new work practices as we adjusted to remote work. From how we’ve collaborated to how we’ve conducted meetings, COVID-19 has made us learn to adapt. And adapt we have. The pandemic has shown that it’s possible to get work done outside the office, five days a week, thanks to technology. And it has shifted the global mindset about how and where work gets done.

    In many studies on work arrangements over the past year, the flexibility of working from home has consistently ranked highly among those surveyed. As companies navigate the future of the workplace, hybrid work – a blend of on-site and remote work – is expected to replace remote work as the new status quo.

    In fact, The State of Hybrid Work 2021 shows that 67% of respondents don’t anticipate returning to the office 5 days a week post-COVID. It seems companies are aware of that as well. A June 2020 survey by Gartner shows that 82% of companies say they intend to permit remote working post-pandemic.

    Going hybrid: a global shift

    Yet, the shift to hybrid has been happening even before the pandemic, with three in five businesses already operating on a partially remote work arrangement, reports The State of Hybrid Work 2021.

    Globally, major organizations such as Twitter, Reddit, DropBox, Viacom, Facebook, Shopify, and PayPal are already introducing some form of flexible work arrangement. And small medium businesses are doing the same. Citing a study by Cisco Systems, ZDNet reported that Asia Pacific SMBs are investing in tools to accommodate the transition to a hybrid workplace.

    Is it necessary to switch?

    Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calls the decision to go hybrid an opportunity for businesses to improve talent recruitment, innovate, and create value for their stakeholders. And taking action early will give them more time to optimize their business for this new arrangement. In this transition, size works in the favor of SMBs. Practically, it’s easier to bring a small team back to the workplace, and to implement health and safety measures such as safe distancing.

    But adopting a hybrid work model is more than a logistics shuffle. It’s closely intertwined with an agile working strategy, which involves a mindset shift to pave the way for how we’ll work in the future. In this respect, being small and nimble enables SMBs to swivel the company in this new direction. Plus, smaller teams make it easier for leaders to communicate new work policies, ensure seamless workflows, and keep teams connected and tight-knit.

    So what does it take for SMBs to make the transition to an agile and hybrid workplace? We highlight a few things they need to put in place.

    Provide a remote-friendly digital infrastructure

    If your teams are going to spend work hours outside the office, they’ll need hardware and software that’s remote-friendly so they can work efficiently from anywhere. Since undisrupted access to Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity will be key tools for working on the fly, make high-speed mobile and Wi-Fi plans part of the company’s digital infrastructure.

    With teams either working from home or hot-desking, companies need to cover their hardware needs on both fronts. Powerful laptops that are thin and light are a must, as are high-resolution displays (especially for those working from home). Companies should also consider providing Wi-Fi optimizers, noise-cancelling headphones, and ergonomically designed hardware.

    Good IT management is just as crucial in the age of hybrid work. An increasingly dynamic and dispersed workforce increases digital footprint and the exposure to data breaches and phishing attacks. However, with a robust cyber security defense comprising biometrics security, anti-virus software and hardware protection, SMBs can protect their digital data and other company assets.

    Go agile to go hybrid

    Going hybrid goes hand in hand with an agile mindset. A concept borrowed from software development, the central values of an agile mindset are trust, flexibility, empowerment, and collaboration.

    In an agile workplace, fostering flexibility and trust are key to making hybrid work, work. It’s a general truth of human behavior, that when they’re given autonomy, people are more likely to be self-motivated. They also tend to be happier with a flexible working arrangement, which offers better work-life balance and a less stressful working environment. And happy employees, are naturally productive employees who will keep the bottom line healthy. Even with limited resources, SMBs can tap a wider talent pool with an agile recruitment policy. Agile organizations recognize that talent come in all shapes and are more open to hiring people of diverse backgrounds: people based overseas, the disabled, experienced older workers who need a flexible schedule.

    Cost-savings is a major benefit for SMBs, too. Six in 10 employers identify cost savings as a key benefit of telecommuting. With a hybrid arrangement, employees also save time when they can skip the compulsory everyday work commute. But for employees who need a conducive space to work outside home, SMBs could consider providing access to hot-desking facilities.

    Rethink workplace policy and culture

    Going hybrid is a new way of working that calls for new work policies and new work traditions.

    Leaders need to create a framework that clearly communicates the norms and expectations of this new, hybrid work model. What are the working hours? How often do employees need to be in the office? What kind of IT training do employees need?

    Like all companies embracing hybrid work, SMBs need to put their employees’ well-being at the front and center. While hybrid work has its pluses, SMBs should be aware of the tendency of burn out and feeling disconnected, among other psychological factors. 54% of more than 30,000 respondents in 31 countries surveyed in The Work Trend Index report feeling overworked, while 39% percent report feeling exhausted.

    With less face time, keeping people connected and building camaraderie are just as important. This is fortunately easier for SMBs which have a smaller workforce. Use communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom for more than just business. Organize virtual townhalls, team lunches, and create online channels for fun, non-work discussions to keep company culture alive. The pandemic may have dealt a blow leaving many SMBs edgy, nervous, and uncertain of the future. But innovating now with the new way of work is how SMBs can pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and gear up for what’s ahead.

    Recommended products for hybrid working

    • ASUS ExpertBook B5 Flip OLED features a 360° flippable design and stunning OLED panel for ultimate flexibility. It’s also set for serious travel with an amazing 12-hour battery life, and is engineered with many cutting-edge technologies to improve your on-the-go work efficiency. These include a 11th Gen Intel® Core™ processor, two-way AI noise-cancelation and dual-SSD RAID support, ASUS NumberPad 2.0. It’s also packed with features to protect your privacy and business data, including a built-in fingerprint sensor and TPM 2.0 chip.
    • With an ultralight 1.05 kg1 aluminum-alloy chassis and US MIL-STD 810H military-grade toughness, ASUS Chromebook CX9 delivers reliable take-anywhere mobility with the nimble performance of up to an 11th Gen lntel® Core™ i7 processor. It also features ultrafast WiFi 6, a Harman Kardon-certified dual-speaker audio system, a fingerprint sensor for password-free login2 and up to a 4K UHD touchscreen display3 — all to empower employees with the tools needed to get the job done efficiently and effectively, from anywhere.
    • RT-AX3000 supports the latest WiFi standard WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and 160MHz bandwidth for better capacity and efficiency. It also has lifetime free AiProtection Pro, powered by Trend Micro™ with automatic, regularly updated security signatures to protect your devices and personal data from internet threats.
    • ASUS AI Noise-Canceling Mic Adapter is the world's first USB-C-to-3.5 mm adapter with integrated AI Noise-Canceling Microphone (AI Mic) technology. It uses AI-powered noise cancelation to deliver crystal clear voice communication when used with any 3.5 mm headset with a microphone.

    1Weight and dimensions may vary according to configuration.
    2Users will need to set a password the first time the device starts up.
    3Specification may vary by model and region.