Remote Working for SME’s – How the revolution is changing and shifting everything to a hybrid model

By November 8, 2021 November 9th, 2021 No Comments


The idea of remote work is not exactly new.

As a collective, we talked about hybrid working as an inevitable shift, even if it was one that still looked far on the horizon. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated matters – forcing SME’s to adopt hybrid/remote working arrangements in record time.

Thanks to this practice run, businesses have either experienced or foreseen remote working benefits which include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Higher employee morale
  • Opportunities to reduce operating costs
  • Delivering more value to customers
  • Being more lean, scalable, and flexible

According to Gartner US IT industry report, 82% of company leaders plan to adopt a remote/hybrid work model in some capacity post-pandemic. And it’s also estimated that by 2025, as much as 70% of the workforce will work remotely. And business in the UK and Scotland are on a very similar path.

However, there are also genuine risks and concerns around a move to hybrid working, such as how to:

  • train and empower your workforce?
  • facilitate communication, collaboration, and engagement?
  • avoid negatively impacting productivity?

It is also important to assess whether you have the requisite skills and expertise to do this in-house or whether you might need help from a specialist remote IT provider

These concerns are especially prevalent among UK SME with 51% indicating they are concerned about remote work impacting teamwork. While 32% are worried they don’t have the correct IT setup to support the change in working practices effectively.

The Benefits IT and Technology can Play in Your Hybrid Future

Below, we discuss some of the most critical factors to consider when planning a hybrid future for your SME. We’ll identify the key challenges, opportunities, and considerations to make across all 6 of these facets of your hybrid environment.

Delivering zero downtime and maximum productivity

Just because you’re operating on reduced “in-office” time doesn’t mean you have to lose out on precious working hours. In fact, the recent widespread adoption of hybrid working environments has led to the rise of the “always-on” workforce and technologies that support them.

Some businesses report a perceived increase in productivity from employees working from home. In fact, research by CIPD suggests that two thirds of employees report that homeworkers are more or as productive as when in the workplace.

Part of the reason undoubtedly comes down to less time spent on other activities like getting dressed more formally and commuting to work. Another is that the workplace can be full of unnecessary distractions from employees and other sources.

At home, it’s sometimes easier to just “put your head down” while using various collaborative and communication tools – that range from desktop messaging, to file sharing and rapid online meeting capability – to remain a productive part of the team.

Of course, this assumes that employees have the necessary digital tools and resources to empower them to do their work efficiently. That’s why it’s so important to carefully consider what tools you need to provide employees, both software and hardware, to operate at their best.

Enjoy cost savings and improved business profitability

SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and even XaaS – you name it. One thing they all have in common is that they provide relatively cheap access to Cloud-based resources, infrastructure, software, tools, and more.

And if you think that a specific subscription plan is expensive, try calculating the cost of building the types of collaboration tools your small business really needs from scratch in-house. Not only do you have to requisition and maintain the hardware and software, but you also need to invest in the proper support staff to keep it all operational for your teams.

Whenever you want to change the scale or focus of the project, you will have to make those changes from the ground up.

In contrast, all-in-one Cloud based collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams make it cheap and easy to get started. And incorporate the flexibility to discard, upgrade, scale, or reconfigure resources or tools as you need them. This cuts down on the lead time for projects and helps you keep your business lean and agile. With a best-fit solution, you’ll find that you’ll more than recuperate your upfront investment in double-quick time.

Better work-life balance benefits and enhanced employee satisfaction

If you ask employees what they enjoy most about remote/hybrid working, 99.99% will say it’s improved work-life balance.

Employees spend less time commuting and preparing, which can be a significant source of stress and drain on morale. Not to mention that the typical 9 to 5 can cause individuals to miss out on precious family time.

Improved and interconnected asynchronous communication tools have made it easier to maintain a work/life balance. By blending various communication channels like email, instant messaging (Slack, WhatsApp, etc.), intranets (Yammer, Sharepoint), or even project management tools like Basecamp and Trello, synchronous communication is no longer as essential to smooth collaboration.

This allows employees to work according to their schedules without causing confusion or losing track of each other’s progress. Taking a flexible approach to how and when they respond to individual requests from team members and staying fully connected on wider project progress whether they are sitting in the office – or sitting at the kitchen table at home.

Effective learning and team building at a distance

One of the main challenges facing organizations during this time is educating and training their workforce. Depending on your industry and corporate culture, your employees may have varying degrees of IT literacy. Not to mention their capability, with Cloud technologies in particular.

More and more small and medium-sized businesses are operating using a multi-Cloud environment with various services, tools, and platforms from email, to project management tools, to file- sharing apps. This means you need to be able to quickly onboard and up-skill employees to use multiple tools effectively. Skills and knowledge also need to be updated as the platforms themselves evolve with time regularly.

Virtual sessions, webinars, interactive meetings and screen-sharing can make the whole process easier in a hybrid working environment. Businesses can also adopt and integrate Learning Management Systems (LMS) as part of their overall Cloud technology stack. These platforms use mediums like video, voice, chat, forums, collaborative tools, gamification, and more into a singular system to aid and improve training.

A level of security you would associate with on-premises working

One of the critical concerns for SMEs adopting remote working is the perceived increased risk of cybersecurity threats. Indeed, cybercrime surged during and after the pandemic. Taking advantage of unprepared and unaware businesses and individuals.

However, technologies can also play a key role in preventing security compromises in remote IT environments. So, what can you do to protect your SME from unwanted Cyber intrusion?

The first thing you must do is catalog all your public and private Cloud platforms to establish a security perimeter. Then it’s simply a matter of adhering to best practices that are usually facilitated by individual Cloud technologies.

A counter-intuitive example is how single-sign-on (SSO) can help to improve security. Why? By having an employee-only log-in once to access all Cloud services, you’re limiting the risk of them using unsafe password combinations or falling victim to key-logging attempts.

Furthermore, using MFA (Multi-factor authentication) features can drastically reduce the risk of unauthorized access or brute-force attacks.

VPNs, proxies, and platforms that use encryption can also help secure communication in remote IT environments.

With the help of a remote IT support provider, you can also implement a custom IAM (Identity Access Management) solution. Businesses report up to a 75% drop in attacks involving unauthorized access from adopting this measure alone.

The opportunity to upgrade legacy systems to meet the upturn in demand

The scalability and flexibility of the Cloud are some of the chief drivers of its continued success and adoption.

Consumer expectations are continuously rising due to increased connection speeds and bandwidth. At the same time that the demand for doing business remotely has grown. So have user expectations regarding speed and accuracy.

Cloud services, such as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platforms provide relatively low-cost, low-effort access to vast amounts of resources and bandwidth. And these resources can usually be quickly and easily scaled up, or down, as your business needs change. Or, you can adopt a service with a pay-as-you-use model from the get-go.

No longer does increasing your operational capacity mean manually acquiring and upgrading your physical hardware. The Cloud means you can do it with just a click of a button.

Backed up by global infrastructure, these Cloud platforms can allow you to serve vast numbers of users at lightning speed.

Some closing thoughts

So, are you excited for an increasingly remote and hybrid future or still pondering the challenges?

It can be a daunting prospect with so much to consider, especially if your SME doesn’t operate under limitless budgets and room for error. However, working with a remote IT provider, you can ensure that you provide the most appropriate technologies and tools for your unique business needs. By kicking off your remote journey with a sound strategy, you’ll lay the foundations for sustainable business success in what is a very changed commercial environment.