The Hybrid Workplace: What is The Board’s Role?

As confinement measures lighten and vaccination rates increase, Europe awaits its return to the office. However, many Europeans anticipate a new work configuration: the hybrid work model. For organizations unwilling to make this change, trouble could lay ahead.

The Hybrid Workplace: A New Reality for Europe

In the post-pandemic world, workers are used to the flexibility and freedom that remote work provides, and many are clearly willing to change jobs to keep working the way that they are now used to. According to the Wall Street Journal, some employees are just not returning to work at all. A labor shortage is coming, and the board has a key role in mitigating this risk for the company.

“Hybrid” work preferred over working 100% remote for employees & employers

Some employers may be understandably nervous about allowing 100% remote work. While accountability can still be maintained through meeting project and task deadlines, and collaboration kept up by using the right technology, there is a sense of security to having employees in-office.

Employees agree – even though most want a hybrid model, only 50% in the 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse survey by KPMG felt comfortable working entirely from home. With a similar survey saying that 59% enjoyed working remotely in 2020, that’s a 9% drop in the number of people who want to stay entirely out of the office. Additionally, 50% say that they are concerned about being passed over for opportunities and promotions if they are outside of the physical office environment. Put simply, people still want to go back to the office – just not every day.

The board’s role in the hybrid workplace: risk management

One of the board’s roles, especially in the greater context of corporate social responsibility, is to ensure that the company is considered to be a good employer – both for the optics and to retain and attract top talent. In the post-pandemic recovery economy, talent acquisition and retention is going to be a key driver of success.

Nearly every sector, with the notable exception of those with big ups and downs due to the pandemic, has been in “maintenance mode”. Now, with everything getting back to normal, all of the business that has been waiting in the wings is materializing, and people are needed to help with the accelerated workload.

Labor market signals are strongly telegraphing that employers will be facing an extensive labor shortage crisis in the short term, possibly until the end of 2021. From a risk management perspective, the board should do everything it can to stay on top of the problem. That could mean tactical moves from ensuring that the company strategy includes a retread of the human resources strategy to forming an HR committee to report to the board. This will help to solve the short-term problem but will continue to be of service in the long term as older employees retire and it is necessary to replace them. While a hybrid work model is certainly worth considering as part of any strategy, it is only some of the picture – although it is an important one.

Technology and cybersecurity are crucial components of hybrid work

In a post-pandemic world, nearly every business has the technology infrastructure in place to enable a remote workforce. However, some of the solutions may have been chosen for the sake of expediency rather than efficiency. As part of the whole return-to-work strategy, boards should task their technology committees to ensure that their chosen solutions are resilient enough to use on an ongoing basis, that they don’t duplicate the features of other adopted solutions, and that they are secure.

Cybersecurity also falls under the board’s mandate as a risk management item, and solutions such as remote VPNs and logging into on-premise computers instead of cloud solutions are insecure ways of digitally doing business. While it can be argued that cybersecurity was firmly on every company’s roadmap prior to the pandemic, ransomware attack efforts increased significantly over the course of the pandemic. It can easily be argued that this is not temporary, and so much so that the President of the United States recently appealed to companies to step up their own cybersecurity efforts.

Improving how the board does business with technology

The business world is about to speed up to record levels, and it is incumbent on directors to ensure that the right people are hired and retained, the right technology is being used, and that the board itself can operate more efficiently and without restrictions.

As the world of work ramps up, the board will find itself with more on its plate – potentially more than it ever has. Directors do not have time to be slowed down by file requests, inefficient board books, or anything else. DiliTrust Governance Suite includes a board portal module that ensures that meetings can be run smoothly and securely from anywhere in the world. It also includes other modules which allow for the organization of contracts, IP, real estate holdings, and anything else the board may need to lay their hands on quickly in order to make the right decisions.