The future of work is hybrid. A report by Adecco found that 77% of employees want flexibility where they work, and 37% of organizations, according to a survey by Jones Lang LaSalle, are looking to increase their use of coworking and flexible spaces to meet this waiting.
Among the changes companies will need to make is their network infrastructure. Embracing hybrid working places different demands on office connectivity. IDC predicted that by 2023, 75% of Forbes Global 2000 companies will commit to providing technical parity to a hybrid workforce.
But what does this commitment require?
For many organizations, the road ahead involves addressing key challenges in preparing their networks for hybrid work environments. Two challenges stand out above the rest: shared offices and hospitality, and networking resources. But there are a few strategies that can help pave the way for a smooth experience.
Why Hot Desking and Hospitality Will Force a Networking Rethink
“Digital networks will need to adapt to an increase in hospitality and shared offices,” says Gary Sorrentino, Zoom’s global CIO. While this is a cost-effective solution for accommodating employees who are only part-time in the building – and therefore have less need for dedicated offices – it poses a problem for an organization’s network. .
Previously, digital networks in office buildings aimed for wide coverage: Wi-Fi from end to end, without a cubicle, office, conference room or office without stable connectivity. Shared offices and hospitality introduce dense groups of employees, often equipped with multiple mobile devices, whose network usage suddenly becomes highly concentrated. This can lead to unbalanced connectivity in an organization’s physical space, with hybrid workers at shared tables using a large amount of bandwidth and compromising the work experiences of others.
Hybrid work increases the load on networks
The second challenge is that employees returning to the office — even part-time — don’t give up the remote habits they’ve picked up since the pandemic began.
Video conferencing is now standard. Full-time and part-time office workers will connect with others through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other platforms, placing a heavy load on a company’s network.
“Enterprises are experiencing higher traffic volumes on their networks, which reduces the bandwidth available for video communications,” says Sorrentino. “This lack of bandwidth can quickly become a bottleneck that slows real-time communication and collaboration, resulting in poor audio and video quality.” That’s not even including bandwidth-intensive collaboration tools, including Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Microsoft Teams, which are used more often in the workplace, which can also tax unprepared networks.
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Adapting Wi-Fi to hybrid requires strategy and teamwork
Long-term hybrid working is an emerging concept that places new demands on network architecture. What’s not new, however, is that when IT leaders redesign their networks, they must assess the true needs of their organizations given the realities of the world in which they operate.
With this in mind, companies must first ask themselves: who is in the office now, when and where are they there, and what are they doing? Simply researching exactly how much bandwidth is needed for a meeting allows for better preparation. Having firm answers to these questions will allow organizations to scale their networks successfully, identify technology or workflow needs, and create a strategic roadmap moving forward.
For many companies, a major part of that strategy will be adopting a more dynamic and flexible network setup that can allocate different levels of bandwidth to different employees, Sorrentino says. In addition to executives, many companies will likely need to bolster network access for workers who are critical to operations, whether they’re in sales, IT, or any other department where poor connectivity can negatively affect business. company.
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This can be a matter of adjusting network configurations or enabling peer-to-peer connections that use local networks for meetings instead of an Internet connection. Coping with the new required density – not breadth – of connectivity also means that organizations will have to adjust their infrastructure. Access points may need to be added to shared accommodation or office spaces, and networks may need to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 for faster speeds. Certainly, despite the high costs, bandwidth will need to be expanded, along with cybersecurity to mitigate the extra devices that hybrid workers bring to the office.
“Companies must prioritize network resilience in case an outage or threat affects the organization,” says Sorrentino.
Through all the changes, it’s also important for organizations to remember one thing: the user experience. Yes, adapting digital networks to hybrid working benefits business operations, but if employees are unhappy, it will affect work. With this in mind, companies should involve workers in the process to ensure the transition to hybrid working – powered by enhanced networks – goes smoothly.