The wholesale demise of the office HQ, which was predicted in the early days of the pandemic, turns out to have been greatly exaggerated. It’s true that work from home and remote work exploded, and many people decided to leave major cities. But new roles of a central workplace are emerging, and many people miss the connections and relationships that are formed in person at the office.  

Unsurprisingly, many employees are opting for flexible work arrangements where they split time between working from home and in the office. The growth in remote work and an increasingly hybrid workforce has resulted in a marked increase in the adoption of cloud technologies. From $8 billion in Q1 2016, global cloud infrastructure services spending has jumped to $49.4 billion as of Q3 2021. Research giant Gartner predicts that 2022 global cloud revenue will total $474 billion, a 16% increase from 2021’s $408 billion. 

Companies have become more open to the idea of employees working from home, while workers have recognized the value of coming into the office a few times a week to connect, network, and strategize. The office of the future feels more like a business center, where people come together to collaborate on specific projects for a set amount of time before returning to their remote offices.  

Understanding the Full Scope of the Hybrid Workforce

A hybrid workforce is more than just staff having the ability to work from home. Hybrid typically refers to three principal scenarios:   

  • Team members working from home or shared rented workspaces, or splitting time between the office and remote locations 
  • Use of mobile devices and technologies to connect and get work done 
  • Company employees working alongside contract/freelance workers and sharing access to technology 

All of these require thought and planning to enable efficient, effective workflows.  

Optimizing for Success

So what factors are critical to enabling a successful hybrid workforce?  

  • Productivity and employee engagement: Monitoring productivity is key to ensuring that teams don’t fall behind in this new mode of working. Fears around declines in productivity have subsided and been replaced by a fear that, in a hybrid environment, employees are getting burnt out without clear work-life boundaries and by Zoom fatigue. A poll on Blind, an anonymous professional network, found that a quarter of employees do other things and “zone out” during Zoom meetings. Employers concerned with increasing (or maintaining) employee engagement must monitor the health and engagement levels of their remote workforce and provide tools that will help them flourish.  
  • Job scheduling: This is another area where hybrid workforces need new, dynamic solutions. Managing a remote workforce so that employees understand priorities and jobs get done on time is a vital part of a hybrid workforce.  
  • Communication: Most hybrid workforce problems boil down to communication, and the companies with world-class communication tools and players are the ones positioned to thrive.  
  • Frictionless IT: As remote work evolves, traditional methods of engagement—face-to-face interactions, well-designed workspaces, and other in-person events are less prevalent. IT often becomes one of the main points of interaction employees have with the company, and their experience with IT becomes representative of the company overall. Ensuring a seamless employee experience with the tools required to do their jobs remotely will improve overall employee engagement and create a more successful hybrid workforce program. 

Managing Costs in a Hybrid Environment

A hybrid workforce can result in significant cost savings. Traditionally, print has been a large unmanaged cost. The pandemic has shifted employee printing behaviors significantly, and it stands to reason that print environments are probably not optimized for the ways that employees currently work. In a hybrid environment, employers should consider leveraging cloud print management to enable remote workforce printing, while ensuring information security, and controlling enterprise printing costs.  

The Office Is Not Immune to Change 

Companies tend to make the mistake of thinking that nothing has changed in-office. They imagine that employees have adapted to work at home and carry on as if they are in the office. In reality, habits and best practices that people enjoy at home are making their way into the office. 

One example is the increased use of mobile devices—both BYOD and corporate-supplied—to support everyday tasks, from reserving conference rooms or desks in a hoteling environment, communicating over chat, to releasing and managing print jobs.  

Another example is a heightened concern about interacting with various communal surfaces. People are wary of touching and using equipment that everyone else is using. Masha Kozinets, Pharos VP of Product and Strategy, explains that, ”As a result of the pandemic, people are not just staying at home and accelerating the whole remote work paradigm. It’s more than that. It changes in-office work, especially around the increased use of personal mobile devices in the office and the rise of ‘touchless printing’.”  

Touchless printing reduces the risk posed by high-touch surfaces, and simply means releasing documents at the printer without touching the print device, either by using a mobile app to scan a QR code or swiping a proximity card to release the submitted print job.  

Why Should Your Company Support Printing at Home?

When employees working at home or traveling on the road need to print, the issue of secure and efficient printing is one of the trickier ones to solve in this new work paradigm.  

A 2021 survey of employees at large companies by Pharos found that people who work from home want to print, and believe that the ability to print documents to mark up or read makes them more productive. Employers who want to create an engaged and productive workforce should support printing that reinforces those goals but does so in a way that mitigates security concerns and controls their costs—both in terms of materials and IT support.  

Once printing at home is supported, the biggest challenges employees face are the cost and a lack of clear guidelines on what can or cannot be printed. Additionally, some employees don’t have printers at home, or have older print devices that simply cannot handle large print volumes and are vulnerable to hacking. 

The best way to support secure printing from a home network is through a cloud-based print management solution. This can be done with on-premises solutions, but management typically requires a VPN connection. However, many companies are finding that VPNs are not suitable for widespread remote employees—they are expensive to run at scale and require significant resources. 

Managing Employees’ Print Abilities

Well-designed cloud print management solutions are built to meet the challenges of security, scalability, and high availability that hybrid workforces require.  

The evolving hybrid workplace has to contend with multiple challenges, including whether or not employees can print to their personal devices at home or if IT teams have visibility into what employees are printing to ensure security of at-home printers that aren’t protected like on a corporate network. Remote workers should have the ability to submit prints at home and release them in the office without having to map printers and deal with drivers, and IT should not have to support personal devices they’re not familiar with. 

The right cloud print management solutions can juggle complex functionality all at once. They are able to: 

  • Support, monitor, and control both “print-at-home” and “print-from-anywhere to the office” 
  • Enable seamless transitions from home or remote environment to the main office location 
  • Enable intuitive printing from mobile devices 
  • Provide guests and contractors (non-Active Directory users) with controlled print abilities (specified users, specified printers, specified capabilities) 

Building systems that are intuitive and flexible—supporting different platforms and printer manufacturers—is essential in this new environment. Successful hybrid workplaces must emphasize flexibility and policies that attempt to guide and help employees meet expectations, as opposed to just being restrictions. 

Keeping Security a Top Priority

With the hybrid workforce accessing work solutions from various locations and devices, security risks have increased. For organizations to effectively manage threats, they need:  

  • Well-designed cloud platforms with a relentless focus on security 
  • To reduce the overall attack surface 
  • To protect data with end-to-end encryption 
  • To enable secure print workflows 
  • To support zero-trust security principles 

Without a means to centrally manage distributed printers and track and secure their output, printing typically gets out of control, leading to information security risks and runaway costs.   

Deploying Pharos’ Print-at-Home Solution

The ability to print from wherever employees call the office should be table stakes for the hybrid workforce. Whether printing in the office, printing to a personal device at home, or submitting prints while on the road from a mobile device, your workforce should be able to print to stay productive without risking a security breach or spending hours mapping to printers.  

The Pharos Print-at-Home solution enables employees to print wherever they work, creating a seamless experience between home and work, where an employee is able to print at home and in the office seamlessly, without burdening IT. Further, it provides IT with visibility and control into what’s being printed by: 

  • Trackingevery device that employees print to (including home printers) 
  • Monitoring who is printing what at the user and job level; leading to the identification of the most wasteful users 
  • Delivering reports that management can act on to control print distribution 

Security must never be sacrificed on the altar of flexibility. This is why Pharos’ cloud platform protects data with end-to-end encryption, supports zero-trust principles, and supports secure print workflows to eliminate sensitive documents being left sitting on the printer.  

Empowering Your Hybrid Workforce

Employees working permanently (or semi-permanently) at home expect similar levels of technical support as they have in the office, and habits that are formed in a remote setting tend to migrate into the office. As the workforce shifts to a hybrid approach, high-performing companies will adapt their support for remote workers and customize their in-office experience to match employee expectations—all in the name of improving employee engagement and productivity.   

To learn more about the ways you can empower your hybrid workforce with a secure cloud-based print management solution, get in touch with our experts for a personalized demo of Pharos Cloud.