More than four-fifths of firms expect to keep hybrid work environment

While business leaders are comfortable with and believe there are many benefits to hybrid work, most organisations are unprepared to deliver a seamless experience in a hybrid workplace, where the need for end-to-end data visibility and actionable insights intensifies

A survey of nearly 1,500 business and IT decision-makers has found that 83% of respondents believe that at least a quarter of their workforce will remain hybrid post-pandemic, up from just 30% a year ago, and a further 42% believe that more than half their workforce will be hybrid.

The Riverbed | Aternity hybrid work global survey 2021 was conducted by Sapio Research in September 2021, with respondents comprising 750 business decision-makers (BDMs) and 738 IT decision-makers (ITDMs) from organisations with revenue above $500M USD annually in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and the Netherlands. Industry sectors included finance/insurance, public sector/government, healthcare/pharmaceutical, manufacturing, oil and gas, retail, and professional services.

Among the top line findings was that hybrid work environments provide numerous benefits, with 94% agreeing that hybrid work helps with recruiting talent and competitiveness, and 84% believing hybrid work will have a lasting and positive impact on society and the world. 

Yet the study also found that while all indicators signal hybrid work environments are the future, most organisations were not fully prepared to deliver a seamless hybrid work experience. Barely a third believe they are completely prepared to support the shift to hybrid work, and 88% are concerned about digital disparity between in-office and remote employees. However, 89% planned to invest in technology in the next 12-18 months to support their hybrid workforce.

The survey revealed a number of human- and technology-related barriers that needed to be addressed to create a sustainable and high-performing hybrid workplace. The top five barriers to adopting a hybrid work model revealed in the study were: employee motivation and well-being (35%); technology disruptions (32%); poor home/remote network performance (31%); collaboration and virtual relationship building (31%); and expanded security risks (31%).

Four-fifths of BDMs believe that technology disruptions negatively affect them, their teams and employee job satisfaction. They blamed lack of acceleration technologies (35%), legacy IT infrastructure (33%) and lack of end-to-end visibility (32%). 

At the heart of any hybrid organisation is the network, and the survey reflected that when networks and applications operate at peak performance, so do employees and the business. Respondents regarded performance as contributing to saving time and money (38%); greater ability to deliver critical services to employees and customers (35%); enabling hybrid work models (32%); preventing and reducing downtime (31%); driving innovation (29%); and enhancing collaboration (28%). 

Other key findings were that end-to-end visibility and cyber security have become more critical than ever. The need for the former, along with actionable insights, intensified in a hybrid workplace with 57% of respondents believing that gaining this visibility will be even more challenging in a hybrid work environment.

Some 93% of BDMs also said it was critically important to have full end-to-end visibility to better identify, remediate and protect against cyber security threats. Out of those surveyed, 64% agreed that it would be seriously disruptive or business-destroying if their organisation suffered a cyber security breach due to underinvestment in visibility technology. 

Yet worryingly, three-quarters of respondents thought their organisation struggled to glean actionable insights from data that is generated from their technology infrastructure.

The top five challenges with current visibility/monitoring solutions identified by ITDMs were: multiple tools that give conflicting data, delaying root cause analysis and issue resolution (42%); lack of visibility into the availability, performance and usage of cloud resources (37%); too much data and not enough context or actionable insight (35%); lack of unified visibility across the entire technology infrastructure (34%; and data that was not accessible or usable by all who need it (33%).

Going forward, the survey indicated clear areas of investment in the technology required to support hybrid working.  The top areas of technology investments over the next 12-18 indicated by BDMs were: better visibility of network and application performance (38%); investing in cyber security technology and software (37%); investing in application or network acceleration solutions (37%); updating company-wide hybrid workplace strategies and policies (36%); increasing the use of cloud services and software-as-a-service apps (36%); and investing in end-user experience and digital experience monitoring solutions (35%).

And investment was certainly on the table, with businesses clear that a lack of IT services that are high-performing and secure can have severe consequences. BDMs cited a number of key following impacts on business when underinvesting in technology, such as: increased difficulty in engaging customers or clients (40%); decreased revenue (39%); reduced quality of service to customers or clients (38%); decreased productivity (33%); and decreased customer satisfaction (30%).

Both BDMs and ITDMs agreed that underinvesting affects employee experience, citing increased stress or frustration (37%); lack of work motivation (33%); reduced employee productivity (33%); reduced collaboration among co-workers (32%); and reduced work-life balance (30%).

“We’ve reached that critical point in time when a high-performing hybrid workplace is required for organisations to push to the next level of employee and customer satisfaction and sustainable financial success,” said Dan Smoot, president and CEO of Riverbed | Aternity.

“What’s very clear is that to gain the maximum benefits from hybrid work, organisations must invest in technologies to modernise their IT environments. Underinvesting can have severe consequences...[firms] can maximise their visibility and performance across networks, applications, devices and the end-user experience so they can fully capitalise on their digital and hybrid workplace investments.”  

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