Written by Tony Wills, Country Director, Document Solutions, Canon UK & Ireland

The advent of mass hybrid working has transformed employee expectations. Indeed, according to recent Microsoft UK research, 71 percent of UK workers want flexible work options to stay permanently post-pandemic. Europe’s SMEs must now consider how to navigate a permanent move to hybrid working, look to overcome the challenges and embrace the fresh opportunities that have arisen from this new way of working.


The benefits and challenges of hybrid working

The CIPD recently revealed that the benefits of working from home include a better work–life balance, greater ability to focus, more time for family and friends, saved commuting time and costs, IT upskilling and higher levels of motivation. These benefits mean that many employees are understandably unwilling to return to the office full-time.

However, this is not to say that the realities of remote working are exclusively positive. The BBC reports that work relationships have been heavily impacted throughout the pandemic. Furthermore, it will come as little surprise that one of the most pressing and complex challenges of hybrid working is cybersecurity. Therefore, it is crucial that SMEs invest in the right tools to support their digital transformation strategies and build secure platforms for workplace collaboration.


The revaluation of the ecosystem of technologies and services

One such investment SME’s can make is in cloud-based technologies. It is evident that the pandemic has accelerated the move to the cloud, as its services offer a long-term and stable solution to business’ ever-evolving requirements. As almost anywhere can now be classed as an office, such as a hotel lobby, coffee shop or even the gym, a hybrid work proposition must therefore be easily accessible. A shared drive hosted in the cloud can fulfil the need for remote accessibility and collaboration, offering SMEs the ability to simultaneously access and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other files.

Utilising a shared drive, in parallel with video conferencing and messaging tools, allows colleagues to maintain communication and develop stronger, more trustful relationships, enabling them to operate efficiently as a team, regardless of their location.

Ease of collaboration is one important element of a hybrid work strategy, the other is security. According to Varonis, remote workers will continue to be targeted by cyber criminals because most companies have unprotected data and poor cybersecurity practices in place. Just as people should not forget to lock their back door, SMEs should make sure that their cloud solution is completely secured. They should look to implement a proposition that combines VPNs, a zero-trust architecture and updated anti-virus and tracking software for maximum security.


Freedom to print

The cloud doesn’t just play a role in supporting shared documents and video calls. It can also provide the backbone of a dispersed workforce’s printing solution. To enhance productivity, an easy-to-use and reliable printing service that is scalable to tablet and smartphone could be made available to support hybrid work strategies.

Follow-me-printing, which uses a cloud-based server, enables printing to remote shared devices, while all data remains secure and all print jobs traceable. People from outside the organisation can be restricted from the device, by preventing access to the universal queue. Meanwhile, access can be granted to third parties such as clients where necessary and appropriate. By moving print management to the cloud, SME’s can ensure consistent control and quality across a varied and distributed workforce.


Combat the challenges, embrace the opportunities

The pandemic has accelerated a hybrid working revolution, and it’s paramount that SMEs get the right tech in place to be a part of it. The digital transformation strategy of SMEs must be able to provide the flexibility, accessibility, collaboration, and security necessary to support an ever-changing work environment.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.