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Hybrid work threatens to undermine business resilience

By Nick Wilson | |6 minute read

A rapidly growing proportion of organisations (now approximately one in four) currently have dedicated resilience teams. What is business resilience, and how does it interact with hybrid work?

Broadly, business resilience is an organisation’s ability to “withstand, protect, recover, and adapt to a wide range of challenges, disruptions, and changes”. It is a proactive approach to business strategy that affects decision making company-wide, ideally culminating in an adaptable, innovative business culture.

As noted in a recent report from BCI, whether hybrid work will help or hinder business resilience largely comes down to the quality of business leadership. Let’s unpack the report’s findings and ask what proactive business leaders are getting right.


The resilience benefits of hybrid work

Hybrid work, with all its promise of flexibility and greater worker autonomy, has much to promise in terms of business resilience. As noted in the report: “Remote and hybrid working arrangements can offer greater flexibility in managing crises and disruptions.”

“Professionals can work from various locations, ensuring continuity even during emergencies that would otherwise render the office inaccessible.”

Indeed, hybrid work can reduce dependence on physical infrastructure, therefore minimising the impact of local incidents, while organisations can attract talent from a broader pool of candidates.

The resilience risks

That said, as risk professionals have begun to discover, hybrid work is no picnic when it comes to business resilience. For instance, open and clear lines of communication are a huge part of the resilience equation.

With fewer opportunities to interact and less free-flowing communication between individual employees and their departments or teams, there is greater potential for issues to fly under the radar.

“Ensuring smooth information flow and maintaining team cohesion requires careful planning and the use of appropriate digital tools,” said BCI.

“A reliance on technology means downtime has more of an impact than previously. An organisation that formerly had 1,000 staff in a single office now has 1,000 staff in 1,000 home offices.”

Though, as mentioned, a more spread-out workforce can alleviate fallout risks from localised incidents, it can also complicate communication pathways.

Perhaps most concerning to risk professionals is the added issue of cyber security threats in a hybrid workplace. Viruses most commonly enter company systems through individual users. When employees take their work home and operate outside of the office environment, which tends to be more secure, the risks begin to grow.

These so-called “shadow IT” systems beyond the purview of corporate oversight have meant companies have had to get creative in their approaches to digital security.

As noted in a report by the Australian Cyber Security Industry Advisory Committee: “Hybrid working brings with it a myriad of cyber security risks, from data protection, employee and customer privacy and, of course, the risk of cyber crime victimisation.”

The hybrid risks are not limited to greater vulnerability to cyber attack, however, as threats of all kinds can be harder to plan for.

For instance, while 61.5 per cent of respondents have power back-up systems in place within offices, only 33.8 per cent of organisations said their remote workers have resilience measures in place to protect power and communications at home. Similarly, only 22.7 per cent have plans to address broadband outages among remote workers.

To promote business resilience, organisations report doing the following:

  1. Ensuring offices have power back-up (61.5 per cent).
  2. Ensuring offices have plans to continue to function but do not have the same measures in place for homeworkers (48.3 per cent).
  3. Ensuring remote workers have a plan to handle energy outages (44.4 per cent).
  4. Ensuring critical workers have power and communications resilience (33.8 per cent).
  5. Having a work area recover site (32.1 per cent).
  6. Considering broadband outage when planning homeworkers infrastructure (22.7 per cent).
  7. Conducting threat intelligence (21.4 per cent).

Hybrid safety

Additionally, the report also asked what organisations were doing to ensure hybrid worker health and safety was being adequately addressed. While the majority of respondents did respond positively, saying they had put some hybrid safety measures into place, over a third (39.6 per cent) said that measures were only “somewhat” in place or that improvement was needed.

Concerningly, hybrid safety efforts have decreased over the past year. As a priority area, the importance of hybrid worker safety has suffered as “the new normal becomes normal”, said BCI.

Until hybrid work becomes better regulated, it is possible that corporate leaders will be slow to adequately address worker safety.

“The law surrounding safety of homeworkers is still a grey area,” said BCI. Often, “there is little differentiation between what employers ‘must’ do and what employers ‘should’ do”.

Moving forward, the report found that organisations will be promoting resilience through three main ways. Firstly, cross-team collaboration will be developed. Secondly, greater attention will be given to resilience among senior management, and thirdly, broader training and exercising of resilience plans will be implemented in the coming five years.

“By focusing on these factors,” BCI said, “organisations can enhance their preparedness, responsiveness, and ability to thrive in an increasingly dynamic and unpredictable business environment”.


Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.

Remote working

Professionals can use remote work as a working method to do business away from a regular office setting. It is predicated on the idea that work need not be carried out in a certain location to be successful.

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