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Friday, 30 June 2023 | 16 min read

How to set up a hybrid working model for your business

A man working from home pointing at a laptop screen while talking on a mobile phone

Recently, I've been dealing with a small but highly reputable professional services firm. And the experience has made me question what I knew about business' adoption of remote work/work-from-home and hybrid work.

I had called their office hoping to speak to the partner handling my account (no, I'm not that important, as I said, it's a small firm). Upon asking to speak to the partner, the receptionist responded, "They're not in the office today; I'm not sure if they're working remotely or not; Call their mobile".

How's that for a great customer experience?! And the receptionist's experience as an employee, for that matter. Sure, I'll still do business with them because they're brilliant at what they do, and I've been working with them for years. But a prospect probably wouldn't feel the same way. They would need to find out how great this firm is. In today's fast-paced world, customers expect prompt and efficient ways to contact businesses. So if you can't make getting in touch with you simple, prospects will go to a competitor that can.

For many businesses, allowing staff to work remotely means they're less accessible. If this applies to your business, doing something about this is crucial to your continued survival. And spoiler alert: The solution isn’t restricting off-site work. 

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working is a model that blends in-office and remote work. Typically, it means working part of the time from the office and the rest at home (or somewhere else outside the office). 

Remote and hybrid working is now an essential element of the business landscape. A 2023 report by Atlassian found that 71% of knowledge workers work from home at least some of the time. As the cost of living skyrockets, remote work has been a godsend in helping households save on the costs of working in the office: Transport costs, childcare fees, and takeaway coffees. However, employers are generally less enthusiastic.

But if you're sceptical about remote work's place in your business's future, beware: Once your team has had the chance to work remotely, they may not be willing to return to the traditional way of working. And if you try to force them back to the office, they'll leave. Employees required to work in the office full-time are twice as likely to resign than hybrid workers in comparable jobs. And naturally, the employees most likely to make good on those threats are the highly skilled, experienced ones you can least afford to lose (or lose out on).

The problem is that many small businesses still act like the firm I mentioned earlier. They saw remote work as a band-aid solution to you-know-what (I promised my editor I wouldn't say it, but I know you know what I'm talking about). They assumed remote work wasn't going to last. Therefore, they never invested in the network and technology required to make remote work as productive as office work. Of the 71% of remote workers, only 51% say they've been given the tools necessary to work productively from home.

And as businesses make decisions about their future, one burning question is the role remote work will play.

What is the future of remote and hybrid work?

Back in 2016, long before remote work's widespread adoption, we told you it was the future of business.

Even back then, it was an easy call to make. The technology was there. All that was missing was the motivation to give remote work a go.

And technology continues to improve in leaps and bounds. And with it, the tools to make remote work successful have become accessible to every business.

However, some business owners (including some big names) still want to do away with remote work. And behind all the traditionalism and stubbornness, the real roadblock to remote connectivity is a knowledge gap.

Because even the most strident office traditionalist isn't going to say no to remote work if they knew it would lead to better business outcomes. And it does. But only if you get remote work right.

If you're half-committing to remote work in your business, you'll be lucky to get half the result. Sure, your employees might still be among the 77% of workers who feel more productive working from home. But if you don't give them the right tools for the job, you're leaving your team's potential on the table (in your half-empty office).

So, how do you set up a hybrid-first workplace? Here's what you'll need to win the new way of working.

How to set your business up as a remote or hybrid workplace

Are you thinking of expanding your talent pool by hiring remote employees? Or do you want to give your team the option to work remotely? You must ensure you've set them (and your business) up to succeed.  

Here’s the technology you'll need to set up a thriving remote workforce:

1. Remote access:

Remote access isn't a new tool, but it's become essential as we rely on consistent access to work files.

Also known as a remote desktop, remote access is a program that enables users to connect to a computer system remotely via the internet. Remote access ensures your team can access files and work applications anywhere and on any device. So whether you're in the office, at home, or on the beach, you can be just as productive (in theory, anyway, but you can be sipping pina coladas in either of those locations too). 

Remote access is also a better choice for your business's security. Even if your team works in the cloud, remote access ensures your business stays on your teams' work computers - even if they're not using their work computer. Your business's cyber security protocols don't apply outside work hours and on personal devices. And it's much easier for cybercriminals to access a smartphone with a 4-digit pin than a business laptop with a strong password. So if your team log in to an account associated with your business on personal devices, they're putting your business at risk.

Do you need a VPN to access a remote desktop? 

While no, you don’t need a Virtual Private Network VPN to access a remote desktop, using a VPN ensures you’re getting the full security benefits of remote access. Remote desktops, by their nature as a connection between two computers (and, most of the time, two networks), open you up to additional security risks. A VPN will help you mitigate those additional security risks and allow you to tap into the benefits of remote access without leaving your network vulnerable. 

In fact, due to the added security of remote access, many businesses use it in their office computers too. So with remote access, if you're working on a computer, there is no difference between working remotely or in the office. And admit it; you've probably emailed a colleague to save the short walk to their desk, haven’t you? That would be pretty awkward if you told that colleague they had to be in the office that day. 

Curious to try out remote access? Google Remote Desktop offers a free remote access platform. Find out more and give it a go on Google Remote Desktop's official site.

 

2. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

To make remote work viable, your team will need access to the same tools they have in the office.

But accessing your business's files outside your network comes with a security risk - especially if it's a public network.

A VPN mitigates the security risks of remote connectivity by connecting the device to the VPN provider's secure remote server. The VPN encrypts all data between a user's device and the VPN server, protecting it from interception by unwanted intruders.

With a VPN enabled, your remote team can safely access business applications from anywhere without exposing your business to security risks. 

What is the difference between a VPN and a remote desktop?

A VPN enables you to connect to a network from any device securely. A remote desktop lets you access a device connected to a network from a device that isn’t on the same network. 

When used together, a remote desktop and VPN let you create a secure platform for remote work. A VPN secures your network, and a remote desktop ensures you control what devices connect to your business’s network. 

Think of a VPN as a security detail that follows you around 24/7 and a remote desktop as a virtual reality headset that transports you to your office whenever you put it on. Your security will protect you as you travel to and from the office. But there’s still a risk of something unfortunate happening that your security can only do so much to stop. 

The VR headset saves you the trip and its dangers. But while you're wearing it, you’re distracted and don’t know what’s happening around you. What if someone tries to burgle your house or the fire alarm goes off? If you have private security with you while using your VR headset, you get the best of both worlds and the most secure way to connect to your business’s network. 

 

3. Cloud migration 

The cloud is a cheaper, easier and more efficient way to run your business.

And to use the productivity benefits of the cloud, you'll need a full-scale cloud migration. You've probably heard of the term, but what does cloud migration mean for your business beyond the buzzword?

Cloud migration means moving your business's infrastructure, data, and applications from an on-premises server to a cloud-based server. That means taking everything off the local storage on your office computers, USBs and hard drives and bringing it to a cloud platform.

You can access all your business files from the cloud from anywhere, making it easier to collaborate with your team, clients and partners - no matter where you're working from.

Some popular cloud apps that offer accessible plans to small businesses include Google Workspace and Microsoft Suite

Need a custom cloud solution?

Get a comprehensive cloud solution to meet any business need. Hosted in our Australian data centre and managed 24/7 by our local support team.

Find out more

If you're looking for a custom cloud solution to meet more complex cloud requirements, such as higher storage capacity or meeting regulatory guidelines on data storage, we can help. With Aussie Broadband's managed cloud services, unlock the power of the cloud in your business. And it gives your business a robust, all-encompassing solution for effective cloud migration. Hosted in our Australian data centre and managed 24/7 by our local support team, you can rest assured your data is in good hands. Visit our managed cloud services page to find out more. Want to find out more about our cloud services? Speak to our team on 1300 161 625 for a no-obligation consultation on the best cloud solution for your business. 

4. Online collaboration tools

If you ask the anti-work-from-home-ers, nothing beats in-person collaboration time in the office. And they're not wrong.

But with the right online tools, you can emulate and amplify collaboration across your business.

At Aussie Broadband, our team works together across multiple offices and home offices access the country. We rely on several collaboration tools to connect our offices and remote team members to stay efficient.

The online collaboration tools essential to a thriving remote workforce: 

Messaging apps such as Slack, rocket.chat, and Mattermost. These apps are where most water cooler chats, informal team huddles, and formal staff shoutouts happen these days.

Workflow Apps such as Trello, Asana, and Monday.com. These apps are a more efficient way to get stuff done - even if the whole team's in the office. But especially if they're not. You can illustrate the project management process on workflow apps by creating user-friendly project boards and inviting team members to collaborate and monitor the tasks' progress.

Cloud apps such as Google Workspace and Microsoft Suite let your business store files at a central location accessible from anywhere through the internet. It’s a more convenient way to share and collaborate on files - even in the office. No more emailing different versions back and forth and forgetting which one's the most recent!

Videoconferencing apps such as Zoom, Microsoft teams, Webex, and Google Meet. These apps let you and your team join meetings from anywhere.   

5. A Cyber Security Policy 

 Cyber security is essential - regardless of where you and your team work from.  

Yes, VPNs, remote access, and the cloud's added security measures all help your business's data stay secure. But your business still needs to pay attention to the basics.

Take passwords, for example. Computer programs that have fallen into the wrong hands can easily crack simple passwords. How easily can they crack your password? This tool will tell you. And if your password is yourbusinessname1, it's even more crack-able than the tool suggests - since it doesn't take a sophisticated computer program for someone to guess it. So go ahead and change it. I'll wait.

What makes a strong password? And how do you make a good one? Find out in this comprehensive guide to passwords.

So, put a password policy in place with your team. The policy should ensure all individual passwords they create for all their work accounts are strong enough to keep your business secure.

Just be sure to use a password manager so you don’t have to remember all those complex, consntantly-changing passwords! 

Of course, your team may log in to work accounts on personal devices that don't apply to your password policy. Of course, you should strongly discourage logging into work accounts on non-work devices. But sometimes, it's a necessary evil as it makes it more convenient for your team to access essential work files or connect with colleagues in a pinch. In these cases, multi-factor authentication (MFA) will act as an additional layer of security. Say a staff member left their laptop in a café. An opportunistic cybercriminal couldn't access their work files without the MFA access code sent to that team member's phone.

Alongside passwords and multi-factor authentication, a cyber security policy should cover the following:

  • Automatic updates, 

  • data backups, 

  • limiting access to business accounts to only the team members who need them, and; 

  • cyber security training for your team.

For more detail about these cyber security measures and other actions you should take right now to secure your business, check out our guide to cyber security best practices.

6. A business phone system for a remote workforce

"Sorry I missed you. It seems like we're playing phone tag. Please call me back when you can".

It's a message that's just as frustrating to send as it is to receive.

If you have a business phone number, customers, prospects, and partners should expect to reach you through it during business hours.

But you can leave your desk and still answer the phone. Today's phone systems can work from anywhere via the internet through Voice over IP (VoIP) technology. They're also cheaper and come with more features than traditional phones. And through softphone capability, a modern business phone system can work without a single handset! 

If you've got an employee who works from home, you can easily set them up with a business phone number without them even setting foot in your office.

With a cloud-based, hosted PBX phone system, your team and customers get a consistent phone experience - regardless of whether your staff are in the office or working remotely. No more scrambling to figure out a team member's movements when someone calls you asking for them. Just transfer the call, and they'll pick up from wherever they are (or not, but at least then the caller can still leave a message).

If your team work from home and the office, there's no need to incur the additional costs of buying two phone handsets. Even if you do that, what happens if they decide to work from their favourite café one morning?  

Softphones offer a fully portable connection to your business phone system. And they're the cheapest to set up and run. Softphones allow your team to answer calls to their business phone from a softphone app (which they can install on their smartphone, tablet, computer, or even their car through android auto or apple carplay).

To learn more about bringing softphones to your business, read our comprehensive guide to softphones.

Looking for a custom softphone system?

Customise the perfect phone system online and get an instant quote.

Build your phone system

7. Business mobile plans 

These days, many businesses, especially smaller ones, use their mobile as the primary point of contact for their business.

If you've already built a network of contacts through your mobile number, using that number when you start your business makes sense. Right, but things can get tricky as your business grows and you add new team members to the fold.

Remember when your teachers would remind you to behave when travelling to and from school in your uniform? You were representing your school to the public. Any youthful misadventures would reflect poorly on your school.

That's what can happen when your team uses their personal mobile number for work.

If your team contacts people on behalf of your business from their personal number, they're intertwining your business with their private lives. Any edgy tik toks, niche interests or ill-informed political opinions could become tied to your business's image. You might even lose leads to a subcontractor's own business if a prospect Googles the number that called them.

Your team is entitled to a life outside work, but it shouldn't interfere with your business. 

Even if they're not contacting people, a work phone will mean your team can switch off after hours. They won't have constant anxiety about getting a late-night work-related notification while scrolling through Instagram. You might not realise it, but with something as frequently used as a smartphone, separating business and pleasure can dramatically improve work-life balance and employee satisfaction

So, it pays on multiple fronts to invest in a business mobile plan.

We have a range of great-value business mobile plans to suit any data need. Choose between an ever-reliable 4G plan that services 98.5% of Australia's population and lets you share data with your team** or super-fast 5G* plans.

Make mobile simple

Manage your team's mobile services in one place with 4G or 5G mobile SIM plans made for business.

View mobile plans

And best of all, you can easily manage your team’s mobile services on our award-winning MyAussie® app. Available on iOS, Android and the web, the MyAussie® app lets you add services, check your team’s data usage, and scale your plans as soon as you need to.

Become a hybrid-first business

In the current business climate, a hybrid workplace will go a long way to attracting and retaining the best talent in your industry. But only if you've set your business up as a hybrid workplace. If you half-commit to hybrid work, you're telling your team they really need to come to the office without actually uttering those famous last words.

Still unsure where to start setting your business up for remote work? Get in touch with our friendly team for a free, no-obligation consultation. You'll get a roadmap to a hybrid work setup that meets your business's unique needs.

Give us a buzz on 1300 480 905, or get in touch with us online

Check out these handy guides to learn more about making hybrid work work for your business.

How to optimise your remote workers

Seven tips to keep your remote team connected

*5G rolling out in selected areas. Excludes TAS and NT. 

** Data sharing for mobile plans on the same profile and network (4G and 5G) only. You cannot share 4G data with 5G plans, and vice versa, even if they are on the same profile.

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Written by

Michael Hayman Headshot

Michael Hayman

Content Writer

Michael is Aussie Broadband's marketing copywriter. Michael is responsible for content marketing within Aussie's growing business segment, which includes writing and editing web content, marketing collateral, and business editorial blog art...

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