May 10, 2024

Challenges of Hybrid Working (And How We Solved Them)

If the recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything it’s that remote and hybrid work models can prove effective and efficient, at least as long as they are set up right. Research and studies back up this assertion as well. Here are some of the most pertinent reports related to hybrid and remote work statistics:  

  • As per a Forbes report, 12.7% of full-time employees chose to work remotely, and close to 30% have chosen a hybrid work approach.  
  • According to a McKinsey study, 87% of people who were offered the opportunity for flexible work solutions opted in for it.  
  • Per US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, professionals reported a 33% reduction in attrition rates when following a hybrid work schedule, along with a marked improvement in work satisfaction.

As the numbers indicate, remote and hybrid work models are successful. However, numerous factors need to be addressed to make hybrid and remote work arrangements as productive as possible. In this article, we look at what the hybrid work setup looks like at Human Trusted Cyber Defense (HTCD), and the varied challenges of hybrid work that we had to overcome to make this system work for us.  

The HTCD Hybrid and Remote Work Mix

Here at HTCD, our team is our superpower. We have put together a group of individuals who have incredible amounts of intelligence, focus, and domain knowledge. The easiest way to find the most competent people for each role is to remove guardrails like location (among others) from the search and hire pipeline. This is how we ended up with a great group of people hailing from three different continents! Our team is spread across South Africa, North America, and India. And apart from the South African continent, they don’t even live in the same city, even when they do reside within the same national borders. This meant that we had to come up with solutions to optimize our workflow and motivate our team to all pull in the same direction. Our solution was a mix of remote and hybrid working, with the South African team following the latter while the teams based out of India and the US adopted the former.  

Team HTCD leverages modern communications tools (and cups of coffee!) to bridge the gap between our US-, South Africa-, and India-based teams.

The Four Challenges of Hybrid Workspaces (and Remote Work) and How We Solved Them

  1. Communication: An effective remote work or hybrid work setup needs to be built on a strong foundation. This foundation is a free-flowing, adaptable, and unrestricted communications network. At HTCD, we leverage tools such as Outlook Mail, Slack, and Microsoft Teams to ensure that everyone within our team has multiple channels through which they can reach out to each other. We’ve also established clear roles in terms of who takes ownership of what aspect of our enterprise. This way, everyone knows who the point of contact is in case they have a specific question or need help with a specialized situation. Here's an example of clear communication leading to a positive outcome: when one of our engineers expressed the need for a sandbox testing environment. He identified this requirement but was a little reticent to ask for the sandbox on virtual calls. He found it more comfortable to raise it with his lead in person and did so when they next met for a group working session. The need was resolved by the lead as soon as it was conveyed.  
  2. Collaboration: Encouraging meaningful collaboration isn’t straightforward or painless, particularly within the bounds of a newly established team. We knew that this was one element that needed to be nurtured from the very beginning with no room for compromise. The result—regular virtual meetings between team members to ideate, problem-solve, and get the creative juices flowing. One big sticking point to across-the-globe collaboration is time zones (something pesky daylight-saving practices don’t make any easier). A little consideration goes a long way though, and we have worked out what pockets of time are best suited for all three teams as a sort of common ground of productivity. The rest of the working day allows for ample quiet hours where tasks can be executed with complete focus and without typical in-office distractions. While working from home allows for focused coding sessions without distractions for our engineers, spending some time as a unit in the office has allowed for effective troubleshooting of issues. A blended work environment gives you the benefits of ‘many hands making light work’ without the perpetual presence of ‘too many cooks spoiling the broth’.    
  3. Accountability: Implementing checks and balances is a challenge when every employee is sitting on their own figurative island. To ensure that timelines are met, and accountability is maintained, we make judicious use of tickets and planners. Whether it is adapting GitHub’s ticket system or taking advantage of the Microsoft Planner, regardless of the department within our workforce, there are always accountability measures ready and deployed. This ensures that everyone is on task and on time, and even works as an early warning system that quickly appraises the leadership when a particular team member is becoming overburdened with tasks.
  4. Culture: Building a work culture is integral to any enterprise’s success. Doing it over the internet, though, is quite the uphill battle. The process of establishing the cultural code of our enterprise was made a whole lot easier by keeping the messaging short, simple, and completely logical. Inviting the entire team to provide suggestions on how to improve this cultural code was also a significant contributor to its widespread acceptance. We have also conducted some successful morale-boosting events to underscore the togetherness and culture of our organization. Virtual happy hours, hangouts, and gaming sessions are fantastic platforms to allow teams to mix regardless of geographical limitations. And sometimes, cultural gatherings can provide business benefits beyond the norm. In our case, a casual conversation between a team member and a colleague’s spouse resulted in a viable lead.    
HTCD's South Africa team enjoying a night out with their families (and inadvertently generating leads)

Needless to say, our remote and hybrid work solutions would’ve been impossible to implement if our own team hadn’t decided to buy into them. And to be fair, there are still issues and obstacles that crop up from time to time. However, as long as you’re all working towards the same common goal and everyone in the team is on the same page, these obstacles never prove to be insurmountable. We are aware that as our team continues to grow, we will need to be adaptable—making tweaks and updates to our work model as and when required. As long as each member of the team is willing to put in that little bit of effort into making things work though, we won’t ever lose our work ethic and strong sense of unity that makes working at HTCD so streamlined and effortless. After all, the only way we can keep an unwavering eye on your cloud enterprise and ensure that it does not fall prey to outside threats is if we’re always firing on all cylinders.  

HTCD helps customers better discover and secure their cloud environments using the latest that Generative AI has to offer. Want to join this flourishing team and be a part of the bleeding edge of cloud security? We’re hiring! Visit our Careers page to learn more and share your CV via email today.

HTCD's India team takes some time to cool off during a recent workcation

Harket Suchde

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