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How Hybrid-Workspace Tools Enable the Future of Work

Linda Rosencrance Freelance writer/editor
Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

A couple of years ago, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to implement a work-from-home model. These days, many organizations allow their employees to work from anywhere—the office, their homes, and even their local coffee shops.

But that can't happen if those employees don't have the tools they need to do their jobs. In particular, they need tools that allow them to access corporate data and applications securely from anywhere and on any device. The problem is that when employees work remotely, it's difficult for enterprises to ensure that they can protect sensitive data and systems while accommodating highly distributed environments.

"What we saw across the pandemic is a lot of organizations investing in a ton of point SaaS solutions from different vendors," said Andrew Hewitt, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "But that becomes difficult to manage."

By bringing all software solutions together into a single workspace from a single vendor, however, companies can ease that management from an IT operations perspective. Hewitt noted that, in so doing, companies can also improve user experience (UX), providing a consistent experience across all the applications.

Accordingly, companies are now looking at the hybrid workspace as a long-term approach to these challenges.

What Does a Hybrid-Workspace Solution Do?

A hybrid-workspace solution enables organizations to publish and deploy applications to any device, anywhere.

Consequently, a hybrid-workspace solution lets users access their applications and data from anywhere on any device—including company-owned and personal devices, iOS and Android devices, and any device with an HTML browser—without sacrificing security and management, according to Hewitt.

Must-Have Features

Last year, Forrester predicted that 70% of US and European companies would transition to a hybrid-work environment post-pandemic. This means having to prepare for users and devices to access data from different locations and networks.

"Employees are going to be on the run," said Hewitt. "They're going to be in the coffee shops, they're going to be on the train, they're going to be at home, they're going to be in the office—so security [is critical]."

Therefore, organizations need to ensure that any hybrid-workspace solution they select protects their data wherever it is—and not just when it's in a specific location (such as behind a firewall or in a specific location on a device). According to Hewitt, this means having strong foundational security, including both multi-factor authentication (MFA) and good endpoint management—the latter ensuring that the operating system is up to date and that the applications are all patched correctly.

Just as important as security, however, is seamlessness.

"A good hybrid-workspaces solution is going to provide you something that allows users to access what they need to do their job from anywhere—and do it in an intuitive way," said Jason Blackett, vice president of engineering at Micro Focus.

An example of this is allowing users to access applications on their own devices by just going to a website and clicking on the app.

"The second thing a good workspace has to do is provide access to the corporate data that the application or that the end user wants to work on," Blackett said.

Specifically, organizations must securely provide remote workers access to the same applications that in-office workers use.

Academic Translation

Educational institutions can also use hybrid-workspace solutions to provide their students with hybrid-learning environments—allowing them, like employees, to easily and securely access applications and data from anywhere and on any device.

"Within whatever tool you're using to provide that hybrid-learning experience to your users, you have the ability to provide the applications and the data they need to do their assignments," said Blackett.

"Whether the faculty is setting up courses or the student is studying the course, having that application at your fingertips—no matter if you're studying from home or using a device in the library or in the classroom—you're able to leverage the devices you have in front of you to be able to work from anywhere, and complete your duties on the application that you've been trained on," said Paul Pedron, product manager at Micro Focus.

Added Benefits

Hybrid-workspace solutions offer numerous benefits from the flexibility they bestow.

Cost savings: A hybrid-workspace solution offers users a secure application-streaming experience on any device. Accordingly, users can access their applications and data at a fraction of the cost to the organization of installing and configuring a virtual-desktop infrastructure.

"A hybrid-workspace solution makes it easier for users to securely access the resources they need to get their work done without having to install any software on their personal devices," said Pedron.

Consistency: A good hybrid-workspace solution will offer a consistent and secure UX on every device.

"As a user moves from place to place, that workspace needs to be able to be the same as much as possible for the user," said Blackett. "For instance, if a user is running an application on their device in the office and they make some customizations to that application, when they go home and access it from their personal device, they don't want to have to redo all of those customizations."

Productivity boosts: Hybrid-workspace solutions enable employees to be more productive insofar as organizations can adapt application delivery to the way a given employee works.

"From a productivity perspective, people are always in different places, and you never know when you're going to need to work or when you're going to have the opportunity to get something done," Blackett said.

From an efficiency perspective, it's really about companies giving their users what they need when they need it—no matter where they are.

"So if a user is in a hotel room, working on a tablet, and they have to join a meeting, they can easily have access to all the applications they may need," Blackett said. "And then when they go into the office, they have the full experience they're used to."

"You could be answering emails on the train or in an Uber on the way to work," said Forrester's Hewitt. "You're able to be productive in far more locations, which also gives you more flexibility—especially if you're a knowledge worker—to work in different places."

To wit, hybrid-workspace solutions enable employee productivity at any time and from anywhere, accommodating the employee's location and schedule. The result, according to Hewitt, is that hybrid-workspace solutions can lead to happier employees as they help an organization curb employee burnout and drive employee engagement.

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