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3 minutes reading time (650 words)

Hybrid work is challenging the SMBs

Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket Hybrid Work Adoption Trends survey indicates that 41% of SMBs plan a phased approach to return to the office, up from 22% in 2021. 20% of employees will likely work from home, in sharp contrast to 58% in 2021, similar to pre-pandemic levels in 2019 when 29% of small business (1-99) employees, 9% of employees within midmarket firms (100-999), and 7% within upper-midmarket firms (1000-4999), who worked from home. Techaisle survey also shows that 42% of employees want to work 3-4 days per week from home.

Security, remote IT support, and unreliable networks continue to be significant technology challenges in managing remote workers. Remote IT support is an especially acute inhibitor for 46% of small businesses. On the people-side of the hybrid work equation, work-life conflict, maintaining team cohesiveness, and lack of training/career implications are dominant challenges. As a result, only 11% have a hybrid first mindset, but 37% believe they have mature remote work practices.

Team collaboration solutions, office collaboration tools (conference room devices), and remote worker collaboration devices (headsets, video cameras, etc.) are the top three priorities for 45% to 58% of SMBs. PC upgrades and refreshes to enable a hybrid workforce are the fourth top priority for 39% of SMBs.

Technology-enabled remote work has a relatively long history. The term 'telecommuting' was introduced in the early 1970s. Over the following decades, successive waves of interest in remote work were inspired by budget sensitivity in the tech start-up community, environmental concerns, and a corporate desire to offer workers a better work/life balance. But over the last two years, experimentation with remote work in select industries has shifted to broad adoption in businesses of all types and sizes in response to social distance imperatives associated with the pandemic.

Bringing the employees back to the office is concerning and is pre-occupying business executives' minds. The world of work today is highly complex. Employees are distributed across the organization's various locations, apps no longer reside in a centralized data center but instead may be collected from across a panoply of SaaS providers, and work input is highly specialized, requiring ongoing collaboration for completion. Remote work requirements associated with the pandemic have generated new opportunities for workplace flexibility and employee productivity and have accelerated the organizational need for new processes and technologies to future proof against emerging shifts. As we transition out of the pandemic, SMBs are looking to create a context for understanding the range of options and outcomes that hybrid work may bring.

For many SMBs today, remote work is no longer a question of choice but rather one of survival. But the success of this latest venture into remote has been buoyed by the ongoing development of powerful technology tools and infrastructure that enable people to work from anywhere and the consequent evolution of new perspectives on productivity that focus on results rather than time or location.

At the same time, however, limitations of the work from home phenomenon have become increasingly apparent as employees look to recapture the intimacy of face-to-face communication that is difficult to replicate in virtual environments and catalyze the creative synergies that can be achieved through in-person collaboration. Within SMB business environments, workers and their managers have grasped the importance of in-person communications in developing team cohesion to the sense of unity critical to driving organizational objectives.

IT suppliers' should build a market position on flexible work rather than a hybrid and underscore the collaboration continuum. Return to work addresses a clear need within SMBs and midmarket firms, and these firms are responding with growing investments, especially in automation and integrated solutions. SMBs do not have a clear path to identifying suppliers who can work with them in reducing overheads and mitigating exposure. Suppliers with a clear vision spanning device integration and support, application expansion and management, orchestration and automation, and practical and flexible security will find an eager audience.

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