Published in Forbes

The efficacy of remote work has been debated for decades. Now, as companies begin pursuing a post-Covid-19 reality, the debate is finally settled. According to some of the most prominent companies in Silicon Valley, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, the answer is a hybrid model.

Rather than being dogmatic and dichotomous about workplace arrangements, these companies find value in a hybrid model that includes a flexible mix of on-site and remote teams. It’s likely that many more companies, both big and small, will follow suit.

This seismic shift is happening at a critical time for companies facing strong economic headwinds, shaken consumer demand and safety concerns related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In this environment, maintaining consistency, efficiency and cybersecurity is critical. In other words, now is the right time to reevaluate operational best practices to ensure a reliable transition and a prosperous future. Here’s how:

Prioritize people, always. 

Embracing a hybrid workforce is an excellent first step toward helping your teams thrive both during the pandemic and after it eventually subsides. Not only do many workers want to continue working at least part of the time remotely, but it allows people to easily accommodate health priorities, family obligations and overall flexibility concerns.

While there is considerable evidence that employees are often happier, healthier and more productive when working remotely, flexibility alone won’t allow teams to thrive and companies to prosper.

As Amanda Mull wrote in The Atlantic, “Workers lose far more than physical space when they lose their office.” Personal connections, close collaboration and routine interaction can all go out the window when workers leave the office. Combat these trends through regular, personal connection and conversation. This might include:

 Providing inclusion opportunities for remote workers.

 Conducting personal phone calls and communications rather than all-in team meetings.

 Appreciating personal boundaries by limiting communications to work times.

 Understanding the limitations of remote work.

Healthy companies are built by flourishing employees, and making them a top priority will make the transition to a new normal most effective.

Rely on data-driven insights. 

The economic implications of the Covid-19 pandemic mean that companies are being asked to do more with less. Reviewing operational practices and identifying new efficiencies will be critical for organizations trying to stay ahead with limited resources.

Many companies have already adopted some version of employee monitoring software to oversee productivity and security initiatives. They are harnessing this information to identify potential bottlenecks, workplace best practices and opportunities for optimization.

For example, Microsoft used data from its monitoring initiatives to prioritize productivity. Their metrics found that employees were most productive between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., so leaders moved meetings away from this window and avoided squandering an opportunity to make the most of their time.

In other words, companies can harness tech to streamline and optimize business practices, leading to better outcomes at many levels. Managers and decision makers need clear metrics for evaluating productivity and efficiency, and this data needs to be highly accessible and easily applicable.

Don’t compromise on cybersecurity. 

After spending extravagant sums to secure their in-house IT infrastructure, companies are inundated with a deluge of new cybersecurity risks that accompany a hybrid workforce.

These threats, which include everything from effective phishing scams to accidental or malicious data exposure, can siphon away valuable resources at a critical time. In response, hybrid organizations need to prioritize cybersecurity at every turn. Specifically, this means:

 Protecting against accidental and malicious data exposure.

 Equipping employees to reject phishing scams.

 Implementing two-factor authentication on all accounts.

 Requiring regular password changes.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, the stakes of this transition are high. Every organization needs to make the most of the moment. Adopting the right priorities will be critical. Ultimately, these efforts revolve around people and data.

By now, being “data-driven” isn’t a buzzword or a particularly novel business approach. It’s the de-facto operational posture for most modern organizations. By rightly valuing both people and data, organizations are better positioned to navigate challenges, harness opportunities and evolve in far-reaching, long-lasting ways.

Originally published in Forbes and reprinted with permission.