Leaders, managers, and executives have all been working from home for nearly eight months now. We’re living in the new normal and organizations are working on paving their way back to the office – but expectations have changed and IT leaders with a finger on the pulse know this.

To paint a full picture, Cisco surveyed 3,196 IT decision makers across small, medium, and large organizations in 21 markets. The results of the survey highlighted two key things: The future of work is hybrid, and all-round security is non-negotiable.

The hybrid future of work is here already

Cisco enabled almost all of its staff to work from home early in March as the pandemic broke, to keep them safe while continuing to support customers. The move came suddenly and was followed within a few days by companies across the world. Working from home became the new norm.

Globally, remote working spiked to unprecedented levels at the start of the pandemic in March, where two-thirds (62 percent) of organizations had more than half of their workforce work from home.

Interestingly, 37 percent of organizations are expecting more than half of their workforce to continue working from home post-pandemic, compared to only 19 percent before the outbreak took the world by storm, highlighting a major shift in the market. Further, attitudes toward remote work are consistent across small, medium and large organizations, where 35 percent of small businesses, 38 percent of medium businesses and 37 percent of large enterprises believed that more than half of their employees will be remote workers post-COVID-19.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the workplace is redundant. It needs to be reinvented in a way that can help organizations become resilient, thrive in the new normal, and prepare for the next wave of challenges. To be very honest, the future of work is here and if we must keep employees engaged and productive, we must transform into a hybrid workplace where staff have the flexibility to work remotely or in the office and still have a consistent experience.  Evidence of this is seen in an upcoming survey as well (follow me on LinkedIn to find out when it is published).

Security is the cornerstone of remote and hybrid work

Going into ‘work from home’ wasn’t a planned decision for most organizations, it was a reaction to the pandemic-fueled lockdown. Although necessary, we must admit that the execution of it all was far from flawless, especially when it came to security. It’s one of the reasons cybersecurity issues spiraled up in the past few months as malicious actors took advantage of this shift, and attempted to gain remote access to users’ apps and data.

Our survey found that 61 percent of respondents globally stated that their organizations experienced a jump of 25 percent or more in cyber threats or alerts since the start of COVID-19. Again, this trend was fairly spread across organizations of all sizes – 55 percent of small businesses, 70 percent of medium organizations, and 60 percent of large enterprises experienced an increase of this magnitude. At 69 percent, Asia Pacific, Japan, and China (APJC) had the highest number of organizations that experienced a jump of 25 percent or more cyber threats or alerts since COVID-19.

This obviously made cybersecurity a priority for leaders like you. Eighty-five percent of respondents globally said that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than it was before the pandemic. In APJC, 97 percent of organizations said they have already made changes to their cybersecurity policies – although, there certainly is room for improvement.

In a hybrid future where people must be able to collaborate from anywhere, on any device and via any network, there’s no doubt that security must be front and center. – Failing to deliver a strong all-round security experience could put collaboration and innovation at risk. Upgrading your security capabilities involves evaluating the organization’s digital infrastructure and ensuring that cybersecurity is foundational across any new IT solutions or collaboration platforms.

In an age where remote working collaboration tools (including video conferencing) have become a lifeline for organizations of all kinds – businesses, schools, doctors, governments – to stay connected and productive, collaboration tools must ensure security and privacy – there should never be a trade-off for convenience and simplicity.

Please download a copy of our study for more insights to find out how you can ensure that your organization is prepared for the hybrid future of work. And before I conclude, I’d like to share a tip with leaders who want to accelerate their journey to a secure hybrid future of work: Check out Webex’s latest offerings!