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As the Covid-19 situation stabilizes and with vaccination rates rising, organizations across APAC are preparing for change. As of August, the authorities in Singapore are allowing up to 50% of the workforce to return to the office. To support this, many organizations are looking to retain flexible working arrangements, including working from home (WFH). It’s something that has really caught the imagination of the workers. A survey by Singapore’s The Straits Times of 1,800 people found that eight in ten want to WFH or work flexibly. Just one in ten wanted to return to the office full-time. Inevitably, this can be present some challenges to those keen to allow hybrid working.

Can remote working be as effective as working in the office?

Despite clear enthusiasm for new ways of working, some employers and managers are not convinced. They doubt that remote working can be as effective as working in the office. As part of a recent webinar – more on this below – we carried out our own recent survey. We polled over 1,000 customers in the APAC region. The first thing to note is that – much like regular employees – managers are receptive to hybrid work. We found that…

  • 72% of managers prefer their team to work in a hybrid model with more days spent working from home.
  • 29% of managers prefer their teams to work more days in the office. Interestingly, only 25% of these managers wanted to do the same themselves.
  • Only 10% of managers wanted their teams to return full-time to the office
  • What’s more, we also found that IT managers are more comfortable with hybrid work models. 84% said they preferred a hybrid work model, compared to only 63% of non-IT managers.

That said, managers do have concerns about remote work. They identified a number of hybrid working challenges and concerns, some of which you may also share.

Watch the debate and whether you agree with our interactive audience…

We explored these in our recent live virtual event. Broadcast from Singapore, the event featured celebrity presenter, Justin Misson – playing the part of ‘Mr Tan’ a concerned business owner. Joining him was Praveen Koli, a Microsoft workplace expert. He was well-placed to allay fears over the relative merits of ‘home’ vs ‘office’. The event had an interactive storyline with the audience voting in a series of polls on what should happen. Would Mr Tan’s employees be allowed to continue to work remotely? Or would the hybrid working challenges see them forced into a full-time 9-to-6 return to the office? Do watch – Settling the age-old debate: Working from home vs the office - to see how their fate was decided. And discover whether you agree or not with the verdict.

Use Productivity Score to measure your team’s performance metrics

It’s fair to say, that one area many feel concerned about is employee performance and productivity. If this is also a concern for you, then do look at “Productivity Score”. It’s a Microsoft 365 feature that IT administrators can opt-in to, and gain insights into technology and infrastructure usage. It identifies how people are using Microsoft 365 products – the likes of Word, Excel and Teams – to collaborate and communicate. It can also help you address pain points such as long boot times, inefficient document collaboration, or poor network connectivity.

Insights are shown in aggregate over a 28-day period and are provided at the user level. This allows IT admins to provide technical support and guidance. By setting up targets, managers can also use the data to identify the top independent performers in their team. With 91% of respondents already using Microsoft 365, it’s a feature that has great potential. Do look into this if you are keen to make the most of your technology investments.

Effective and secure collaboration are equally crucial

Some 45% of our respondents said that collaboration and telephony tools were of critical importance for remote or hybrid work. With new risks and threats evolving, some are concerned about the security implications of remote working. The APAC region actually scores above-average for malware and ransomware attacks. Microsoft’s Security Endpoint Threat Report, states the risk is, respectively, 1.6 and 1.7 times higher in this region than elsewhere in the world.

So what does this mean for your organization? And how can your IT team ensure that collaboration stays secure? If like 91% of our respondents, you already use Microsoft 365, another feature to consider is the Microsoft Secure Score. This gives you a security metric for each user and insights into their current level of protection. This score is calculated by users’ regular activities and their Microsoft 365 security settings. It shows how aligned your organization is with Microsoft’s best security practices. It also then recommends steps to improve your security position. The good news is, there’s no special setup needed. Your Secure Score is readily accessible to those with Microsoft 365 admin roles in your organization:

Use Secure Score to assess your security stance

Security is one of the main issues commonly seen as a hybrid working challenge.

Here’s how you can leverage the Microsoft Secure Score for WFH or remote working arrangements. Within the Secure Score dashboard, you’ll be able to see how your organization fares against the industry average. You’ll also get a target score, one you can adjust depending on your desire to ramp up your security. You can increase your Secure Score at your own pace, amending your target as you go. The higher you set your target, the more recommended actions you will get. Importantly, not only does Secure Score help you improve your security. it will support you in providing flexible, remote working; secure collaboration, at any time, from anywhere.

Driving collaboration through telephony

It goes without saying that your remote working and collaboration must be easy to use and deploy. It needs to be secure and able to handle the bandwidth of your business. A new offering from Microsoft, Operator Connect, enables simple and seamless calling in Microsoft Teams. It also gives you the chance to simplify things and ‘bring your own’ telecommunications operator. Here’s what Vipul Koul, Partner Technical Consultant at Microsoft had to say about Operator Connect by NTT in our recent webinar.

Because Operator Connect provides such an easy-to-use front-end within Microsoft Teams itself, organizations can easily dive in, select their carrier, provision what they need, and make changes as required. It’s as fuss-free as it comes, and with the assurance of Microsoft vetted and certified providers, you can be sure of the quality standard you’d expect. With Operator Connect from NTT, you can get access to carrier-grade telephony, business-critical features as standard, and support services. And all from a single provider. No matter where your employees are you can be sure of a high-quality calling experience, large savings as you simplify your telephony estate, and efficient set-up and usage within Microsoft Teams.

Meeting the challenge. What lies ahead for hybrid working?

For the most part, it seems like hybrid working is here to stay. And post-pandemic, the future of work for many people will continue to be a blurred blend, mixing work, life, family, office and real-world and virtual meetings.

For some managers, the shift to hybrid working may seem daunting, that nagging concern that working from home means, not working so hard from home. However, despite the likes of Justin Misson’s ‘Mr Tan’ character in our webinar, there does seem to be a shift in mindset and managerial styles. Having seen the efficacy of remote working during the pandemic, many more businesses within APAC and beyond are confident about meeting hybrid working challenges. now extending remote or flexible working arrangements. Perhaps this is the case with you and your organization – and that you too are finding that office facetime is not the ultimate productivity metric. And that quality of work is not purely dependent on a nine-to-six work schedule. Do you agree?

For more insights from our survey, tips on improving workflow visibility using the automation and reporting capabilities of Microsoft Teams, best practices for Office 365 governance and more, do watch our audience-driven webinar on-demand.