Hybrid offices the way forward for UK SMEs post-Covid

The industry appears to be booming as a survey of 1,000 business owners reveals 54% are planning to use hybrid offices by next Summer.

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As proof that home working during the coronavirus pandemic has changed business practices, over half of UK businesses say they will have a ‘hybrid’ workforce by next summer, according to new research.

In a survey of 1,000 business owners by cyber security specialist Nexor, 9% of respondents said they have already transitioned to a hybrid model. Meanwhile 45% said they plan to do so over the next 12 months.

However, the research also indicated that many business owners still have concerns around moving into flexible workspaces. These were largely around cyber security. The respondents expressed worries about working from different office spaces making them feel more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The new normal

The flexible office industry had undoubtedly been growing pre-Covid. In 2018, a report by The Instant Group found that between October 2017 and October 2018, the number of flexible office centres in the UK tracked rose to 5,320. That's a growth of 10% across the country in just one year.

However, the research by Nexor found that only 3% of bosses said they’ve always had a distributed workforce, highlighting the impact of the pandemic on the world of work.

Part of the attraction is the savings that flexible working can offer SMEs. Looser contract terms means prices are lower compared to full-time office rental costs. It is also more attractive for workers, the majority of whom have engaged in and enjoyed home working for the past 18 months.

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What’s stopping SMEs from going hybrid?

The sizeable number of small business owners who say they are planning to make the change to a hybrid office are not without their reservations.

A loss in productivity was touted as the biggest concern for one in three UK employers that Nexor surveyed. Other worries mentioned in the research included:

  • Maintaining an even playing field where all employees feel they have an opportunity to progress (28%)
  • Communication (24%)
  • Managing split teams effectively (24%)
  • Collaboration (20%)
  • Cyber security (18%)

When it comes to cyber security, four in ten bosses admit their biggest challenge is ensuring their business is sufficiently protected. A further 23% said their main hurdle is knowing where to start, or being able to afford adequate cyber protection.

During coronavirus, more staff members engaged in remote or home working. Having less secure network connections made them more vulnerable to hacking and phishing scams, leading to an increase in cyber attacks.

Looking ahead to 2022, 63% of employers will be increasing their cyber security budget. A further one in ten (41%) will be investing in a stand-alone cyber insurance policy over the next 12 months.

Commenting on the research, Fergus Mathieson, Head of Markets and Propositions at Nexor, said: “No matter the industry or business, security concerns surrounding hybrid working affect everyone. Repeatedly one of the highest causes of successful cyber attacks is human error. This is not at the fault of the user, especially given the resource that goes into this kind of attack, but is often due to a lack of training and overlooking the human factor when it comes to security.

“However, the human element can also be part of a company’s strongest defence to stop a successful attack and also limit the degree of damage if one is successful. Therefore by providing the proper training and tools to staff, this will ensure that even in the hybrid world you can be sufficiently protected.”

What cybersecurity measures should SMEs take when hybrid working?

The biggest cyber security measure entrepreneurs look to implement within their company over the next 12 months is more staff training. Hiring a security consultant, adding extra firewalls, employing higher levels of encryption and making two-factor authentication were also popular.

Nexor’s research found that one in five bosses give their employees cyber security training once a month. However, the same amount admit their employees have never had any cyber security training. If they had, it was only when they first joined the company. It is recommended that businesses refresh their team’s knowledge at least once a year

Darren Hockley, MD of eLearning specialist DeltaNet International, said: “I’m a strong believer that prevention is better than cure. The best way to reduce the risks of cyber attacks is to invest time and resources in keeping your systems secure and ensuring that your employees are aware of the cyber threats facing your business, whether they work from the office or at home.

“To achieve this, it’s important to embed a strong culture of compliance throughout the organisation, ensuring that staff feel the same sense of ownership for cyber security at home as they do in the office. It’s up to business leaders to continually reinforce this culture by setting the right tone from the top, identifying and managing new risks, and offering ongoing and engaging awareness training on the subject.”

Whether you're looking for hybrid, virtual or full-time – coworking offices are important to get right. To help you find the best, we’ve designed a free online tool which you can use to compare bespoke quotes from the most relevant providers for your company.

Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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