To say that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the workplace would be an understatement. For the past 15 months, many people have been doing their jobs from home due to safety concerns, and while some companies are finally making plans to return workers to offices, for many, remote work won't be a temporary situation.
A lot of companies, recognizing the cost savings involved, will be allowing workers to do their jobs from home on a long-term basis. Others, meanwhile, will be adopting a hybrid model where workers come into the office for part of the week and work remotely the rest of it.
Amazon, for example, will be letting employees continue to work remotely for two days a week going forward. The online retail giant will also allow employees to work from another office location for up to four weeks per year.
Of course, hybrid office setups are, from a real estate investing standpoint, better for office REITs (real estate investment trusts) than the alternative of complete remote work. With hybrid arrangements, companies are at least retaining some amount of office space rather than dumping it completely.
But let's be real -- investors in office REITs would rather the hybrid model not take over and that companies return to the classic setup of having workers do their jobs in person the overwhelming majority of the time. And while hybrid setups may be the plan right now, as companies navigate the transition from fully remote to hybrid, they may encounter one big issue that stops those plans in their tracks.
Cybersecurity could be a problem
It's a lot easier to implement security protocols when employees are all on the same shared network and doing their jobs from the same place. But now, as companies increasingly adopt hybrid models, workers will be scattered. Some will be doing their jobs from home, but some may opt to do their jobs from coworking spaces close to their homes, coffee shops, or other public places.
The more employees use their company devices out of their main network, the more exposed those devices will be to hackers and other security breaches -- and the more companies on a whole are threatened. Cybersecurity attacks can run the gamut from malware to the exposure of sensitive data. And by allowing for hybrid work, that's a risk companies will increasingly take.
Making matters worse is the fact that some security teams may already be overworked in the wake of the pandemic. Not only have these professionals been tasked with making sure employees can do their jobs from home (or from anywhere), but now they'll need to integrate new hires who came on board during the pandemic and are first coming into the office. Plus, with more people returning to in-person work, companies may seek to bring on-hold projects to life, all the while stretching their technical teams thin at a time when they need to be focusing on preventing cyber attacks.
Now to be clear, with the right protocols in place, companies can pull off a hybrid model without exposing themselves to breaches. But as companies adopt this setup, many may come to realize that it may not be worth the hassle involved and instead decide workers should simply report to the office on a full-time basis. That would, in turn, be great news for office buildings, whose recovery may continue to lag even as the country creeps toward normalcy.