What Does Remote and Hybrid Work Mean?

In this post we define what remote and hybrid working is and give a rundown on how Identity can help solve many of the key challenges your organisation is likely to face.

“What is remote work?” "What is hybrid work?" Many people have been asking these questions over the last 18 months. As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business operations across the globe and forced employers to close their doors indefinitely, a fast alternative to traditional in-office working practices became critical for survival.

To weather the storm, millions of organisations turned to technology for a solution. By leveraging hosted platforms like Slack, Zoom, and Dropbox, employers could empower their workforce to continue working from whatever location, device, or network was most convenient: this is the definition of working remotely. 

However, while rapidly accelerated by the knock-on effects of the pandemic, the earliest example of remote working dates back as far as the 1970s. As a result, many conflicting definitions have built up over time. To help clear up any confusion, here’s a list of all the common terms we use when describing remote working practices:

What is telework?

Telework, aka Telecommuting, is a term first used in 1973 by former NASA engineer, Jack Nilles to describe the work he was doing from his home at the time. Essentially, teleworking is defined as a way for employees who lived close by to avoid having to make daily commutes into the main office. Unlike mobile working, teleworkers are usually required to be physically present in the office at least one day each week (though this isn’t always the case). 

What is mobile working?

The definition of 'mobile working' is essentially any mode of working that can be done is any location. For employees whose roles require they remain in constant transit, mobile working has long been the go-to solution. From travelling sales executives and environmental engineers to building surveyors and maintenance workers, mobile working models leverage technology to ensure employees on the road stay connected as they move from one destination to the next. 

What is WFH?

If your first thought is “WTH?” when you see WFH, don’t worry. You’re not alone. While the term can be confusing, WFH is simply an acronym used in the business and IT worlds when referring to the recent “working from home” trend. 

What is hybrid working?

Of all the remote work definitions included in this list, hybrid work is the term most commonly used today. Unlike WFH, hybrid work means that employees can choose where they work. It is built on the idea that no one workplace is fixed, and that employees deliver the best results when they have the freedom to work wherever works for them. Many organisations are planning to develop a hybrid work environment as they set their long-term remote working strategies. 

What are the key challenges of remote and hybrid working?

Now that we’ve covered the definitions of working remotely, here are some key challenges many organisations face when implementing their remote and hybrid working strategies:

Securing the workforce

As cyberthreat landscapes and IT networks continue to expand, implementing a strict Zero Trust security architecture that assumes risk in every user, device, and location until proven otherwise by strong authentication is essential for keeping the remote workforce secure. 

Maintaining productivity and performance

While all remote working models depend on technology, having to remember multiple login passwords for multiple platforms and apps can slow down business operations, increase the risk of data breaches, and damage workforce productivity across the board.

Remotely managing user access rights

Remotely managing access rights for every user as they move along each step of the Joiner, Mover, Leaver lifecycle can be highly taxing on IT resources. Carrying out this process manually can also further increase the risk of data exposure through human error. 

How can Okta help?

As the world’s #1 Identity and Access Management service provider, Okta is already helping more than 14,000 organisations across the world tackle their remote working challenges by:

Accelerating Zero Trust adoption

With Okta, Identity lives at the heart of your Zero Trust security strategy. Alongside our world-class suite of simple-yet-powerful Identity products, Okta's large network of integrations ensures rapid deployment across more than 7,000 apps both on-premises and in the cloud.

Removing friction from the user experience

Both Okta Single Sign-on and Multi-factor Authentication allow remote users to quickly verify their Identity to access almost every business-critical app, on any device, and from any location with one touch simplicity.

Simplifying complex onboarding and offboarding processes

By centralising and automating remote user access control based on their role within the company, Okta Lifecycle Management can rapidly cut down IT expenses and strains, while ensure every employee has instant access to all the apps and tools they need to work.

Learn more about how Okta Workforce Identity solutions are making it possible for leading organisations to implement Zero Trust-based security, while keeping their hybrid and remote employees happy and productive. Download TheOkta Hybrid Work Report 2023 to explore our survey’s findings in greater depth.