By: Paul Clark, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Poly
Although hybrid working was talked about pre-COVID, no one expected the overnight switch to home working that we saw in the last year. Interestingly, in many cases workers logging on remotely has led to an increase in productivity for organisations, while achieving a better work-life balance. However, as restrictions lift, many organisations are struggling with how to adapt their flexible working policies which are often woefully out of date. Moreover, with many staff looking to continue working at least partially from home, how do businesses adapt offices and policies to keep employees happy and maintain a positive company culture?
Hybrid working: A focus on employees
Although it may seem intimidating for some, businesses need to challenge the status quo and rethink their entire approach to ‘work’. A good place to start would be to analyse the working patterns that were in place prior to COVID-19 and consider whether they are relevant. For example, it’s likely that work-from-home policies need to be updated with increased flexibility on location, times and days that work is carried out.
More widely businesses should think about office costs and divert investments away from under-used offices to co-working spaces or investments in enterprise-level technology for the home. The ‘office’ should be wherever the employee is and as such, workforce empowerment is critical, with a focus on the behavioural and cultural aspects of hybrid working that will unite dispersed teams.
Businesses should also be thinking about how they create flexible, collaborative workspaces– focused on what employees need to be productive. In many ways some employees were already embracing this pre-pandemic, but most organisations might not have fully realised what was happening. For instance, technology is key to creating personal workspaces. Using noise-cancelling headsets to block out distracting background noise is a great example. Pre-pandemic this technology was being used by some employees, but now is the time to offer these technologies much more widely.
Beyond this, dynamic video soundbars for one-touch meetings with speaker tracking and wireless sharing can hugely enhance meetings for employees both in a meeting room and outside of it.
Hybrid working: Office evolution
With organisations moving their focus to creating the best environments for employees to be productive, how do workspaces need to evolve? With home working and co-working spaces likely to increase in popularity, will we still need a centralised office? Arguably there is still merit in traditional offices for idea generation, collaboration, and to give the workforce its sense of identity. So, this hybrid working approach is driving three key trends in the evolution of workspaces:
1. Enterprise home set-ups
Businesses need to start upgrading their employees’ makeshift set-ups to become more professional home working spaces. Key to this is providing them with much higher quality enterprise-grade technology such as headsets, webcams, speakerphones and next-generation desk phones to work effectively. That £15 webcam might have been acceptable during the pandemic, but clients, customers and colleagues expect more now.
2. Co-working spaces
Co-working spaces were projected to increase more than 40% worldwide prior to the COVID-19 lockdown and can deliver better choice and flexibility for employees, and offer a more cost-effective way for businesses to operate. Remote and flexible workers can fulfil the craving of being alongside other people, without the ties to a specific desk or location.
3. Satellite offices
Research from Gartner shows 13% of CFOs have already made cost reductions in property. Rather than using large, city centre offices, organisations should consider smaller ‘satellite’ offices dispersed across more locations that will attract talent that don’t want to live and travel into cities. This is a big shift from capital HQs but could pay off well in the long-term.
Hybrid working: culture
Of course, one of the biggest worries for businesses is reigniting company culture post pandemic. With teams dispersed over an increasing number of workspaces, virtual ways of working will become the norm, as such businesses need to foster a culture that is agile, inclusive and compassionate.
Achieving this will require every voice to be heard and every employee, at any level, needs to feel that they belong. Supporting a collaborative state of mind will help organisations to retain the very essence of their brand’s identity at the same time as making employees’ work lives manageable, engaging and rewarding. Empowering leaders with new techniques to manage a hybrid workforce will be essential, investing in the skills and communication and collaboration tools they require to monitor, engage and interact with teams.
This should include audio and video technology that enable more social interaction or virtual “water cooler” moments, where colleagues come together over coffee, lunch or an evening drink. This will show that virtual collaboration brings the opportunity to include everyone in the organisation in a way that location-based interactions never could.
More choice for workers
Workplaces need to give people choice — places to collaborate, think, create or simply check in with others. This is an evolution of what offices already were, but with more of a focus on bringing people together rather than just somewhere people work. Hybrid working will enable employees to choose where and when they work, but this doesn’t mean stifling company culture. By equipping them with the best technology and communication solutions organisations can drive productivity and collaboration regardless of where their teams are located.