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How to find the best of both worlds with hybrid working

Jonathan Sharp, Director - Britannic Technologies

The workplace is currently going through a revolution after 40% of the global workforce has been working from home for the last year during lockdown in the COVID pandemic. People have experienced the benefits of home working and want to continue working in this way in some capacity.

Employees now want to hybrid work; sometimes at home and sometimes in the office, and now want the best of both worlds. Companies need to embrace the change in employees’ expectations and implement a hybrid working plan to meet the new employee’s demands and to grow their business.

The transformation of the re-imagined workplace will no doubt come with its challenges but now is the time to welcome the change and re-design your office, culture, and enable flexible working to attract and retain top talent and meet employees’ expectations.

Best of Both Worlds
In 2020 employees have enjoyed working at home and working hours that are suited around their schedule opposed to the traditional 9-5. However, working at home full time can be isolating, you can miss out on face to face contact with colleagues to bounce ideas off each other, collaborate on projects in person or just to have an informal on a coffee break. The answer is hybrid working, the best of both worlds. Microsoft research revealed that 73% want flexible remote working to continue but at the same time 67% desired more in person time with their teams.

Time for a Re-Think
Businesses will have to re-think their strategies after the last year to meet the change in employees’ expectations. Research from IDC revealed that 64% of business leaders said they would have to implement a different operating model than they had before the COVID pandemic to create a better employee experience and to increase productivity.

Business leaders today need to devise a hybrid working plan for flexible working, and this will impact how they recruit and retain talent and respond to the changing world. The plan will need to be fluid and have the flexibility to change accordingly. No one can make and implement a definite plan at present, we don’t know how exactly the workplace is going to change, how successful hybrid working will be and how our customers’ expectations will change also. What we do know, is that everyone must accept and embrace the change and agree to do things differently.

How to do Hybrid
The plan for hybrid working needs to focus on people first, and businesses should ask the following questions:

  • what roles can hybrid work?
  • How many days do the hybrid workers need to be in the office?
  • How many days does the business want them to be in the office from a space perspective?
  • When an employee comes into the office should they come with their immediate team too?
  • Who can remote work full time?
  • Where do people work from in the office for focused work?
  • Where do people work from for collaboration meetings?
  • Do the employees have the correct technology to support remote and hybrid working?
  • Should we financially assist remote and hybrid workers?

The objective of the plan is to provide hybrid flexible working arrangements to empower your employees and meet their new expectations and provide guidelines on the process. It is also important to be honest with them and state that this is ‘work in progress’, this is new to everyone, but we are open to change and want to learn as we go.

Optimising your Hybrid Workforce
Now, is the time to optimise your remote and hybrid workforce, ensuring your employees have the right technology to enable them to perform their job to the optimum. Your company may want to ensure that everyone has a reliable broadband connection, mobile or desk phone, and maybe move their telephony infrastructure into the cloud to enable cost-savings, increase business continuity and have to flexibility to add on technology and applications when required.  IDC revealed in their 2020 survey that more than 35% said that their organisation would accelerate the use of cloud. They agreed that cloud increased efficiencies, ease of deployment, facilitated collaboration and enabled remote working.

It is also key that your unified communications conferencing and collaboration solutions enable people to work from home and integrate with your front and back-office systems, so all operations, processes and customer service continues to run smoothly.

Cloud based conferencing and collaboration solutions such as Mitel’s MiTeam Meetings or MiCollab and Avaya’s Spaces empowers employees to hold audio and video conference calls together over their desktop or via a mobile. Send instant messages, collaborate on documents and presentations together. It is important to use intuitive technology that is easy to use, set up and to keep your documents secure to protect data and privacy.

Tired of it!
Many of us have spent the last year sitting at our home desks working, communicating, and having video conference meetings all day long, and it is clear that the effects of digital exhaustion are now being felt. Microsoft revealed in their research that 54% of employees felt overworked and 39% were exhausted. Since working in isolation and sitting in front of a computer all day, we are feeling overwhelmed with the number of video conferencing meetings, number of emails and instant messages, being bombarded by communications that are often unplanned and unnecessary. As a result, employees are feeling pressurised and tired.

How to Combat Digital Exhaustion
Ask your employees what areas they have struggled with in the last year and how their lives

can be made easier to do their job more effectively. This may mean changes in staff, processes or deploying AI or automated technology to assist. As the world has changed and we must do things differently, it is an opportune time to evaluate what works and what doesn’t and make changes that will make a difference and produce results.

We are hearing that one of the gripes of the last year is the constant stream of video conferencing meetings. Ask yourself – are they necessary all the time? Can we use another medium, for example only hold video conferencing meetings when required or reduce their frequency and enable people to focus on their work? Maybe declare Fridays as a none meeting day.

The aim is to increase and cultivate seamless collaboration not to overwhelm your employees with digital interactions and video conference calls that will end up being unproductive.

Doing Things Differently
Part of the process of reducing digital exhaustion and looking at how to increase efficiencies and productivity is to study how we work. Managers now have to give employees more choice and control, employees have experienced freedom that they may never have experienced before. Businesses need to accept that employees should be given the autonomy to get on with their jobs within their own schedules if possible.  Of course, employees need to still deliver results and managers can use software solutions that measure their performance and KPIs.

Re-Designing the Office
After more than a year of video conference calls people are yearning for face to face contact with employees and want to connect informally and socially. Microsoft research revealed that 66% of business decision makers are considering re-designing their physical offices to accommodate hybrid working environments and create a better employee experience.

 Offices will be re-designed with collaboration in mind, so when employees come into the office there will be dedicated spaces for teams to work and collaborate in, rather than for individual working. However, they will also have to provide rooms for focused work and communal areas for socialising in during lunch breaks.

Businesses will also have to consider how hybrid and remote workers will be included in meetings when some employees are in the physical office, and some are not.

Keep Moving
The global COVID pandemic has been unthinkable, but it has also given us the time to reflect, evaluate and change, use this opportunity to change your workplace for the better and introduce an effective hybrid working plan that is underpinned by a creative, energetic culture where you supply training and development and above all put your people first. The pandemic has also humanised work, over the last year we have had an insight into our employees’ personal lives whether that’s children popping up on conference calls, partners or flat mates passing cups of tea or the dog barking when the Amazon delivery arrives. Demonstrate to your employees just how important they are and devise and implement a flexible hybrid work plan that creates an improved experience for both employees and the business.

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