Work isn’t a place. It’s what we do.
These words have never been more important than in 2020, as organizations reacted to the pandemic and enabled employees to work from their homes. But now, as employers begin to bring employees back to the workplace, the two short sentences above remain important.
We’ve entered a new phase of hybrid work in which some employees continue to work from home while others return to the office. And while your business may feel it’s “on track” with this new dynamic, the job of nurturing a hybrid work culture – one built on efficiency, collaboration and productivity – is never complete.
Creating a productive hybrid workplace means valuing the needs of employees and the work they do. It all starts with a re-designed workplace – one that lends itself to the health and safety of all employees; one that includes useful technologies that executives and employees can easily embrace; and one that provides a sense of connectedness and collaboration.
As you think about what the new hybrid workplace looks like, keep in mind technofactors designed to:
- Provide new, intelligent workspace experiences (at home and at work)
- Ensure productivity
- Increase employee flexibility
- Achieve bottom line goals
With this in mind, here are some common considerations IT leaders can make as they create new, highly effective hybrid workplaces:
Re-Examine At-Home and On-Site Workspace
As the new hybrid workplace becomes a reality, IT professionals must carefully monitor and adapt to change. For example, as teams become more virtual in nature, how can you enhance how employees work both at home and in the workplace? What changes will help foster more engagement and productivity across a hybrid workforce?
A Gallup poll found 62% of U.S. employees have worked from home since the pandemic began. But not all enterprise IT teams have succeeded in delivering a positive remote employee experience. Should noise-cancelling headphones and other acoustic tools be provided to help optimize virtual meetings? Should upgrades in conference room AV technologies be made to reduce issues when employees are meeting from both home and office?
“Companies may already offer employees a laptop but providing a stipend to install a higher bandwidth connection is required to support a range of cloud-based services,” said Danielle Royston, former CEO of Optiva, in a recent Fast Company article.
In addition to how employees get work done remotely, IT must also have a voice in the re-deployment of technology as office footprints adjust to new workforce requirements. Now that teams are dispersed, some office space is certain to be under-utilized. Many organizations are shedding real estate and/or signing up for conveniently located co-working spaces that allow employees to gather in person when needed. No matter the real estate decisions that are made, consider how IT can invest in new technology that employees will use to become even more productive.
Microsoft, for example, has stepped up in a variety of ways to help organizations create a hybrid work environment that employees embrace. The company recently announced new features to Microsoft Teams and Outlook designed to help people with their wellbeing and productivity. Additions include a virtual commute experience for better work- and home-life transitions. Microsoft also announced it will provide tools to help people connect more easily with colleagues, schedule time for focused work and breaks, and see insights and patterns personalized for individuals, managers and leaders.
Enhance Workspace Flexibility
A study from salesforce.com reveals that employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6x more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. To develop a hybrid work culture, employers must ensure their employees, at every level, can share their challenges and successes.
One giant objective for IT is to harness virtual ways that enable employees to hear, see and work together no matter where they convene. Unlike the pre-pandemic workdays, employees no longer meet face-to-face with regularity. They don’t chat about projects spontaneously while getting coffee or lunch. In short, the ability to share information about experiences in the workplace has declined dramatically.
IT can step up the game and create a hybrid work environment that “feels” spontaneous with unified communication tools to help employees stay connected. With the right tools in place, companies could even reach new levels of productivity.
Platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex are not luxuries – they are vital to complete day-to-day work. Dispersed workforces must have the ability to collaborate virtually – and this means bringing teams together for both scheduled and impromptu sessions using technology that is easy to spin up. Today, your IT team is called upon to integrate this ability to be flexible from a distance into digital operations so it is a secure, seamless, and simple.
Audio and video calls among employees will never go away in the hybrid work environment. How you use existing tools (and implement new and improved tools) will make or break the hybrid work culture at your organization.
Prepare for Tech’s Impact on People and the Bottom Line
In the past 40 years, massive shifts like the proliferation of desktop computers and access to data have changed how work gets done. But the 2020 pandemic served as a forcing function to adopt the new hybrid workforce. To no one’s surprise, technology holds the key for making this new, blended workforce successful.
A hybrid workforce requires the virtual and physical spaces to become seamless depending on employee needs. Workers also demand access to productivity tools that enable collaboration and improve their productivity.
Deploying widely available technology will help to simplify the workday for everyone. The new tech IT researches, tests and provides to employees will also provide an enormous impact on your bottom line. Using technology in clever ways to implement flexible working will benefit the entire team. When employees can work together – from anywhere – effortlessly, staff morale will improve and productivity will rise.
If you hope to make a successful transition to the hybrid work environment, start by examining your current technology suite and determine how a few tweaks can help you begin the process. Need help getting started? Contact us!