Workplaces are going through a revolution after 40 per cent of the workforce has been working from home during the pandemic. Employees now want to ‘hybrid work’ because they’ve experienced the benefits of working at home and in the office, and they want the best of both worlds. Companies need to accept and embrace this change in employees’ expectations and implement a hybrid-working plan to meet their employees’ new expectations.
No doubt, the transformation of the re-imagined workplace will come with its own challenges but now is the time to welcome the change and re-design your offices and corporate culture to enable flexible working, with the aim of attracting and retaining staff and meeting your employees’ wishes.
The best of both
Working at home full-time can be isolating; you miss out on face-to-face contact with colleagues to bounce ideas off each other, collaborate on projects in person or just to have a coffee break. Hybrid working brings the best of both worlds; research from Microsoft cited that 73 per cent of people want flexible remote working to continue but at the same time, 67 per cent wanted more in-person time with their teams.
Time for a rethink
Businesses will have to rethink their strategies to meet the change in employees’ expectations beyond the pandemic, and the way we did things before might not work anymore. IDC reported that 64 per cent of business leaders said they would have to implement a different operating model since the pandemic to create a better employee experience and to increase productivity.
No one can implement a definite plan at present because we don’t know how the workplace is going to change, how successful hybrid working will be and how our customers’ expectations will also change. However, what we do know is that everyone must accept and embrace the change and agree to do things differently.
How to do hybrid
A plan for hybrid working needs to focus on people first; housing providers should ask the following questions:
- Which roles can work in a hybrid manner?
- 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 remotely 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 help remote and hybrid workers?
The objective of the plan is to provide flexible working arrangements to empower your employees, meet their new expectations and provide guidelines on the overall process.
Optimising your hybrid workforce
To optimise your hybrid workforce, you need to ensure that everyone has the right technology to do their jobs as well as possible. For example, your organisation might want to ensure that everyone has a reliable broadband connection, mobile or desk phone, and maybe move their telephony infrastructure to the cloud to enable cost-savings, increase business continuity and have to flexibility to add on technology and applications when needed.
Cloud-based conferencing and collaboration solutions such as Mitel’s MiTeam Meetings or MiCollab and Avaya’s Spaces empower employees to hold audio and video conference calls together over their desktop or via a mobile as well as send instant messages and collaborate on documents and presentations. Of course, it’s important to use intuitive technology that is easy to use, set up and to keep your documents secure to protect data and privacy.
Other technologies such as AI and automated digital solutions can help in optimising your workforce. For example, if you have a contact centre then a digital interactions solution can be used to handle enquiries, giving them the ability to self-serve and free your agents to focus on other areas. Digital interaction solutions help reduce the ‘cost to serve’ from £4 per phone call to just 20p using AI.
Simply tired and exhausted…
Microsoft’s research revealed that 54 per cent of employees felt overworked and 39 per cent were exhausted. Employees are feeling pressurised and tired, with the expectation of responding to digital communications with urgency and speed, regardless of the time of day. There’s now a need to re-engage with employees, keep them motivated and re-build the ‘social capital’ that’s been lost during these difficult times.
Beating digital exhaustion
Ask your employees what areas they have struggled with during the past year and how their lives can be made easier to do their jobs more effectively. This may mean changes in staff, processes or deploying AI or automated technology to assist. Because the world has changed and we must do things differently, it is a good time to evaluate what works and what doesn’t and make changes that will make a difference and produce results.
One of the common gripes of the past year has been about the constant stream of video-conferenced meetings. Are they really necessary all the time? Can you reduce their frequency? Perhaps make Fridays a non-meeting day? The aim is to cultivate seamless collaboration, not overwhelm your employees with digital interactions.
Doing things differently
During the past year, many employees have experienced more freedom than they may have experienced before (despite the wider circumstances), so perhaps managers need to give their staff more choice and control. Businesses need to accept that employees should be given autonomy to get on with their jobs, ideally within their own schedules.
Redesigning 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 per cent 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 that 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 during breaks.
Businesses will also have to consider how hybrid and remote workers will be included in meetings when some people are in the office and some aren’t. In these instances, you could appoint a mediator to manage the meeting or decide that all the team must be present in the office on a chosen day.
It’s not just the physical space of the office that’s important but also its culture. A new culture of transparency, creativity and empathy needs to be fostered to produce energy, positivity and motivation to attract and retain talent. Creativity has been severely hindered over the past year because we’ve all been working in isolation, but managers need to re-start the creative juices and encourage innovation among their teams, perhaps via innovation hubs where employees are encouraged to share ideas.
The pandemic has given us the time to reflect, evaluate and change, so use this opportunity to improve your workplace and introduce an effective hybrid-working plan, underpinned by a creative, energetic culture where you supply training, development and, above all, put your people first.
The pandemic has also ‘humanised’ work – we’ve all gained insights into our co-workers and employees’ personal lives. Demonstrate to your staff just how important they are and devise and implement a flexible hybrid-working plan that creates an improved experience for both employees and the business.
Jonathan Sharp is a director of Britannic Technologies.