Hybrid work models are quickly becoming the norm as companies discover the advantages of remote work and where in-office teams can add significant value. In one recent study, 72% of executives said they anticipate offering hybrid work models. However, making a shift to hybrid work requires making significant cultural, process, and technological shifts in how you approach day-to-day operations. If you’re considering hybrid work or refining your model that’s already in play, here are some considerations.
The Harvard Business Review notes, “to design hybrid work properly, you have to think about it along two axes: place and time.” Many companies are focused exclusively on the place aspect of the equation. It’s understandable why; the reality is that putting the collaboration systems in place that enable teams to connect from anywhere, or offering employees working remotely the secure solutions they need to make remote work a success, location is a critical element.
However, hybrid work requires considering the time element as well—especially in a post-COVID world where managers and companies want to promote employee success. An employee who is working in the office may opt for a longer day to maximize their exposure to the team, while remote workers may favor an early start or a later night depending on scheduling factors. As you develop an approach for hybrid work, think about both location and timing as part of your overall strategy.
Some of your critical business processes may need to be redesigned—and simply retrofitting technology around an existing suboptimal process isn’t typically the right approach. The Harvard Business Review highlights the dangers of that approach: “New hybrid arrangements should never replicate existing bad practices—as was the case when companies began automating work processes, decades ago. Instead of redesigning their workflows to take advantage of what the new technologies made possible, many companies simply layered them onto existing processes, inadvertently replicating their flaws, idiosyncrasies, and workarounds. It often was only years later, after many painful rounds of reengineering, that companies really began making the most of those new technologies.”
Take the shift to hybrid work as an opportunity to step back, ask what is working, and what needs to be let go.
One area to consider is how to build greater equity between the staff who are in the office full-time, versus those who work remotely most or all of the time. Team members who are consistently in the office will have access to managers, equipment, and perhaps even opportunities that arise because they can walk over and say hello or ask an IT colleague for assistance with solving a technical issue. Developing solutions that create greater equity in how resources are accessed can provide you with a significant advantage for getting the most out of remote and hybrid teams. Some solutions include:
- Regular check-ins: Encourage managers to have one-on-one meetings with their direct reports at least once per month; every two weeks or weekly is even better. Daily or weekly stand-ups and check-ins with teams and departments help ensure information is being shared and people are getting face time.
- Implement a ticketing system for IT issues and equipment requests: One strategy that can help build equity into the IT support process is using a ticketing system. When a team member needs help or wants to upgrade their technology, a ticketing system makes it easy to implement a review process that’s fast and fair regardless of where team members are working.
- Offer virtual and onsite development opportunities: Access to professional development opportunities, from formal trainings to lunch-and-learn sessions, can make a significant difference in a worker’s career. In a hybrid work environment, developing solutions workers can participate in on-site or off-site can help ensure that your workers are learning and growing no matter where they spend most of their working hours.
Hybrid workers will be flowing in and out of meetings, digital collaboration solutions, and more—whether they’re in the office or working from home—and your software and hardware solutions need to consider this new, flexible approach to work. There are some best practices to consider when adapting your technology strategy to hybrid work environments:
- Remote work-ready devices: Smartphones, tablets, and laptops—along with secure home networks and printers—can help your team stay connected and productive when they’re out of the office. However, it’s also important to work through how they’ll access your systems when they’re in the office. Will their devices require a docking station? What monitors will they connect to when they’re working?
- Conference rooms: Meeting spaces are also used differently in a hybrid work environment. Technology can help cross the remote and in-office divide with larger screens that allow anyone to connect. Dedicated sound solutions can also make it easier to speak and hear in a busy conference room environment.
Hot Desking or Hoteling
One of the most common questions employees and managers have is: Where in the office will employees work when they don’t have a dedicated space? Hot desking or hoteling can be a solution when employees don’t need permanent seating due to hybrid work arrangements. With hot desking, a rotating bank of hot desks provides flexible seating for anyone who’s in the office. With hoteling, hybrid employees can reserve a specific desk for when they’re going to be in the office.
As you design your hot desking or hoteling space, it’s important to consider what employees will need. Easy-to-access spaces that are quiet and secure for making conference calls may be required. In other cases, employees may need more open space that facilitates communication or collaboration. Now may be the opportunity to shift to a different seating or office layout configuration than what you’re used to.
Rethinking the way we use our space is a critical element of success. “Meetings will happen more often in open spaces with movable boundaries, and individual focus work will happen in enclosed spaces like pods or small enclaves,” says the Harvard Business Review. Considering the implications for space usage for common areas, conference space, and other factors can help ensure all staff have the right type of space for their needs.
Trust is a critical element of the hybrid work environment. How can employers know that their teams are maximizing productivity, no matter where they’re working? Collaboration solutions, project management tools, and productivity analytics tools can all help you better track work in the new hybrid working environment and redesign processes and solutions that give employers visibility into what’s working, notes PWC. Over time, as employees show their ability to navigate the hybrid work environment successfully it’s possible to build confidence in the model long-term. Hybrid work solutions are likely to become the norm, both for practical reasons and to better support the needs of in-demand workers. Getting your technology and processes ready for the hybrid revolution that’s happening today can be challenging—but you don’t have to go it alone. Contact Connection today to speak with one of our expert consultants and explore how our team of hybrid specialists can solve your most critical issues.