Evolving workplaces

3 min read Cloud Conferencing
Dave Shull, CEO, and Paul Clark, senior vice president of EMEA sales, both from Poly, talk to Comms Business about changing office culture and how to create meeting equality for hybrid workers.

Poly signed a lease for a new office in the Gherkin, London, in late 2019 but, given the circumstances of the last two years, the company did not “move in” until recently. Throughout the pandemic, it has become clear that employees will use offices differently, with many likely to continue carrying out their duties from home.

As such, the space has been reimagined as a Poly Experience Centre, where the company’s solution experts can walk visitors through various combinations of products to demonstrate the mix of solutions that will suit a particular workforce.

To further help customers and partners make sense of the new shape of the world, Poly has examined the evolution of the workplace in new research. The Poly Evolution of the Workplace report analysed a survey of over 7,000 hybrid workers.

The research suggests hybrid working is here to stay. 82 per cent of respondents intend to spend at least one day a week working from home in the future, with 54 per cent planning to split their time evenly between the office and home. The report showed that home working has not been a smooth transition for everyone, with more than half of workers feeling that the rise in remote working has meant they are ‘always on’ and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work.

Ask the right questions

We spoke to Poly’s Dave Shull, CEO (pictured above, right), and Paul Clark, senior vice president of EMEA sales (pictured above, left), to dive into what these findings mean for UK businesses. Clark discussed the questions that resellers and MSPs should be asking their customers to help them evaluate which technologies their organisation will need in the long-term. Clark explained, “Successful implementations of hybrid working starts with [asking] what sort of culture do we want to have as a company.

“That defines so much of how you implement your hybrid working policy. It’s not about just having people coming into the office or working from home and hoping it all works out well. It really gets down to: what is this business about? What do we want it to be? What do we want it to mean to our employees?”

The research suggested there are mixed feelings about the return to office. While many have missed seeing colleagues and clients in person, others are feeing anxious and worry their performance will suffer. Nearly two-thirds of workers said that office culture has changed forever, with the role of the office and office etiquette likely to evolve. The survey suggested noise has the potential to cause friction between workers, with 56 per cent expressing concern that noise levels in the office will make them less productive.

Our conversation with Poly came at an interesting time, with several prominent City bosses having said that working from home was necessary only due to the pandemic, and would not be a ‘new normal’. When asked what he made of those comments, Shull said, “I would say I was that CEO. And there are times when I’m frustrated with the lack of interaction. Especially when you’re trying to change a strategy, you want the team together on a regular cycle. We as a company are getting into a cadence of regular in-person meetings, and I’m rotating my executive team around the various offices, depending on our travel capabilities, to have that interaction as often as possible.

“There’s definitely a need for that. But it is crystal clear from the research that the workforce has moved on. It is aspirational [to think a company will have every employee in the office 9-to-5, Monday to Friday]. This period has been a life reassessment for most people. The CEOs who want to keep everyone coming into the office are pushing against a tsunami.”

Complex choices

Shull discussed the complexity many organisations will face in implementing hybrid policies. Poly’s own manufacturing facilities and research labs have a clear need for employees to primarily complete their duties in the physical workplace. The company is currently assessing every employee to balance what the individual wants to do with what the company needs them to do. Shull added, “It’s a very active and ongoing conversation, but I expect 20 per cent of the workforce to be pretty much full time in the office, 20 per cent almost never in the office, and the vast majority will be somewhere between.”

Clark explained that businesses across the UK are examining what technologies they need so employees can succeed with hybrid working. He said, “This is about work life balance. This is about what people actually want. It’s almost like they’ve tasted happiness now, and they want it to continue.

“Business are making micro investments right now, because they have to, but this is going to shift, [with many carrying out] a strategic review that is going to take about six months to do. I anticipate the significant investments will come after that.”

Shull ended our conversation on a positive note, but emphasised the scale of the transition for many businesses. He said, “I’m excited about the opportunity, but this is a massive global change and it needs a whole new way of thinking.”