The hybrid workplace

Aaron Foster, technical director, TelcoSwitch, discusses whether hyrbid home/office workforces are a sustainable approach for the future.

At the start of 2020, we all had assumptions about what the future of work would look like. For some, focusing on mental health was considered a huge priority while for others it was all about investing in the best technology. But one thing all these ideas had in common was they would largely be implemented in the same environment – the office. The office was the focal point for many organisations where staff and clients could meet, mingle and work. Covid-19 has changed all of this.

Remote working orders from the government last March may have seemed like a short-term solution to flatten the curve, but in that time, many business leaders and employees have seen the benefits it brings. For some, the office is no longer the centrepiece of the working environment; Covid has flipped it on its head completely. As a result of this and the gradual reopening of office spaces, a more long-term concept has emerged: that of hybrid working. So how can businesses make a hybrid system work?

Technological challenges

The government’s current guidance now recommends that people continue to work from home throughout the winter if they can. This alone should indicate to businesses that they need to move past the makeshift nature of remote working initiatives to something more robust.

Businesses across the country have gone through a ‘trial period’ whereby both employees and employers now know what works and what doesn’t. From a tech standpoint, what leaders in IT and the wider business need to do now is go back and look at what was already implemented, and improve on it: did you deploy everything in a secure and compliant fashion, or are there holes in in your strategy that could result in a costly data breach further down the line? Just because something seemed secure and safe previously doesn’t mean it is completely free of underlying security risks.

Having effective communication tools is one of the most important requirements for hybrid working to succeed. Platforms that enable you to make and answer calls from a desk phone, computer, or mobile are nothing new – these are staples of unified communications. However, the simplicity and ease with which people interact with one another using these tools are what ensure ongoing adoption and positive feedback. Making use of the most innovative features of UC tools will help to maximise efficiency and will assist businesses in edging ahead of their competitors.

Social and cultural impact

Making a success of the hybrid approach is not just about putting the right technology in place, but also overhauling workplace culture so that leaders become more effective at managing a scattered workforce. Leaders still need to acquire the skills to properly manage hybrid workers. This lack of preparedness isn’t the fault of business leaders, heads of departments or managers, as few could have foreseen such a big change. Rather, it is more of a change in the way organisations operate and function, especially for those working in traditional ‘office-based’ roles.

Tackling these skills shortages will not be easy but it is imperative to first train leaders in the nuances of hybrid working. Every business leader now has the responsibility to ensure their heads of departments and managers have the correct resources, funding and training to support employees operating from locations outside of the office for a percentage of their working week. This goes beyond teaching staff how to use new software or applications; it’s also about creating a specific plan for each employee.

Building an enjoyable company culture is key for all organisations, but businesses will now need to adapt and think of new ways to maintain this in the hybrid working era. It is important to be close with every member of your team. Instead of focusing on office-based perks such as video games or nap pods, implement a daily team call, weekly team quiz nights, encourage staff to take a break during the day if overly stressed – the list can go on. After all, a great culture breeds high productivity as well as job satisfaction.

Optimism for the future

Every business has a different approach when settling into a new working regime, especially those who have been forced to do so. So let’s not forget that changing the office environment requires a lot of time, commitment and energy if it is to be a success. It’s important to remember that one system does not fit all, but with the right training for managers and a commitment to ironing out all technological troubles, you’ll be on your way to an efficient, happy and dedicated team of hybrid office workers.

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