The pandemic forced companies to suddenly shift from offices to remote work. IT teams across the country worked tirelessly to create infrastructure and set up network configurations required to provide virtual connectivity to all employee groups. A year later, fatigue has set in, and there are differing views toward WFH or remote working and its future. Employees are finding remote working to be less enjoyable than at the start of the pandemic and are missing the office social life. Some of the challenges contributing to this sentiment are the struggle to collaborate with colleagues, contributing to meetings, and stifled creativity. However, this is not a sign of things going back to where they were pre-COVID. Flexibility and freedom are the two aspects of the Digital workplace that employees now covet across the globe. They want to choose when, where, and for how long they come into the office.
A NECESSARY CHANGE
Hybrid working is a new reality. In this remote working model, organizations will see be a blend of three groups based on role segregation:
- In-Office - Roles within this group, and in some situations, the entire industry (such as manufacturing), would be required to work primarily from the office.
- Flexible Hybrid – This is the hybrid working group where much of the work itself would not mandate them to work from the office. They will require the flexibility to work from anywhere and meet in person intermittently to be effective.
- Fully-Remote – Similar to the flexible hybrid working group, they can work from anywhere and will prefer not, or be required, to come to the office. This group is necessary for the future since it allows employers to tap a much larger talent pool for certain task lines.
One crucial question to make the hybrid workplace successful is: Can we provide a human and seamless experience to all these three groups of employees? Here are some critical aspects to keep in mind to make that happen.
Enterprises are investing heavily in automating their workflow, digitizing their data, and reconfiguring their office space (physical and virtual). Digital workplace technologies that can manage the flexibility of the hybrid workplace are becoming equally imperative. IT companies have, therefore, been bustling to innovate and produce the perfect offering for a high-performing hybrid workplace. Companies across the globe have had to accept the reality of hybrid work and are already re-evaluating office space use. The balance is shifting with Tier 1 cities with massive corporate hubs witnessing a decline and a price increase in residential semi-urban locations owing to high demand.
Companies now need to focus on two main areas: Creating the perfect flexi-office space while achieving high-capacity utilization and technology to manage the chaos that could stem from flexibility. Compounded with producing a similar experience for the at-home workers through a digital work set-up as well as ergonomically efficient residence infrastructure. This objective is to provide a seamless experience to the workforce, independent of their work location.
CRAFTING WORKPLACE CULTURE
Making teams act cohesively over a consistently in-office or consistently virtual environment was a challenge keeping the leadership busy throughout the year. But, how does one combine three different groups in a hybrid workplace and still make them effective? Here are some actions that you should take to tailor your workplace culture:
- Redefine expectations – Focus on what different worker groups need to achieve without overstressing the ‘how.’ Allow the employees and their teams to redesign their workday if required while maintaining transparency. We might see old KPIs focused on productivity and availability of employees getting replaced with new ones based on efficiency and collaboration.
- Build stronger connections – Training managers and their teams to avoid the “Out of sight, out of mind” syndrome will be important, especially when managing a mix of the three different worker groups within the same teams. Enhance the manager-employee equation and strengthen it with frequent manager-level conversations and connections with mentors/ buddies.
- Invest resources and time – Onboarding new employees, and implementing large-scale organizational changes will be examples of enterprise processes that will be even more challenging now. Be aware of the same and invest more time and resources to get ahead of these risks.
Where and how our employees work will increasingly be a choice based on individual circumstances, psychologies, and digital workplace preferences – and people should be supported and enabled in making that choice. It’s not a matter of treating your employees well. The talent all the companies want to hire will end up in companies that provide the opportunity and workplace culture to work in the way that suits them– and leave the companies that do not. So, the recruitment and retention of this high-caliber workforce – a key part of most organizations' competitive advantage–will increasingly depend on the workstyle choices provided by the most organizations. Therefore, this becomes a strategic consideration. So, the choice of work styles available to the workforce will deserve attention from the highest levels of any organization.
Lastly, just because employees are demanding a hybrid workplace, let’s not assume that they are currently equipped to handle it well. Training the management and employees to work in hybrid workplaces, making educated adjustments for technological adoption and individual requirements will be the secret to balance the equation.