Hybrid work is here to stay, as workers around the globe are now insisting on that flexibility. According to a Frost & Sullivan survey of global IT decision-makers, 93 percent of business leaders expect one-quarter or more of their employees to work from home moving forward, with most likely moving between home and the office.
As we look to assess the impact of this new way of working, CIOs need to set guidelines for what their hybrid workplace will look like and determine how they can help employees and employers navigate new workflows effectively and productively. Here are some questions to help start that process.
1. Where will employees work, and how can we maximize the space they’re in to ensure teams stay connected, creative, and productive?
With dispersed teams continuously rotating between being at home and in the office, it makes sense for the office to become more of a place of collaboration than ever before. If you’re in the office, you will be expected to engage and collaborate with peers.
[ Want more real-world advice on managing remote teams? Read Remote and hybrid work: 3 new leadership rules. ]
As a result, businesses will need a suite of alternative workplaces and spaces, with a broader variety of interactive meeting rooms, creative huddle spaces, and connected breakout areas (such as open areas, kitchens, and lounges) that support team collaboration.
At the same time, assume that most, if not all, meetings will be hybrid. Some participants will be together in an office, and others will be remote. Workspaces will need to be designed and equipped to connect those in the office with those working remotely.
2. What technologies, best practices, and programs best support a hybrid workforce?
Now is the time to identify techniques, behaviors, and technologies that address ergonomics and aesthetics to help employees feel comfortable, happy, and healthy. When employees feel better, they’re more productive and engaged, so it’s important to provide tools and programs that help reduce stress and fatigue while enhancing well-being.
These might include things like instituting meeting-free days, limiting meetings to 50 or 25 minutes to ensure people have time to get up and move around, and encouraging employees to block time in their calendar for specific tasks, meeting prep, or just thinking. You may also want to rely more heavily on asynchronous communication tools to provide more flexibility around work hours for employees.
[ Read also: Meeting-free days: 11 productivity tips from IT leaders ]
It’s essential to deploy the right technology to facilitate communication across hybrid teams. This includes both real-time communication tools such as video collaboration and asynchronous tools like messaging and email.
While most of us recognize there’s no genuine replacement for people being physically together in the same room, video meetings will continue to be a significant part of the workday in the hybrid world. Strive for a solution that so closely emulates the in-person experience that you forget you’re on video.
As people have become more conscious of their environment and its impact on health and well-being, technology that can monitor air quality, humidity, temperature, noise, and light can help ensure a healthier and more comfortable work environment.
3. How can we enhance the online meeting experience and make it more equitable?
People have gotten accustomed to using video from their laptops at home, so it’s critical that these tools are equally easy to use at the office. Meeting room solutions with familiar interfaces make it simple for all users to get up and running. Solutions should also enable users to start and control meetings from a central controller, a laptop or phone, or via voice commands.
Much “Zoom fatigue” is caused by the strain of hearing, seeing, being heard, and being seen. Audio that is crystal clear and enhanced to suppress unwanted background noise outside of the camera view supports more natural and fluid conversations.
Additionally, when everyone is remote, most people quickly are accustomed to seeing their colleagues clearly on-screen. But in a hybrid workplace, remote participants often cannot see and hear everyone equally. Technology that maintains this balance by individually auto-framing each in-room participant makes meetings more equitable and inclusive.
It is also important to have video meetings that are purely social. Building team camaraderie and company culture can be done in a hybrid working model, but you need to make time for more relaxed social interactions.
[ Read also: Remote-first culture: LogMeIn's CIO on how to do it and why ]
A dispersed workforce relies on distributed creativity, so it’s essential to provide tools that can mimic real-life interactions and consistent, equitable, and inclusive processes that enable brainstorming and innovation.
Productivity shouldn’t suffer just because we’re not in the office – the events of the past few years have proven that remote and hybrid work can be fulfilling and productive. However, human interaction will always be important, so technology that can mimic physical face-to-face connections will be crucial to the success of hybrid work.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
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