The hybrid working model will likely become the new standard operating model for many organisations in various industries.
By Wilhelm Greeff, business manager: modern workplace at Decision Inc South Africa
However, there are still significant concerns to address before it is successful. Whether it is employee connectivity, access to back-end systems, and cybersecurity to name a few, companies must rethink how they approach this digitally-driven environment. Below are a few key aspects to consider.
Picking the right jobs
Those businesses looking to embrace hybrid work, must consider the type of functions their employees perform and the corporate culture it wants to instil. An employee’s environment plays an important role. Working more remotely or in a shared office space makes a significant difference in the quality and effectiveness of the work employees produce.
Of course, there will always be those jobs where, historically, little or no interaction between co-workers would or needs to take place. These ‘one-person jobs’ typically require diligence and focusing on accurate outputs without error. Examples include administration or finance positions. Employees in these jobs may typically benefit more from a remote work setup as they could get more done with fewer distractions.
For the jobs that require collaboration and creativity in a team-based environment, face-to-face engagements are, and always will be preferred. Video conferencing solutions certainly make it easier to interact with colleagues and clients via digital means, but there are underlying cues that go missing via these calls. As a consulting company, we have personally experienced this in the workplace.
The hybrid model addresses the growth of the distributed workforce directly. Companies must therefore ensure that the technology they deploy enables a blended collaboration model where colleagues in an office can easily work with remote employees.
The location of employees, the type of culture, and efficiencies required in terms of employee time spent moving forward all play a vital role in determining how best to approach hybrid work. There is a trade-off to consider: the commuting time versus the quality of work done in person. This means there is the need to balance the importance of several factors that come into play for each organisation specifically.
Throughout this balancing of factors, there is also a cost factor to consider when it comes to the size and location of the physical office space. If the company requires more of the workforce to have in-person engagements, it needs to spend more on larger offices. On the flip side, if remote working is preferred then it can reduce the size of the office with the resultant savings invested in either social events for employees to help build company culture or any other employee benefits that could different organisations.
Maintaining the balance
Regardless of how the remote versus on-premises split occurs, organisations should have a framework that gives structure to all their requirements. For instance, it can institute office days where employees are expected to be physically present and others where they are not. The key is to remain flexible and allow for change as needed.
Blended working requires a shift in how organisations operate in office spaces. The reality is that all employees may be in the office, none may be in the office, and any combination in between can also happen. According to Webex, an estimated 98% of meetings in the future will include remote participants. Therefore, equipped meeting rooms capable of collaboration with remote participants are essential.
Invariably, not having personal interaction can create ‘distance’ between employees even if they are using online collaboration tools. There is also a real risk of ‘online meeting exhaustion’ where employees spend hours jumping from one digital engagement to the next. Eventually, they will want to shut down and not have any other personal interaction, whether physical or digital. Therefore, organisations should ensure that remote work does not place an unnecessary cognitive burden on employees.
Keeping things safe
All the above begins with the basics of good cybersecurity practice. Employees need to be trained on best practices of security as well as the general company policies around passwords, social engineering, and procedures on when and how to use sensitive client data.
Business and technology leaders should prioritise the security and integrity of data in this hybrid work environment. This prioritisation must encompass stringent password standards, trusted VPNs, encryption, and the principle of least privilege. There must also be threat detection with regards to downloads, access to websites, and incoming emails.
While how an organisation implements a hybrid work strategy comes down to its strategic priorities, a shift has taken place with many employees embracing the hybrid work model. Delivering on employees’ expectations while still driving business growth will be imperative in the months and years to come.