Although we may have become used to the idea of the “new normal” working from home, with the reopening of offices and the gradual return to work – the “next normal” is fast approaching us.
About the author
Matt Valentine, Director at Aruba UK&I.
What is this “next normal” you ask? Well, you’ve probably heard of it – hybrid working. With the pandemic, we’ve seen that remote working is feasible for many of us, yet some level of real-world interaction is still needed.
Now with vaccination programs in full swing, many businesses are looking at how they can best enable their employees to return to work safely – and seamlessly work between both the home and the office when in-person collaboration is needed.
Yet just as every business faced unique challenges during the pandemic, this next phase will also differ vastly between organizations. This presents a challenge for IT management, who while understandably eager to develop a plan to support their organization’s hybrid working strategy, must first determine what that strategy is.
To help you plan the right approach, here are the top three things that organizations must do:
1. Collaborating for success
For a hybrid working model to succeed, compartmentalizing each aspect of your strategy and business won’t work. Hybrid working will fundamentally impact every area of a given organization and therefore each and every department must be involved in discussions – not just the management.
Leading these changes will most probably be Corporate Real Estate – the physical space a business has will greatly impact how they implement a hybrid working policy. From our experiences, we’ve seen many companies use the upheaval of the pandemic as a way to rethink their current investments in office space. Resulting in many now looking to downsize, move to new locations, or find creative ways to use their existing spaces. Interestingly, this is even applicable with sectors you’d least imagine moving such as banking or trading.
These changes aren’t just limited to the real estate team. Both HR and management will also need to be involved – providing much-needed context for the wants and needs of employees, the demands of clients, and the company culture. What types of roles are your employees fulfilling? What stakeholders are you dealing with? How have they handled working from home so far?
Perhaps most fundamental to facilitating the hybrid workplace is connectivity. By extension the IT teams whose role it is to support and secure this. IT decision-makers must be clear and ready to offer input as to whether their organization has the capability to implement hybrid working, and if not provide guidance on these gaps.
And finally, lest we forget Finance; Is this strategy feasible within the budget? How will it be funded? What are the financing options? Will it be a traditional CapEx or an OpEx approach? All these questions must be addressed ahead of any implementation.
2. Consider both internal and external factors
Any strategy for hybrid working must align with how a business operates. From, the needs of employees and clients, the workplace culture, and budget and real estate constraints – and getting the right people involved to make sure that this happens.
Less obvious is the fact that it must also align with the wider world in which your organization operates in. Take, for example, geography. Lease prices can vary widely between city centers, suburbs, and rural areas – both for commercial and private use. The living space your employees call home will undoubtedly influence how, when and where they’ll use the office.
Similarly influenced by geography is network infrastructure and access to reliable, high-speed Internet. This can vary wildly between areas and undoubtedly can therefore have huge impacts on your employee’s connectivity; just as much so as your company’s and ability to provide seamless remote experiences.
Finally, consider where the trends within your industry are heading. While the pandemic has been a catalyst for much change already, the movement to hybrid working will likely only result in more changes. Factoring in space for these trends, whatever they may be, will help to keep your business competitive.
3. Determine which metrics to track
The pandemic has served to show how businesses cannot become complacent. It is critical for any organization to remain flexible and agile – the key here is using data to your advantage. IT teams should already be familiar with providing analytics on quality of performance, but they should similarly hold regular meetings to track, assess and discuss it – this way they can ensure you’re their hybrid working strategy meets fluctuating needs, trends, attitudes, and behaviors.
Technology has long been central to productivity, communication, and collaboration but as we move into the hybrid working era, what works in the office may not work at home. To ensure it does the functionality of these tools must be monitored.
However, it would be wrong to assume that data shows the full picture, and that technological performance is the only metric worth measuring. In fact, businesses should also find ways to monitor the psychological well-being of their employees, e.g., through frequent employee surveys and/or evaluations. Why, might you ask? Well, your hybrid working strategy only works if your employees feel that it does.
Beyond enabling the employee experience, technology can also help organizations track building performance. Smart sensors and devices can provide insights on how employees are using the space, energy consumption, who goes in or out, and more – giving departments like Real Estate, Facilities, Security and Finance the data they need to determine whether their requirements are being met.
So, what comes next?
Once the above three points have been addressed, what comes next? Having a clearly defined hybrid working strategy will enable an organization to move onto the next stage: setting up the right people to support it. Here the steps will include integrating the long-term home office plan, reimagining the physical office and its connectivity, and financing the future workplace.
This article will serve as the first of four coming over the next few weeks in which, we’ll be providing a guide to help organizations achieve these objectives and implement a hybrid working approach that will satisfy all departments and employees, now and in the future. In our next piece, we’ll look at how to integrate the home office into your strategy.