Organizations globally are working towards creating a resilient, sustainable and progressive hybrid workforce that empowers employees to work effectively from any location.
Technology is providing team collaboration tools that enable individuals and teams of remote and in-office workers to thrive in today's workplace.
Comprehensive hybrid work programs improve the employee experience, increasing agility and performance and delivering a bespoke work-life balance.
There's no doubt that a hybrid workforce is the way of our working future, and the hybrid office space is a new and exciting concept that lends itself to versatility, flexibility, innovation and productivity.
What is the hybrid workplace model?
A hybrid workplace model mixes in-office and remote work to offer flexibility and supportive, healthy employee experience platforms and a better company culture.
Image source: Cisco
In a hybrid workplace, whether working autonomously, or in a team environment, employees typically enjoy better work-life balance – and are more engaged and motivated as a result.
Organizations benefit by building a more productive, thriving, stable workforce, where their teams have access to a range of collaboration tools. This technology enablement opens up a huge range of possibilities for personal development as well as productivity gains.
Types of hybrid work models
There are 3 basic ways that organizations can categorize hybrid workplace strategies, and could actually be utilizing all 3 categories within their company.
It's important that each model should be used to provide a vocabulary for a more nuanced dialogue between both employers and employees about their hybrid and remote work strategies. Building the infrastructure that supports flexible working is important for employee productivity and business processes. Let's look at each hybrid work model.
In-office - working primarily from the office
In-office refers to those organizations who prefer to have their employees present in physical spaces to perform their tasks. They may allow some working from home options, but in this model, working hours are not as flexible. This is the 'traditional' way of running a business, however with the mass adoption of hybrid workplace strategies, much research has shown that many employees are now demanding a flexible working model - and will look for another job if it isn't offered.
Office occasional - switching between office and home
This model can work in a few different ways.
a) Certain employees have in-office days and others work remotely.
b) All employees work on-site for part of the week and remotely for part of the week.
c) All employees work remotely, convening when necessary in a physical meeting space.
This model means that employees work primarily from home or location/s outside of the fixed office. Many organizations have adopted this model, and subsequently found that they need far less physical real estate. This enables them to spend more of their resources on creating better collaborative work practices tools - and implementing such tools.
Every hybrid work model has its pros and cons. A McKinsey report states that nine out of ten organizations will adopt hybrid work models in the long term. However, some organizations are either not suited to hybrid working, or, have a corporate culture that is not open to hybrid workplace strategies.
Image Source: Boston Consulting Group
Types of hybrid workplace technology
The right hybrid workplace technology is essential to support today's new workplace reality. The first consideration is employee experience, because after all, employees are the hybrid workforce. The right technology will support recruitment, increase employee retention and satisfaction, encourage motivation and innovation - and give organizations a competitive edge. Let's look at the types of technologies that companies have to get right.
Security is a priority for any corporate network, but remote and hybrid work environments continue to introduce new challenges and complexities that most organizations have yet to reconcile. Traditionally, access to corporate networks was secure and data was accessed through corporate- controlled mechanisms. Hybrid workplace technologies have had to change to accommodate remote workers and cloud migration, by decentralizing applications and data. As sensitive data becomes available to distributed employees, organizations need to consider how they will secure it in parallel. In a BYOD environment, the solution is rarely with a single approach or one tool; instead companies need to take a holistic approach.
Communication & Collaboration
Since the global adoption of hybrid work, there has been a huge proliferation of team collaboration tools and applications. These tools need to be independent of physical location and have the following capabilities:
The ability to track progress on common projects
An efficient way to share files
Allow instant messaging and online whiteboards
Enable employees to communicate autonomously or in groups through video and audio means
Communication among team members is essential for getting work done, but it's trickier for hybrid teams. A basic set of rules on how employees are expected to communicate during office hours will provide a solid framework for keeping things afloat.
Even before COVID, many businesses were building telepresence capabilities for those instances where some meeting participants couldn't be present. Today, collaboration and connection are no longer confined to a physical office, where traditionally, people could brainstorm in person over a coffee, and solve problems while building stronger cultural/social bonds. Hybrid workplace technologies bring the two worlds together - and one way is through the implementation of smart offices.
A smart office is a hi-tech workplace that uses analytics and connected technology to help people use collaboration tools more efficiently and productively. Analytics are used to understand how the environment can work most efficiently. Connected technology is used to enable connectivity and collaboration between in-office and remote individuals and teams.
Tools can include video conferencing software, meeting room applications, desk reservation software, various types of hardware and analytics tools, providing insight into how the various spaces are utilized.
With the removal of the daily commute, employee workloads have tended to increase by as much as two hours a day since the pandemic started. People analytics can help employees to use that time to be more efficient and productive by identifying and removing mundane tasks.
People analytics platforms can be used to keep track of when employees log in and out, or are taking a break, and can also draw attention to those team members who are working too late at night or regularly exceeding the expected hours.
At a more granular level, data and analytics can be used to focus on specific employee traits or when teams are more productive, meeting targets and are the most committed to their roles. By bringing data to the forefront organizations can make data-driven decisions when recruiting the right team members for the right job.
The world of sales has evolved from seller-centric to buyer-centric, with businesses realizing that to stay competitive, there must now be a huge emphasis on customer engagement. Sales processes have also evolved from analog to automated, and from sales professionals as the primary delivery channel to digital-first.
According to Gartner's Trend Insight Report — The Future of Sales in 2025, 80% of business-to-business sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels, and 33% of all buyers are looking for a seller-free sales experience.
The shift to hybrid work has had an effect on customer interactions, so organizations need to recognize the benefits of omnichannel sales models so that they can build better brand experiences. CX programs can engage customers through a wide range of channels, including phone, email, SMS, virtual assistant, web chat, social media or in-person. These programs establish a relationship with the customer and are there for them whenever they want a human touch. The key is to utilize data and analytics to find that balance between physical and virtual customer experiences.
Document management is a major element of the hybrid workplace, so organizations need to ensure that their document management strategies are in line with safe, accessible hybrid collaboration. Efficient document management benefits businesses by enabling:
Workflow management, by storing documents digitally in a central location to enable users to work and collaborate from anywhere
Collaboration that takes place in the same context as the document can help expand and enhance communication between remote employees
Business continuity. Rather than relying on email, which quickly became an inefficient way to manage content
Discoverability, which can increase productivity when an employee doesn't have to spend time searching for specific documents
Security, through systems that protect valuable and sensitive documents from theft
Employee Learning Applications
Employee training, and indeed the whole onboarding experience has evolved enormously since the onset of the pandemic. New employees are coming onboard without even seeing 'the office' in person. On-the-job training is taking place in homes, without the face-to-face instruction that was commonplace pre-pandemic.
Upskilling and development is now commonly done remotely, opening doors to improve on the older more traditional models. Now is the time to examine how organizations can provide better training programs in the hybrid workplace and get employees up to speed faster than ever before.
The future of work and training for new positions is now mostly digital. Constantly emerging digital training software generates custom learning experiences based on employees’ current responsibilities and future goals. This is a massive improvement over one-size-fits-all training since every lesson is relevant to each user.
Leveraging the power of AI
Artificial Intelligence is being used more and more to determine a learner’s role in the company, create personal development goals and adapt current training needs to suggest training trajectories. AI can lead employees to training videos or informative articles as needed. This leads back to the goal of personalizing the training.
The implementation of AI can be leveraged to help both current employees and workers of the future. Bots learn from the data collected, and can predict what lessons will be helpful based on what benefitted past employees.
Considerations when implementing a hybrid workplace model
The move to a combination of in-person and remote ways of working is a change on the scale of the industrial revolution. However, this hybrid workplace transformation is being undertaken at blinding speed, revealing several challenges and considerations when implementing a hybrid working model.
Centralized cloud-based systems
Cloud technology is vital for all organizations with a hybrid workforce.
Information accessibility. Cloud services allow remote employees 24/7 access to the information they need to do their jobs. But the cloud also makes it easier for organizations to control specific cloud resources like identity and access policies.
Scalability. Cloud technology also enables flexible scalability both vertically and horizontally. It enables admins to scale quickly to accommodate fluctuating remote working numbers, as well as adjusting the scale of their computing power.
Greater compliance capabilities. Organizations in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, telecommunications, finance, education, and government, need to ensure their data is secure. Cloud services often include configurations for compliance, making it easier for organizations in regulated industries to manage sensitive information.
Optimizing remote collaboration
Organizations need to equip themselves with the latest digital tools to create the right hybrid scenarios their teams. The collection of data creates helpful insights and measures progress. Collaboration tools are also critical to meet ongoing goals for full digital awareness, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of work culture.
Obtaining and acting on feedback
Business leaders need to determine their employees’ motivations. One way is by determining:
What their career goals are
What makes them feel valued
What they would like to spend more/less time doing
What tools they believe they need to work smarter.
As for the personal needs of those employees, managers might ask whether they feel they’re most productive opening up their laptops away from the office, or coming in - and what work schedules lend the most support. Thinking about the tools to facilitate this is a must and regular discussions about what’s working are key.
Designing a hybrid workplace is not about taking the best of in-office and the best of remote work - and combining them to make a hybrid work strategy. According to recent studies by Gartner, organizations must stop virtualizing office-centric practices and go about designing a completely new, human-centric hybrid work strategy.
Image source: The People Space
Monitoring and troubleshooting hybrid workplace technologies
With the ultimate goal of keeping enterprises connected and productive, IT teams are challenged with a broader and ever-expanding surface area, added complexity of disbursed workforces which brings new types of problems, and low or potentially no end user visibility.
In a hybrid work model, data and analytics are crucial to understanding how systems are performing, as well as end-user performance. Being able to see every level of your hybrid working ecosystem provides layers of intelligence and insights that create team cohesion, cost management, innovation, and growth.
Being able to pinpoint exactly where an outage occurred is crucial to help prevent it from happening in the future.
Find out how IR's Collaborate suite of performance management solutions can give you the insights you need to monitor, troubleshoot and manage your entire hybrid workplace UC infrastructure from a single pane of glass.