The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on business and working practices. From the first lockdown business leaders were faced with a multitude of new challenges in order to continue to survive. At that stage, thriving was an afterthought for many.
The pandemic forced many to digitise for the first time or to expand their digital strategies to cope with entire workforces being forced into remote working.
In the rush to digitise, some have grasped at a disconnected myriad of solutions, often from a mix of vendors, whether video conferencing, tools to manage customer relationships, instant messaging, cloud-based productivity tools or office suites, and so on.
New working models have emerged and likely changed the face of work forever. Many benefits have been recognised, and at Zoho, we believe the most effective way forwards is a hybrid working model, where work is split between home and the office.
As we enter into a new period with restrictions removed by the UK Government, leaders need to assess longer term strategies to enable the best outcomes from the hybrid working model.
There are eight aspects to consider:
Culture should run through an entire business and be part of a business identity. Employees should embrace it and it should help drive engagement internally and externally.
Culture is easier to maintain when employees are physically present so a new strategy is needed. The right set of communication and collaboration tools can help enable culture to remain strong. Leaders need to work harder to reinforce culture and maintain it both remotely and in the office.
Leaders must assess the technology infrastructure they adopt to ensure a seamless and consistent employee experience, no matter the location. A further necessity is to ensure ease of data integration to determine informed business decisions and to provide a superior customer experience.
3. Safeguarding employees
Working remotely or in a hybrid model impacts employees differently. Some can cope well with the lack of workplace social interaction and others can become lonely and feel isolated.
Leaders need to ensure regular check ins take place both at a group and individual level to ensure the emotional wellbeing of its entire workforce and assess if any policy changes are needed.
Data privacy can become a risk if not handled centrally with aspects such as provision of tools, applications, hardware and corporate governance. Leaders should reassess privacy policies to ensure both employee and company data remains robustly protected.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ model to ensure that employees remain motivated in the new working model. Some thrive with more independence and ‘freedom’ while others become demotivated. Communication and constant dialogue is essential to ensure signs of de-motivation can be addressed at an early stage.
It was easy to remain rigid in the traditional working model with locations and working hours consistent for all. However, now more flexibility is needed. If goals and results are met, does it matter if this is in the usual confines of working hours? Some regular core hours may be required for business needs, but often much of the working day can be chosen to suit individual lifestyles as long as work is completed.
6. The new role of the office
Leaders should establish what is best achieved in the office versus remotely and see if the physical environment needs to change in order to derive the best results from face to face team time. This will likely mean less individual desk space, more ‘hot desking’ and more open environments to encourage collective creativity, such as brainstorming.
Communication – both what and how – is more important than ever before. Are the right tools in place to enable employees to engage with what is being communicated and is there an option for easy dialogue? Are expectations clearly set and goals realistic? More time and care needs to be taken over these aspects to make the most of hybrid working.
8. Recruitment and diversity
The introduction of the hybrid working model brings new opportunity for diversity in recruitment. Many potential employees have been previously omitted from the employment pool but more flexible working roles in both hours and location, opens up a new recruitment pool. Savvy employers can take advantage of this to be able to hire a more diverse workforce than was previously available to them.
The hybrid working model may have been thrust upon businesses because of the pandemic, but it has provided a whole new world of opportunities. Leaders who adopt new strategies to enable the new model will have the best chance of success and those who remain rigidly stuck to old practices may find themselves left straggling behind.
Written by Sridhar Iyengar, Managing Director, Zoho Europe, https://www.zoho.com/