How a hybrid approach is the best way forward

By Aaron Foster, Technical Director, TelcoSwitch.

For any organisation it's important to always look ahead and understand what the future holds. However, no one could be prepared for the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, whose affects we are still very much in the grips of today.

In January 2020, many of us had some idea of what the future of the workplace would look like. Some foresaw the gradual creation of an enjoyable workplace where everybody would feel comfortable, and where mental health, flexible working and all-round fulfilment were integral. For others it was a situation where companies would adopt the best technology to make working more efficient. Different businesses prioritise different things, but one thing all these ideas had in common was they would largely be implemented in the same environment – the office. However, Covid-19 has transformed everything.

Since the first lockdown back in March, many business leaders have seen the benefits remote working brings, and the ways in which it can complement the traditional office environment. This sudden but prolonged change in working culture has led to a new concept – hybrid working. So how can we make this concept a success?

Covid and the tech impact

With much of the UK now seemingly in a cycle of lockdowns and tiers, it doesn't seem like the fully attended office environment will be back for a while at least. This alone illustrates how we should dispense with any remaining temporary remote working practices in favour of something more solid and reliable.

It is now coming up to a whole year since the first lockdown began. As a result, many leaders and employees should know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to hybrid working. As far as technology is concerned, it’s important that business leaders look back and see what has been implemented, what needs to be improved, and what changes should be made in the short and long term. Questions need to be asked: did you deploy everything with stringent security standards in place, or are there lingering vulnerabilities that could be damaging if you experienced a data breach further down the line? What was seen as a safe makeshift arrangement when the pandemic began could now be a major security risk.

Effective and efficient communication tools are imperative if a hybrid working system is to be successful. Tools that enable you to make and answer calls from a desk phone, computer or mobile are not a recent invention – they have been integral to any unified communications arrangement for many years. However, there are few organisations that have maximised the potential of these technologies. To increase efficiency and ultimately gain the competitive edge, it’s important business leaders make full use of the most innovative unified communications tools on offer to them.

Impact on company culture

Although having the right technology in place is important in making the hybrid approach a success, there are other elements that are just as key. It's imperative leaders continue to emphasise the importance of a defined, supportive workplace culture. This doesn't come overnight and requires a lot of preparation to achieve, which is something many organisations did not have time for when the pandemic first hit.

Above everything else, leaders need to be trained in the unique characteristics of hybrid working. It's important to go beyond showing how to do the basics like using a new video conferencing system or how to use the latest software. Instead, business leaders need to create personalised plans for their teams to help manage and support growth. To make this a reality, heads of departments and managers need to have the correct resources, funding and training to support employees who are working remotely, regardless of how often they make it into the office.

The next thing to consider is how to maintain the company’s wider vision and philosophy, which stays true to your ideals as a business and makes sure everyone feels comfortable in their chosen environment. It's important to continue being social with your team just like you would be in the office. Instead of focusing on office-based perks such as free snacks in the kitchen or a ping pong table, consider having virtual drinks on a Friday, personal catch-up calls, or a company-wide virtual social on a regular basis. After all, a great culture breeds high productivity as well as job satisfaction.

What does the future have in store?

There's no right or wrong way to approach the changing office environment, especially when change is so unexpected. In the past, companies choosing to completely transform their workplace dedicated countless hours and budget to it, and even then not everything would go quite right. With that in mind, no one should expect transforming in the current climate to be plain sailing.

Each business leader has their own vision when it comes to hybrid working, but for it to be a success it's crucial to provide managers with the correct training and to commit to ironing out all technological deficiencies. If these challenges can be resolved, you’ll be on your way to creating a successful, eager and loyal team of hybrid workers.

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