By Philippe Gomes, Head of UK and Ireland at Powell Software, an award-winning digital workplace platform vendor headquartered in France, with global offices in 10 countries including London, UK.
As hybrid working shifts to become ‘the new normal’, many companies are forgoing the traditional office structure in favour of a newly reimagined workplace; one that maximises collaboration and utilises office space, while embracing new and modern technology to help employees work well, from any location.
While some have no plans to move premises after the pandemic, up to 35% of companies will embrace the opportunity to downsize their office space before the end of the year, with 62% citing flexible working as a key factor in the decision-making process. Forty-three of the UK’s 50 biggest employers have already revealed plans not to return staff to the office full-time, with the technological advancements of the last 12-months making this possible. As lockdown restrictions ease, businesses are asking themselves how can we make this office a more strategic space for productivity, growth, and teamwork?
1. Use ‘hot-desking’ apps
With the move to hybrid working, many companies are opting for ‘hot-desking’ to help foster collaboration and creativity, while ensuring space is used in the most efficient way possible.
Instead of having one assigned workspace, employees share a pool of desks, with some companies giving employees tools and technology like Flex Desk, to be able to reserve their place in advance.
Switching to hot-desking can mean big cost savings, but it is also a big cultural change, so it’s important to put together the right change management policy and select the right technology for your company’s needs. Desk booking systems and hot desk apps help manage headcount and prevent offices becoming overcrowded or teams clashing when working from the office.
2. Invest in new collaboration tools
Twenty per cent of remote workers reported feeling lonely when working from home through the pandemic. The challenge for many businesses is how to ensure employees are encouraging social interaction when workers no longer share the same physical space? The biggest concern of hybrid working is that the UK’s workforce will become two-tier, with recent ONS figures suggesting remote workers are treated less favourably than their on-premise counterparts.
What’s more, employees who feel more connected to their colleagues have higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction with engaged employees 18% more likely to collaborate and work together as a team. So, adopting a culture of teamwork when working in a hybrid way not only drives business performance, but enables teams to share ideas and more creative solutions to be discovered.
Many businesses have adopted communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams throughout the pandemic because of its versatility. Employees can share documents and files with end-to-end encryption, protect chats and calls, and use sensitivity labels to restrict access only to authorised viewers. And as we shift to hybrid working, businesses can go one step further to drive creativity and collaboration in Teams, by integrating digital whiteboards in group meetings, and investing in employee wellbeing apps to instill a feeling of connection with coworkers, regardless of location.
Apps like the virtual coffee machine enable admins to create short breaks with several staff from different teams or departments, giving employees the opportunity to virtually ‘visit’ their peers in offices across the company. So, whilst hybrid working can present initial communication challenges, introducing effective and inclusive hybrid working tools can help foster a successful culture of collaboration.
3. Build an inclusive workplace
The intranet is having a reboot thanks to the pandemic’s shift of work styles and is becoming a popular choice for businesses wanting to deploy a full SharePoint site in a short amount of time. But as the need for employee experience platforms grows exponentially, evaluating the different options can be a minefield for business leaders.
Cloud completely changed the intranet, and the release of solutions like Microsoft 365 has converted customers to ready-to-use solutions. 2021’s businesses need quick IT deployment, instantaneous remote access to new features to support business operations, and a digital workplace that provides a level of consistency for hybrid workers – giving them the same experience whilst at home or in the office.
Intranets that can be integrated into platforms like Microsoft Teams can ensure that employees remain highly engaged and connected, even when the workforce is dispersed. These modern-day intranets can give employees access from anywhere; from frontline workers to those out on the field as they can be utilised through most devices – and provide additional levels of protection with added security features, which can be quickly deployed and maintained.
4. Develop a virtual recruitment and onboarding programme
Remote and hybrid working is accelerating the competition for talent, with job roles no longer contained to certain geographical locations. The growing pool of talent is great news for businesses wanting to hire skilled workers, but it also means it has never been more important to get your virtual recruiting programme right – 20% of new employees leave a job within the first 45 days if they experience a bad onboarding experience. Replacing an employee is not only costly for businesses but is also detrimental to staff morale and team engagement.
To stay ahead of the war on talent, your virtual onboarding programme will need to rival in-person onboarding. Onboarding Templates that can be implemented into your digital workplace mean HR teams can swiftly onboard new recruits, and provide customised intranet profiles, a dedicated onboarding section with access to key documents, company contact information, welcome messages, and support with L&D by providing training documents. These virtual Onboarding Templates are designed to allow HR managers to create a complete and simplified onboarding process, enabling new employees to feel immersed in minutes in the company culture and build connections from day one.
5. Invest in governance to contain sprawl
Adhering to IT governance to prevent Teams sprawl is critical to facilitate efficient hybrid working. The security of hybrid workplaces has been debated in the media since the introduction of remote working in 2020, and the risk of a breach is heightened when there are multiple files and channels being shared from a number of employees. As each Teams channel is created, so too is an Office 365 Group and a SharePoint for each user.
Sprawl happens when there is no governance, which can be easily mitigated by the right guidance in place. Many employers are now playing catch-up from the switch to video conferencing tools, but implementing best practices and rules which control the creation and ongoing management of the Teams lifecycle helps keep end-users and IT on track.
The hybrid workplace brings huge potential to boost productivity but how you design it matters. Think creatively and use the tools and technology available to make it a place where workforces can flourish and come together no matter where they’re working.