By: Seb Matthews, Chief Strategy Officer of ProvisionPoint
With multiple countries in various stages of their COVID-19 vaccination programmes, businesses are looking ahead and establishing plans to return employees to the office. However, many people have become accustomed to this new lifestyle, where they can work from home and to a flexible schedule. Employees generally appreciate a company that allows them to work from home, and research reveals that this could also boost productivity for the employer. In fact, 75% of workers claim to be more productive at home due to reduced distractions and two-thirds of employers report increased productivity for remote workers compared to in-office workers. Many businesses are now scrabbling to ensure the right measures and tools are in place to meet the longer term shifts in employee preferences.
Looking back to the beginning of the pandemic, organisations were reluctant to pivot to the remote work paradigm, or were unable to convince leadership of its benefits. Over a year later, flexible working has proven to be anything but detrimental to business. In fact, there has been ample evidence that remote working is not only feasible but there is a high demand for it.
Introducing hybrid working
As organisations navigate best practices for returning to the workplace, the focus has shifted to a hybrid working model that combines working on-site with remote options. In the UK, employers expect the proportion of its employees working from home to double, from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic. Most workers would prefer a balance where they are in the office for some days of the week and at home for the remainder, with 92% of people expecting to be able to work from home at least once a week after the pandemic subsides.
Despite the challenges throughout the pandemic, employees and organisations have experienced a number of benefits from working at home. These include a better work-life balance, saved time and costs from commuting and higher levels of productivity. For companies, remote working can result in reduced office costs, increased staff retention, environmental benefits and access to a wider talent pool making this model a win-win for both employers and employees alike.
Businesses now need to consider what ‘hybrid working’ means for them, as well as establish what measures need to be put in place to meet employees’ changing needs and how this working model will work effectively in the long term. For many, the introduction of hybrid working will require a cultural shift, with new working policies that provide employees with the desired flexibility on when or where they work. This also involves moving to outcome-based working, which requires a change in focus for business leaders. The focus should be on results and productivity, not hours and presenteeism.
One of the most important considerations is ensuring that the company is investing in hybrid working the right way. This looks beyond the company environment, and more at creating a collaborative, technology-enabled workspace that transcends office walls. Tools like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Groups, Planner, and Yammer have exploded during the pandemic, with Microsoft adding 95 million users worldwide in 2020. It’s now time for companies to reflect on the past year and ensure that it’s prepared for the future of hybrid working – which is where workspace governance comes into play.
Establishing workspace governance
Collaboration software, channel-based chat, cloud storage and shared calendars are amongst the tools used when working remotely. As businesses move towards adopting a hybrid working model, they need to consider how best to manage these applications and ensure that employees can use the platforms, features and functionalities to the best of their abilities. Taking Microsoft 365 as an example, many organisations enabled self-service creation of Teams and Groups during the pandemic to promote collaboration. However, they quickly realised that users created huge amounts of workspaces with limited guidance that has in turn, increased uncontrolled IT sprawl.
Workspace governance can take away this pain, by helping to bring order to workspaces, ensuring that they are created in the correct way, managed appropriately and then archived or deleted when no longer needed. This is vital when deploying hybrid working models, as greater reliance will be placed on compliance and usability when employees are working from home or in the office environment. Proper governance also ensures that roles, permissions, user capabilities and third-party connections are set up in a controlled and secure way for employees, bringing improved security and peace of mind for IT managers.
In addition, workspace governance can help employees simplify workspaces and bolster their digital experience at work. It allows businesses to improve adoption by offering a self-service function that makes it easier for employees to rapidly request new functions or objects to enhance their productivity, collaboration and efficiency. Not only this, but employees feel empowered to take responsibility for their own workspaces, while the business remains confident that they are set up with everything they need to make the most of hybrid working environments.
Future of hybrid working
Even before the events of last year, many organisations were beginning to introduce flexible working for their employees. The COVID-19 pandemic has simply accelerated this adoption at an exponential rate, with most businesses being forced to deploy home working out of necessity rather than choice. However, it is clear that remote working has been a successful experiment. Now, the introduction of hybrid working is imminent, with 98% of respondents in a recent survey stating that they would choose to work remotely, at least part-time for the rest of their careers.
With that in mind, businesses need to ensure that they deploy a policy to support and introduce hybrid working, as well as respond to the organisational implications, such as technology and IT tools. Workspaces will play a critical role in the future of hybrid working, as employees will need to be able to work seamlessly between home and the office, and collaborate with both colleagues and external parties. Getting up to speed with workspace governance means organisations can build compliant digital capabilities that will support employees in the long term, with advanced security and usability measures.