By Vivekanand Manjeri
Businesses faced an extraordinary number of challenges over the two years. The pandemic and lockdowns sent digitization plans into hyperdrive as organizations raced to confront a uniquely remote reality. As a considerable part of the workforce has built its life around the possibility of working from home, the return to the office or the adoption of a hybrid structure has returned.
Watching the reopening of offices and the choice of some employees to remain remote, business leaders are faced with some of the main questions: what is better? In person, remote or hybrid? how to plan a return to site approach?
The hybrid workforce allows for true flexibility with an emphasis on collaboration. For example, in-person office meetings with the team, but other work performed remotely. For this to work effectively, companies need to have a strong workplace strategy in which IT infrastructure and corporate culture work hand-in-hand.
Establish a foundation of trust
Team members and leaders need to understand how to work flexibly – where the work is an outcome, not a place or a time. To thrive, you need real implicit trust between all team members, which is at the heart of the company’s culture and values. Once grounded, organizations can start thinking about the right technology setup and collaboration tools.
There is a big difference between working remotely and working flexibly. Flexibility means one can manage priorities in a way that fits into one’s life and work.
Activate behind-the-scenes computing engines
Today, technology is the backbone of businesses. From collaboration tools to the devices we use to do our jobs, technology enables the hybrid workplace. Employees must be empowered to collaborate from anywhere. This is where IT infrastructure plays a central role: PCs, security, and a fast and reliable network/VPN must work together to ensure a smooth experience. But also think about devices – making sure everyone working from home has the same experience as those working in the office. The need for high-resolution cameras, larger monitors, and an on-premises network supports video conferencing in multiple meeting rooms. These remain essential when organizations are developing a return-to-site plan.
We have been at the forefront of digital transformation and have witnessed the changes throughout the two years. Video conferencing and collaboration software are good examples. Previously, for many companies, employees were on-site and some remote or elsewhere. A scheduled meeting was taking place onsite and there was a conference line for remote employees. Often it was easy for those on the conference line to be out of sight unless they were talking.
Today, one can schedule the meeting in person, but remote employees can join via video call allowing them to drop into the meeting, jump into the chat window, or even wake up to join the conversation. The key is having the right technology to make this happen seamlessly.
How to prepare for the future
Every organization faces new ways of working and to be successful, organizations must start by listening to their employees. Team members will disclose that flexibility supports their productivity, collaboration, and well-being. So, as hybrid slowly becomes the norm, continue to deliver a work model that prioritizes results – not where or how the work gets done. Establish back-end technology infrastructure and orchestration.
Finding the right set of tools and offering choice should be the guiding principles. This mindset enables the creation of an environment where the majority of team members locally or globally can remain remote or in hybrid work environments. As the industry plots its next steps, employees must have choices. Confirm that your organization’s workplace technology and culture are consistent. It’s the mindset and way of working that will pay off as this hybrid future evolves. Flexibility is key!
(The author is Brand Director, Client Solutions Group, Dell Technologies, Indiainess, KPMG in India. Opinions expressed are personal.)