We’ve been moving in the hybrid direction for a long time now. COVID-19 accelerated the move down this trajectory, but it’s by no means the only driver.
People are, more than ever, hungry to leverage what mobile and computing technology can enable us to do. Thanks to this technology, we’re no longer constrained by geographical borders and, when digital ecosystems are smartly executed, we’re no longer dependent on being physically present in the office to get work done.
The growing capabilities of technology and how they shape the way we’re able to design our schedules, are birthing through a series of new worker requirements at a blinding speed.
Here’s my take on what these requirements are, starting with the security challenge.
The security challenge
Today, workers now need to create, edit, and distribute data securely across a range of arenas, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This raises a business’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks and data breaches.
Today, workers now need to create, edit, and distribute data securely across a range of arenas, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This raises a business’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks and data breaches. Research shows that cyber security continues to be a pressing issue and that small to medium businesses are most at risk.
By now, I think it’s evident that a secure digital workplace is underpinned by a centralised cloud-based system (provided it’s managed correctly). Because a cloud-based system often includes configurations for compliance, it’s much easier for organisations to manage sensitive data and information. It also enables 24/7 access to the information remote workers need to do their jobs.
Mobility without compromise
Technology became even more of a focal point when the pandemic first hit. While the business world collectively worked to maintain collaboration and communication between teams, not everyone had the quality of resources at their disposal.
There were businesses who were in the fortunate position of possessing the digital technology required for a smooth transition to a highly distributed workforce. But there were also many others that had to adapt quickly on insufficient resources.
No matter where your business sits on this spectrum, making connectivity a priority is a must in these times. According to
No matter where your business sits on this spectrum, making connectivity a priority is a must in these times. According to Cisco, 96% of the workforce desire more intelligent workplace technology for improved work environments.
"Mobility without compromise" is the utopian state of the business world today. Workers can no longer afford to be held back by geographical boundaries. They want to collaborate from anywhere at any time with customers and partners and manage transactions without needing to print and sign documents.
A marriage between remote and in-person time
As some businesses look to transition back to in-office arrangements after a two-year window of forced social distancing, we’re confronted by a polarisation in attitude regarding people’s desire to return to the office and remain working remotely. Even as a General Manager of a computer hardware company, I still believe there needs to be a marriage between remote and in-person time.
Remote, as we all know, has so many benefits in the way of enabling greater flexibility and autonomy over time management. But I’ve found it can make people feel disconnected from one another if it is the one-blanket solution.
The benefits of in-person time are well documented and I think it’s so important to flavour our schedules with pockets of in-person time for this reason. From a mental health perspective, there’s so much to be gained from seeing, speaking, and hearing the people that you work with in real-time.
But in terms of what the ideal marriage between remote and in-person actually looks like, I think it’s highly dependent on the unique needs and preferences of the people in a business. As an example, I’ve found a two-to-three day split effective for Dynabook ANZ.
The way I recommend building this marriage is to first be clear on the kind of hybrid situation that best suits your organisation.
I believe there are three main types:
Organisations that are office-dominant prefer to have employees present in a fixed physical space to perform tasks. There may be some work-from-home allowances, but it is more seen as a last resort than a permanent, ongoing solution. Working hours for this model are also most likely to be fixed. This type of hybrid situation is more closely aligned to the traditional office-working model than any other.
This type of hybrid model gives people more freedom to run their own course. Some employees may choose to have more in-person days than others, or there might be an agreed upon split where the whole organisation works on-site for part of the week and then remotely for the rest.
Remote-first is exactly as it sounds. In this model, all employees primarily work from home or in locations outside the fixed office and only meet in a shared physical space when necessary.
Getting this marriage right is best driven by open communication around what the people in an organisation need to deliver their best.
Don’t be afraid to start small
Every business is different, there’s no question there.
With this in mind, a sturdy digital ecosystem stems from a deep understanding of the workplace and how available resources can be effectively deployed for a smarter transformation. The first step to this is building a strategy.
From experience, one of the first mistakes an organisation makes with transforming their digital ecosystem is doing too much too soon. That’s why I recommend starting small by first testing a digital change on one area in the organisation.
For instance, if one department has an issue that can likely be solved with a change in digital processes, trial that area first and monitor results. If the change is successful, gradually expand the solution across the wider workplace. Slow and steady wins the race!
All about employee experience
The focus of transforming a digital ecosystem should always come back to employee experience. With every decision that’s made, it must first be understood how it best serves employees in enabling them to deliver more effectively.
Can progress across common projects be easily tracked?
Are employees able to share and access files efficiently?
Is their data safe?
Are they able to connect with their peers through autonomous messaging portals?
These are among the questions you should ask to drive a digital ecosystem in favour of improved employee experience.
Regardless of your industry or your organisation’s collective working preferences, an “employee-first” mentality sets the gears in motion for a healthy-functioning, high-performing hybrid workforce.
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