We are on our way back to the office, or at least thinking about it.
What it will look like, how it will work and how the staff will adapt is a bit of trial and error, there are several aspects that companies can take into consideration for it to start on the road to success.
At Unified Support we have broken down the key points, and are delivering them here for your digestion, pleasure and take away.
There is lots of talk of hybrid and it will immerge as a mix, with some people in the office and others being remote. I know this sounds obvious and over-simplified but if we start there, we can create a vision of what the office will be like.
Managers need to understand that their staff all have different ways of working, different needs at home, and meetings need to flex in structure dependent on the outcome we desire. Group meetings for sharing ideas and giving updates are fine but the one-to-one meetings still need to be face-to-face, giving staff the level of personal contact and reassurance they need. Do not forget that there are people involved; we are complex individuals with different needs.
Not everyone likes looking at themselves on screen whilst in a video call and find it a distraction. If you can imagine a face-to-face meeting with a live video feed of your face opposite - it is very unnatural. Understand that not everyone will want their camera on all the time and make sure you keep them engaged even though you cannot see them. An even simpler method is to educate end users to switch off the self-view function - people are often amazed at how participants engage more!
Beware screen fatigue. Just because people are working at home does not mean that they should be on meetings all day. Sitting in front of multiple screens for several hours and knowing people are looking at you all day can be tiring and feeds a feeling of mistrust.
On a positive and practical note, the change in working means that you can recruit the best staff located anywhere, not just the best in your area.
The key point to take away is that one size does not fit every organisation or every member of that organisation. It is important to consult and collaborate with every member of your organisation to understand how they see working with or for you going forward.
Meetings will be a mix of local people in a single room and remote attendees. If you've ever been a remote attendee at a meeting such as this - sitting on a screen at the far end of the meeting room and doing your best to be noticed whilst everyone focuses on the chairperson or the most senior person in the room - you’ll know it's infuriating and delivers a disjointed experience for the remote attendees. Now we've all got used to this with home working, it is an experience we shouldn't repeat in a hybrid office.
If you do have a hybrid meeting, always make sure the chairperson of the meeting is remote if you have remote people joining. This ensures that all the attendees give as much attention to their remote attendees as they do to the people in the room.
Enable a collaborative compassionate and empathetic culture
At Unified Support, we believe there are four cornerstones to a successful hybrid office:
Leadership drives culture. Without this, meetings will descend into anarchy and miss-structure, the staff will not understand their positions and their boundaries within a hybrid office. The leaders of all organisations should start by truly understanding and listening to their employees, finding out what makes them tick, what motivates them and, most importantly, what demotivates them. They should and create a culture around the results of that survey - your staff should be heard and know their opinions count.
Now is the time to drop legacy practices that have needed an overhaul. Remember the 8am Monday meeting that was put in place by a boss many years ago and we have just always done it that way? No consideration taken for commuting time, family needs and the fact that some people are not 8am Monday morning people.
Remove the death-by-PowerPoint or reviewing of Excel sheets from last week and create an environment that has people attending meetings and offices with the sort of excitement they had when they first worked at your organisation. Encourage participation.
Create an amazing employee experience that translates to an amazing customer experience. Delivering the best to a client can be helped by having the backing of colleagues and the enthusiasm to go and show what you can do. This does not always have to cost money - it can be achieved by making someone feel valued, keeping in touch, providing feedback and trying to understand the pressures and stresses that people find in their day to day lives.
Make hybrid work equitable
Just because someone is not in the office, it doesn’t mean that their input is less valuable than that of somebody in the meeting room. This is the key reason for making the chairperson a remote attendee, to give the remote staff an equal chance of contributing.
If you are an international company, a participant may be in a different time zone, with different stress points during their working day and, most importantly, they may not have English as a first language. If they could contribute in their native language using translation services, you would see them flourish and show their natural confidence rather than them having to translate in their head before they speak.
Focus on what matters. Agendas for hybrid meetings will be more important than for in-person meetings. Somebody connected remotely to a meeting from their home office will want to know that their contribution is valid, that they are not just connecting to be at a meeting which doesn’t really concern them and, vitally, that are able to prepare and contribute value.
Remove distractions. We have all seen clips of reporters’ children walking into a live broadcast on the TV; we can help staff deal with similar distractions whilst they work at home. Background green screens are an example of how people can focus on their meeting rather than being distracted by what can be seen in the background, making the participants the star. Most videoconferencing software platforms can blur the background, or perhaps even standardise how people present themselves in such meetings.
Ensure a safe return to the office
Focus on the people. The most recent surveys indicate that 80% of staff say they do not wish to return full time to the office. When they do, it should be a place where they feel safe, can be productive and are in a pleasant environment. Recognise they are in, break out the nice coffee, put some fresh fruit out. It has got to be worth the journey after all.
Everyone is used to digital signage in offices, so now is the time to ramp it up. Fill it with meaningful content that engages and informs, that gives staff reassurance their company cares about their wellbeing - both physical and mental. It does not always have to push the company message.
We have all become more familiar with voice-controlled technology in our homes. It is becoming readily available in standard applications and can be a good asset to keep people safe without the need to touch surfaces - would some training aid adoption? We are used to movement activated sensors in our meeting rooms and these can be adapted to provide alerts to staff. The sensor that tells you how many people are on a video call can also alert staff about social distancing issues in a room. Simple but effective.
Hot desking will become the new norm, if we can personalise it with our own devices, which will make it a comfortable experience when staff come into the office. Are there chargers, docks and adaptors readily available and clearly sanitised? We have all had to scrabble under desks, root into the depths of laptop bags or gone begging to IT just to get up and running. We need to take these problems away.
Securely manage and anticipate demands of your hybrid environment
Never has it been so important to ensure that our IT networks are secure. Do not leave it to chance or let complacency allow someone onto your network who should not be there. At any one time, more than 70% of staff could be connecting to your network remotely: is your VPN robust, secure enough and easy to access to keep your data and network safe? The same would apply to Wi-Fi in the office.