If you’re one of the many businesses considering permanent hybrid and remote working when you return to the office, what do you need to know before making the switch? What are the drawbacks, if any, and how can you make life easier for your remote team?
You certainly need to think about technology, and equipping your remote workforce for either permanent, or part-time home working. You may also face challenges in areas such as maintaining the company culture and guarding against feelings of isolation or being “out of the loop”.
It’s worth remembering, too, that many employees appreciate the social aspects of working in one central location, even if they hate the commute. A hybrid workforce still needs opportunities to talk to their colleagues, bond and let off steam.
There’s plenty to think about, so here are our top tips for avoiding the pitfalls and enjoying the advantages of remote working.
Cloud is key
The switch to cloud computing was gathering pace before the Covid pandemic. Now it’s full steam ahead, as businesses were forced to adapt to the effects of the Covid lockdowns. Cloud-based services enable equip hybrid workers to operate in a more secure, efficient and cost-effective way when they’re not in the work environment.
If staff do split their time between the office and home, they need consistent access to the same suite of tools wherever they are. Ideally, managers and employees need to be able to access the same data and applications from any device, as well as the requirement to make and take business calls in any location.
Cloud-based communication and productivity tools allow this and much more. Take for example, Microsoft 365 – what was once a few separate apps Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook – is now a full productivity suite that ensures any business can keep a consistent experience for staff no matter where they’re working from, and what device team members use. The simple fact is that the ability to securely access documents, tools and services from anywhere is pretty much the first priority of any transition to hybrid work.
Make the most of office-time
One of the main benefits of a hybrid working model is its flexibility. Your staff are in the office some of the time, so your hybrid strategy should include functions that make the most of these occasions.
If employees are working in the office two days a week, keep those days free for important one-to-ones, team building sessions, brainstorms and client meetings. Even if you are meeting clients by video, it might be useful to have your team around the same table for at least some of these calls.
In a hybrid environment, the office becomes an arena for work that can’t be done at home. That includes face to face work, but could also mean work that requires high bandwidth internet, like video conferencing or sharing large files. Whatever it is, plan the working week accordingly, with more team-centred tasks pencilled in for the office and the more everyday tasks left for home.
Keep in control
To reap the benefits of remote work models, you have to make sure remote workers are as happy and productive out of the office as in it. Hybrid helps here, because you’ll see staff face to face some of the time and can catch up on concerns and frustrations. But even part-time remote working can still lead to a sense of isolation and a drop in productivity.
Again, technology provides at least part of the answer. Any cloud-based communications and productivity solution worth its salt provides real-time data that can measure employee productivity remotely and offers analytics that team leaders can leverage to identify and deal with minor issues before they turn into major ones.
Managers also need to be as readily available to their remote or hybrid team as they would be if everyone was in the office. No matter how busy you get, try to check in regularly with staff to ask about progress, help iron out problems and sometimes just to say hello. After all, it gives you an opportunity to relax a bit too!
Be aware of the have-nots
Hybrid workplaces will be welcomed by many employees, but not everyone has a quiet space at home, or even office space at all. Distractions and interruptions mean that some of your employees will always want a desk in the office to better concentrate and get their tasks done.
And even those who are well set up for remote work may need to be reminded of the importance of work life balance. Research has found that during lockdowns, home workers put in more hours than ever, but that’s not a sustainable situation and could lead to significant burn-out among your staff.
Employee mental health is still an employer’s responsibility, even when staff are working remotely. Encourage your teams to stick to office hours, and to turn laptops and work phones off at other times (except in exceptional circumstances). If you don’t want burnout and productivity issues to infect your team, don’t let working from home turn into living at work.
If hybrid or remote working is likely to be part of your agile strategy, you do need to plan ahead. Having the right technology in place is crucial, but you also need to consider other factors. Happy and productive staff are key to any good business, and that’s as true out of the office as it is in it.
If you have any concerns about moving to a more hybrid way of working, or would like to know what communications solution would best suit your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. As Unified Communications specialists, Unicomm has the experience and knowledge to deploy your future-proof communications solution with confidence and the ongoing support you need to focus on what matter most – your customers.