If COVID-19 taught us anything, it's that flexible work practices are here to stay. As restrictions ease, the expectation is that many employees will adopt a hybrid approach and attend the office on average only two or three days a week. So how will your workplace create a great experience for these people?
You have to think it through
To make the most of a hybrid workplace, you need to be deliberate in your approach. Organisations with a clear purpose nearly always have better results. They focus on how they can support staff, invest accordingly, and recalibrate initiatives in line with feedback and results.
One of the key challenges in creating a hybrid workplace is to strike the right balance between empowering individuals and their ability to work from anywhere, whilst also encouraging teamwork and a sense of belonging to the wider organisation.
Those that get the balance right will flourish. Done well, hybrid working can boost productivity, promote innovation and enhance customer experience. For their part, staff are happier and more motivated1.
When creating a hybrid workplace, the first step is to define what success looks like. From there, you'll need to focus on three main areas: your workplace policies, the physical workspace, and your enabling technologies.
Do your policies cultivate flexibility?
We usually think of flexibility as working from home. However, offering staff more choice in the amount of hours they work, as well as when and where they work, can also pay dividends in motivation and productivity.
The last 18 months have shown that employees can be equally productive working from home as in the office. However as our office spaces open up, some organisations may need to rethink outdated attitudes to remote working to align with their employees' expectations. Organisations should focus more on outcomes and results achieved, rather than simply being present in the office.
It's important to ensure employees are supported and connected to their colleagues and the organisation. Providing opportunities for hybrid teams to connect in person whilst also supporting remote working is critical to create that sense of belonging, unity and team morale.
The hybrid working setup is also important. We’re fortunate at Telstra that everyone that can work from home has access to a Home Tool Kit that provides monitors, ergonomic chairs and desks for their home working environment. This not only provides practical support from a health, safety and well-being aspect, but also shows our people they are valued members of the team.
Reimagine your office space
There really is no one size fits all approach when it comes to hybrid working. For some, employees may come into the office mainly to connect and collaborate with colleagues or customers. Others may seek quiet zones during their day or simply complete most of their independent work at home.
The office needs to play a more flexible role, and at the heart of that is creating great employee experiences, whether they’re working independently, collaborating in person or remotely with their colleagues.
For example, informal huddle spaces allow employees to meet on the spur of the moment, whether to brainstorm, meet clients or just engage socially with each other. But these spaces should not interrupt individuals who need a quiet place to work.
Informal spaces can complement traditional meeting rooms. And ideally both types of spaces should have the technology setup to support remote workers, so that everyone is included.
Get technology on your side
These days, cloud collaboration platforms allow you to connect from almost anywhere and any device. These platforms can boost collaboration with tools that go beyond audio and video conferencing such as digital whiteboarding, real-time document sharing, and application integration.
As a further advantage, many of these platforms have analytics capabilities to provide insights into work behaviour, which can also support employees from a well-being perspective. Employees can easily block out focus time, or even wrap up their day with a mindfulness session. With the lines between work and home blurring, taking this time can help employees create more balance in their day.
If you have legacy communication systems, investing in new platforms is most likely unavoidable. With any system, ease of use and end user experience should be a priority. Ease of management comes a close second. And underpinning everything is security. Considering which collaboration applications are approved and how they are installed and managed is important to ensure you’re not introducing potential vulnerabilities to your organisation. And these applications should be secure by design, to avoid your communications being compromised by external parties.
Whatever your initiatives, it's important to remember that the workplace will continue to evolve. Organisations need to constantly listen, learn and fine-tune so they can provide a workplace experience that meets the needs of their people, regardless of where they choose to work. The results will definitely be worth the effort. People are one of your most important assets. The happier they are, the better - for them and you.
1. Busting the productivity myth: Hybrid working in Australia 2021. P.2