When working from home stopped being an occasional opportunity and became an everyday necessity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people were overjoyed. Some, not so much. Either way, hybrid work is here to stay.
Recent market research from Intuition found that almost half of employees plan to continue to spend at least some of their time working from home, and a full 62% of employees expect their employers will let them work from home going forward.
Enabling the hybrid work model on the fly was costly and frustrating for many businesses. Suddenly having to set up employees with the equipment and support they needed to work effectively at home cost time, money and operational efficiency.
But enabling hybrid work doesn’t have to be a cost for your business. Done the right way, enabling a hybrid work model can improve your company’s ability to attract and retain staff, improve coordination and cooperation between employees, increase efficiency, save costs, access the latest technology on an as-needed basis and improve the customer experience. But there are two keys you’ll need to open that door: the right technology and the right communication culture.
The Right Technology is in the Cloud
Hybrid work means any employee can work from virtually anywhere. Unsurprisingly, traditional communications infrastructure isn’t well suited to this. When employees were sent home, there had to be major overhauls to make things work. Home offices needed to be set up, meaning employees needed both hardware and software. In many cases, that meant companies had to re-invent the wheel: the same systems that made things work in the office needed to be replicated in tens, dozens or hundreds of employees’ homes.
There’s a better way — through the cloud. Cloud technology decentralizes and streamlines many essential business functions, from cybersecurity to software updates to communication and collaboration. Using cloud technologies, employees can remotely and securely connect to your servers from any device, anywhere. They can access the latest updates without any work required on either their or your end, which has become a critical component of keeping staff happy. A recent Harvard Business Analytics survey confirmed 82% of employees expect the technology they use for work to be easy-to-use.
While happy employees with access to the tools they need to work effectively tend to be productive and efficient, there are tangible benefits for employers as well. Leveraging the latest communications technology through the cloud creates more manageable expenses by adopting an operational expenditure model (OPEX), essentially a pay-as-you-go-for-what-you-need system. This avoids sinking capital investments in technology, which can leave businesses in the uncomfortable position of either having to upgrade in a couple of years to keep up with the competition or using outdated technology to get the full working life out of their investment in a system.
Plus, staying in touch with customers, partners and suppliers will be easier than ever. The same cloud-based communications tools that enable employees to stay in touch with colleagues from wherever they are also ensure that the lines of communication stay open with customers, partners and suppliers at all times. And the ability to easily connect through any, or multiple, mediums, from phone to text to email to web chat and more, ensures that the greatest clarity and efficiency of information sharing is possible. This not only makes for a better customer service experience, but also helps smooth out coordination with partners and suppliers, especially when unexpected situations arise.
Moving to the Cloud Means Adopting its Culture
One of the biggest difficulties of employees’ mass exodus from the office was the culture shock. Suddenly, most of their social interaction with colleagues or bosses was through a screen. What was once a quick “hey, can I ask you something?” by the water cooler became a multi-day email chain.
Enabling hybrid work and reaping its advantages, rather than struggling with its challenges, means adopting its culture, for managers most of all. While people have been able to wrap their minds around the idea of working from home, their actual brains are still catching up. Our brains are used to looking at faces, reading body language and listening to tone to understand other people. They define what they’re doing, in part, by where they are. Go into the office and your brain goes into work mode.
Given that reality, there are two key adjustments managers will have to make in a hybrid work model:
- Set clear goals and targets for remote employees
- Be proactive in communicating with them
Relatively vague, flexible goals work well when you can easily and often refine and clarify them with a half-dozen short chats by the water cooler. Remote employees can’t do that. But if they have a clear goal to aim for, they can better focus on projects, tasks and deliverables.
The other catch is communication. Although cloud-based communications technologies make it easier than ever to connect and collaborate, many people find the idea of sending an email more nerve-wracking than knocking on the door, poking their head in and asking a quick question. To many, the written language is more formal, and without the benefit of tone, easier to misinterpret. Managers need to be proactive in communicating with remote employees. They must set the tone that emails aren’t intimidating and make emails and video calls feel more like quick, friendly chats in the hallway.
Doing More with Less, with the Right Partner
Ultimately, the major advantage of moving to a hybrid work model supported by a cloud-based communication strategy is that companies can do more with less. Remote workers can reduce their downtime and increase efficiency. The systems that enable more efficient communication and collaboration also enable businesses to save money in the short and long term.
Coordinating work efforts between employees, suppliers and partners can be achieved more easily. And customers can continue to have the uninterrupted access to the support they need at all times.
And just as employees need a supportive, flexible employer to thrive in a hybrid work environment, businesses need a flexible partner of their own to get them there. We can walk you through all the options available, from explaining the different types of clouds to the differing levels of technology integration you can leverage at each step along the way to creating the hybrid work environment you need to ensure your business will thrive.
Source: By the experts at Mitel