Optimising the digital workplace in a hybrid work culture
Integrated technology and fully supported staff are key to a successful home-office culture.
Post-pandemic, the workplace will never be quite the same again. The success of remote working points to a future that blends home and office. However, careful planning is needed to ensure that this hybrid environment functions smoothly and effectively.
A recent report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services for Verizon Business, ‘Re-Creating Work as a Blend of Virtual and Physical Experiences’, suggests that most organisations now expect people to work in a mix of physical and digital spaces – and that it’s no bad thing. The feedback from 1,080 global business leaders across key industry sectors confirmed that 78 per cent thought remote working was likely to increase with 61 per cent, suggesting that it functions well if not better than office working – citing benefits such as improved agility (57 per cent), collaboration (52 per cent) and productivity (44 per cent).
However, not all tasks are suited to remote working, so it’s important that business leaders create a digital workplace strategy that defines the goals and purposes of a blended working programme, separates tasks and ensures staff have the technology they need to perform. “The starting point is for organisations to think about remote working in the context of broader business trends,” says Tony Judd, Managing Director of Verizon Business Group.
Pre-Covid, the workplace was already being changed by both technology and skills availability. Business leaders now need to consider how they can use technology as an enabler to support remote working, while ensuring that their future organisational state is more organic and flexible than in recent years
The survey also revealed that organisations which already have a digital workplace strategy are consistently more likely to see greater returns from their investments than those that don’t.
Additionally, it showed an increased reliance on a number of technologies and collaborative tools, particularly the widespread adoption of video and web conferencing and file sharing. Smart organisations are improving effectiveness by integrating these with tools such as white boarding and annotation, enabling teams to collaborate remotely in real-time – spending less time in meetings and turning discussions into assignments.
“Clearly, digital transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” says Judd. “The work demands the expertise and objectivity of a nimble partner – one who can make a quick, pragmatic assessment of the landscape, apply solutions and, critically, stay on board to see them through.” Any step-up in technical capability needs to be supported by appropriate training and team-building exercises.
“It’s a basic human need to interact and engage physically, and we must not look to these technologies to replace these entirely,” says Judd. “But in a situation where we are not able to interact physically, the digital world can come into its own.
It’s critical to start with the user’s needs and create a user experience that threads back through the supporting technologies to create a user-friendly and highly functional working environment.
With a distributed workforce, it’s no surprise to find security remains a top priority for 86 per cent of respondents.
Enterprise-grade security enables businesses to identify and protect against fraud and data loss, and to ensure that calls and meetings remain private. Companies should also consider implementing end-user security awareness training, acceptable-use policies that mitigate user exposure to threats, and new security policies for remote working such as two-factor authentication.
The arrival of 5G technology will also change the digital workplace of the future, opening up options such as real-time data and augmented or virtual reality – with huge benefits for sectors such as healthcare, retail and financial services.
“No one knows for sure what its greatest impact will be first. But we do know that the sooner organisations start planning for and investigating potential 5G opportunities, the greater competitive advantage they’ll enjoy,” says Judd. He adds: “The global pandemic accelerated the move to a digital working environment. Seeing how a firm’s network, security and employee collaboration systems have operated during the pandemic should provide the blueprint for the road ahead. By acting now, they can capture the needs of employees and customers and position themselves for the new normal.”
Don’t just work, work smarter.