Saturday Essay: Hybrid Working Will Only Be As Good As Your Investment In TechJonathan Marsden, co-founder and CEO of Leeds based The Technology Group says we need to shift away from the ways that operated pre-Covid.
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As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, the return to the office is a hot topic. Businesses must move out of survival mode in order to thrive again. To do this, many will need to shift from the ways they operated pre-Covid and embrace new ways of working, new technologies, and new ways of doing business.
The enforced closure of offices allowed many millions of us to experience the benefits of working from home. There has been a move towards remote working for some time but lockdown significantly accelerated the process, and now what many thought would be temporary is becoming a more permanent move to regular home working.
It’s easy to see why nearly two-thirds of UK office workers want remote working to remain. A hybrid working model allows employees the freedom to choose where and when they do their best work. It prioritises the employee experience and offers flexibility for those who want it. It can boost productivity, eliminating the time and cost of the daily commute and enabling people to put that time to better use. It has been shown to boost employee happiness, and cuts down on the costs of running a large office.
As well as retaining a workforce that has discovered the benefits of remote working, implementing hybrid working in your business could help you attract a new generation of employees. So if you’re looking to attract and retain the best people in your industry, it could be a deal-breaker in a market where finding the right people is a challenge.
As many businesses look to embrace the benefits of hybrid working, it’s vital that they put the right processes in place and adopt the right technologies to support it. New systems and processes that were, in many cases hurriedly, put in place back in March last year as a short term, ‘makeshift’ solution will not be sustainable as a longer-term business model.
This is what business owners must recognise. We need to make sure that employees who are working in a hybrid model are fully integrated and connected with the business. As well as looking at health and safety requirements of permanent home working, we need to look at technology needs, make sure people have the tools they need to work effectively and efficiently from wherever they are being asked to work, and allow for adjustments to traditional office spaces so that staff can easily collaborate.
Technology is key to these changes. Improvements in broadband technology over recent years has made video conferencing significantly easier and cheaper to use. The pandemic accelerated its adoption, but free versions of online meeting software that restrict the length of meetings are no good as a long-term business solution.
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In a hybrid working model, choosing the right platform to host conferencing calls is essential. The wrong technology will restrict collaboration, client and team contact, and cause frustration for users. The right technology will provide the flexibility that hybrid working requires, meaning that people can work efficiently and effectively from wherever they are. This will be vital for companies such as Ocado, who recently announced that staff will be able to work from wherever they want to for a month every year.
In our industry, many intuitive technologies allow people to access video or voice calls quickly and easily, either through an app on their mobile phone or through a headset plugged into a PC with software that runs on their browser. We recently introduced a hybrid working package that takes the best of the tech to offer a fully managed communications solution for a monthly price per user.
Firms that are stuck with outdated, premise-based systems and tech will find it most difficult to move quickly or successfully to remote or hybrid working models. I think that the willingness and ability to harness technology will be the difference between successful organisations that meet the changing demands of business and workforces, and those that fall behind.