How To Future Proof Your Hybrid Workplace Model

How to future proof your hybrid workplace model

66% of leaders say their company is considering redesigning office space for hybrid work.

~ The 2021 Work Trend Index Survey

As per Microsoft, “The year 2020 changed work forever, impacting every person and organization across the globe. [Now], we’re on the brink of a disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work: the move to hybrid work – a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home. Flexible work is here to stay, and the talent landscape has fundamentally shifted. Employees want control of where, when, and how they work, and expect businesses to provide options.

But there are also challenges ahead. Teams have become more siloed this year and digital exhaustion is a real and unsustainable threat. The decisions business leaders make in the coming months to enable flexible work will impact everything from culture and innovation to how organizations attract and retain top talent.”

With the advent of COVID-19, organizations scrambled to utilize all available technology to make a shift to remote work and sustain business operations. According to the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexibility in working hours helped them achieve greater productivity, and 30% of respondents said that less or no time commuting enabled them to be more productive.

While self-assessed productivity has remained the same or higher for many employees over the past year, however, even after a year of rapid digital transformation, 42% of employees say they lack office essentials, and 1 in 10 don’t have an adequate internet connection to do their job. 

Moreover, nearly one in five respondents in a global survey said that their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. 54% feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted.

Despite these challenges, 59% of workers indicate they agree more with the statement “I would only consider a new position or job that allows me to work from a location of my choice” than with a statement saying that location would not matter.

So, how can organizations reach the right balance with their employees by emphasizing the flexibility of work time, workplace, and work technology while ensuring productivity and employee well-being?

In short, how can leaders future proof their hybrid workplace model? Let’s find out.

The Hybrid Workplace: Current Scenario and Employee Challenges

Leading accounting firm Deloitte will allow its 20,000 UK employees to choose how often they came into the office, if at all, after the pandemic.

Chief executive Richard Houston said, “We will let our people choose where they need to be to do their best work, in balance with their professional and personal responsibilities. I am not going to announce any set number of days for people to be in the office or in specific locations. That means that our people can choose how often they come to the office, if they choose to do so at all, while focusing on how we can best serve our clients.”

Rival firm PwC expects the staff to spend 40% of their time with colleagues – either in the office or out on client visits – once COVID rules ease.

Employees are combating a highly stressful and emotionally testing landscape at work. According to a survey by Microsoft, “Time spent in Microsoft Teams has more than doubled (2.5X) globally and continues to climb. 62% of Teams calls and meetings are unscheduled or ad-hoc. Despite the heavy load of chats and meetings, employees are responding to messages within 5 minutes or less, proving that the intensity of the workload has increased manifold.”

In fact, 37% of the global workforce claimed companies were asking too much of them at a time like this.

60% of the Gen-Z (i.e., 18-25-year-olds) feel the impact of isolation, struggle with the lack of motivation at work, or don’t have the means to create proper workplaces at home.

Hannah McConnaughey, Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, said, “Networking as someone early in their career has gotten so much more daunting since the move to fully remote work – especially since switching to a totally different team during the pandemic. Without hallway conversations, chance encounters, and small talk over coffee, it’s hard to feel connected even to my immediate team, much less build meaningful connections across the company.”

The plummeting networks have endangered innovation, with respondents reporting weaker workplace relationships less likely to thrive at activities involving strategic thinking, brainstorming, and proposing new ideas.

Yet, hybrid workplaces are here to stay. To ensure higher productivity, employee satisfaction, and engagement, it’s essential for leaders to future proof the hybrid workplace experience.

Let’s find out how.

How can leaders future-proof the hybrid workplace experience?

1. Foster an open culture of sharing that allows employees to communicate how they feel.

It’s essential to engage employees in two-way discourse that allows them to share their specific needs and how they have changed during the pandemic.

As social isolation increases and stress, fatigue, and grief take over, it’s vital for leaders to pause and ask critical questions, such as – How are employees doing and what do they need? Who will be able to work remotely? Who will need to come to the office?

Building a culture of respect and equality encourages transparency and allows people to communicate how they feel.

At the same time, leaders must share regular testimonials on their well-being, stimulate conversations around physical and mental well-being, and recognize/reward employees for good performance no matter where they work.

2. Invest in technology that bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds

Over the past 12 months, we’ve figured out how to get things done when everyone is working from home. Now we need to rethink how to handle that messy middle – when some people are together in-person, and others are remote.”

~ Jared Spataro, CVP at Microsoft 365

Organizations need to invest in technology that enables employees to collaborate, connect, socialize, innovate, and fully participate from home, in the office, on the go, and from the manufacturing floor.

Such tools allow employees to access the required files, information, and documents, stay updated on the latest company news and events, brainstorm ideas, and hold informal chats with colleagues and teammates.

Physical workplaces that encourage meeting and social interactions will still be significant. However, safety will assume priority with the reconfiguration of seating and floor plans and the introduction of regular health screening and voice-enabled technology in elevators, meeting rooms, and shared office devices to ensure minimum contact.

3. Leverage AI and data analytics to monitor workforce productivity

With heaps of employee data at their disposal, organizations can leverage AI and analytics to monitor employee productivity and engagement, comprehend employee experience, and manage their physical and mental well-being.

Gartner’s analysis shows, “employers are using technologies more frequently to monitor their employees through methods, such as virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and monitoring emails or internal communications/chat.”

Workplace productivity tools analyze data from everyday apps like Office 365, SAP, etc., to decipher how employees spend their time at the workplace.

Such insights pinpoint the following –

  • Inefficient workflows
  • Activities that cause errors
  • Underutilized apps
  • Tasks that require temporary fixes due to buggy software

Employee experience platforms to future-proof your hybrid workplace model

Employee experience (EX) is defined as “the sum of all experiences an employee has with their employer over the duration of their relationship – from recruitment, to onboarding and career development, to exiting the organization.”

EX platforms feature all essential capabilities that enable communication, collaboration, and employee engagement and foster a strong work culture at the hybrid workplace.

Let’s take a look at the EX platforms for a post-pandemic hybrid work model.

1. Microsoft VIVA

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Acuvate helps clients deploy Microsoft VIVA, an employee experience platform that brings together knowledge, communication, learning, insights, and employee resources under a single roof.

Experienced through Microsoft Teams, VIVA unifies the employee experience across four key areas – engagement, learning, knowledge, and well-being, with four different modules, namely –

2. Mesh 3.0

Mesh 3.0 is Acuvate’s autonomous SharePoint intranet solution for enterprises. Built with the best of Microsoft technologies, including LUIS, Office Graph, Azure Search Services, and MS Natural Language Stack, Mesh 3.0 keeps the entire organization connected and engaged and enables employees to access “the right information at the right time” in today’s hybrid workplace.

Some of the capabilities of Mesh include –

To know more, please feel free to schedule a personalized consultation with our experts.