How to make workplaces more efficient
Last year’s lockdown exposed a number of critical flaws in 100% remote work. The hybrid model combines the best properties of both approaches: structured and reliable communications, autonomy, independence, and flexibility.
The past year as a whole has proven that modern technologies and IT tools enable companies to provide the necessary efficiency, regardless of where a particular employee or even an entire team is located.
Restrictions removed, what’s next?
Business owners are now faced with the question: Should all workers be brought back to their offices, allowed to still work remotely, or should they adopt a hybrid model? Fewer people in the office means the business has lower office costs. For example, you can reduce office size, rental costs, electricity costs, etc. Fewer office workers reduce the risk of spreading diseases such as colds, flu or COVID.
Of course, there are difficulties in working remotely, but they are easy enough to deal with. Outdated home equipment can be replaced. Help set up a workspace at home if needed, although it can be tricky to cope with distractions and discipline at home. However, much more stress is caused by the forced physical isolation from the team and disconnection from work processes.
Time differences can be a problem. If a remote employee is in a different time zone, team members sometimes have to wait several hours or even an entire day to get a simple answer to a question. When all the contacts with the team happen virtually, via Slack, video calls, emails, etc., communication requires additional effort. Moreover, if more than half of the calls and meetings are not scheduled and are carried out spontaneously.
The hybrid model allows some employees to work remotely and others locally. One important point to note: the hybrid approach does not mean that all employees will clearly divide the time for remote work and work in the office during the week. Rather, it is a necessary flexible style of organization. The company does not switch to completely remote control, retains the office and requires employees to spend a certain amount of time in it. At the same time, for example, it remains possible to hire personnel around the world. Or, if necessary, give calm concentration at home. Within the hybrid model, teams or departments can be created that will work remotely or in the office as needed.
What is an effective workplace?
The convergence of work and living spaces requires a revision of functionality and equipment. A modern home workplace should be as productive as possible so that a person can work as if he were in the office. Home offices and workplaces need to pay more attention to acoustics and lighting.
Although people have the ability to come to the office, they need to communicate and interact with colleagues from outside the office. Today, remote teams can use project management tools and communication tools to not only stay connected, but also maintain high quality. Therefore, it is extremely important for a business to have communication tools, regardless of where the required employee is at any given moment. The adoption of unified communications (UC) allows you to use one platform to access everything – cloud communications, instant messaging, VoIP, phone systems, and file sharing. This helps to form a hybrid working model.
The flexibility that modern telecommuting technologies offer is also fraught with new challenges, especially when it comes to video calls and online meetings that take up most of the work time. Without professional communication tools – speakerphones, video cameras, noise-canceling headsets – participating in video conferencing can become a struggle against background noise, distractions, and unpleasant lighting.
What are the conclusions?
According to Microsoft, more than 70% of employees want the ability to work remotely and more than 65% want to spend more time with their colleagues. 66% of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work modes. Gartner estimates that 82% of CEOs plan to allow their employees to be remote from time to time.
Fortunately, the hybrid model has fewer downsides than upsides. And all the disadvantages can be easily overcome with proper planning and preparation. Investments in smart workplaces, information systems, and cybersecurity tools can provide cost savings by providing greater flexibility in where and how employees perform their tasks. A virtual community can help bridge the gap between local and remote team members. Thanks to this, remote employees will not feel isolated and will be able to perceive themselves as part of the overall team. All of this means less employee turnover and greater productivity.
Dmitry Arkhipov, Director of Business Development in Russia and the CIS, JPL Telecom