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[ARTICLE] Future of Work, Workplace Transformation & Hybrid Workplace: What does the future of work look like for SMB’s?

Transitioning in business is a constant & complex process, data-driven hedged bets are often required with a period of trial & iterations to find a suitable stronghold within an ever-changing world. Last years’ forced experiment due to the Covid pandemic was a catalyst for digital transformation & adoption. Organisations were able to thrive within a digital workplace which was enabling them to communicate and collaborate seamlessly. Whilst additionally supporting the ability to visualise, deliver & maintain all business services both internally & customer-facing. The remarkable achievements of technology teams & end-users played a huge role in business continuity & evolution throughout lockdowns & periods of duress for almost all industries. 

What should be held in the highest regard is the aptitude, adaptability, and agility of the workforce to deliver projects and services through tough times as part of a distributed workplace. Company culture and leadership are much talked about but were significantly stress-tested over the past 16 months with new and innovative deliveries of internal communications, management, and social activities. 

However, the journey is not over, there are some schools of thought that the next hurdle could be even tougher than the rapid alterations necessary to work harmoniously throughout the pandemic. The move back to the office is marred with complications and corporate decisions are still having an impact on the health and safety of the workforce. It is paramount that we are mitigating risk in parallel to ensuring employees are comfortable.

In addition to the health & wellbeing of your workforce, a strategy will also need to be imposed to maintain productivity, communication, and seamless collaboration with both office-based and home workers. Whilst for many companies this has been an inclusion pre-pandemic for select workers, few companies will have needed systems in place to provide this function on mass. The key element to this practice will be fairness & inclusion for all, ensuring that an office-based worker is provided with the same platform & opportunity to be heard as a remote worker and vice-versa. Some have theorised that having all join individually via video conferencing from their own device, should give the same feel and openness regardless of place. However, this would place significant demand on meeting rooms & bandwidth for the office if unsegmented. 

Across Europe, many organisations have opened their doors to workers for specified days and only to those who want to be office-based. This has been greatly appreciated by those who have unsuitable working environments at home but also led to being non-inclusive for those who can’t, don’t feel safe, or are not willing to return to the office. Being left out of casual conversations on projects within their workflow is detrimental to team cohesion, morale & productivity. 

With many methods theorised and trialled by various companies, it is hard to know the exact plan & strategy to implement as part of a return to office work plan. However, there are key principles that can be followed as building blocks towards the perfect mix for your organisation & workforce. It is important to remember that no company will get this right overnight and no solution will be completely desirable for every worker, perseverance and agility are required for a sustainable hybrid working environment. Below are 4 key pillars we believe are necessary within the assessment & planning stage. 

  1. People/Empathy 

People & technology worked in unison to maintain business productivity and function over the last year and a half. Making it crystal clear that both are important and reliant on each other for most tasks. However, it is also glaringly obvious that your people are a more valuable asset to your business than technology, and whilst technology plays a role in hybrid working, your workforce are the ones that decisions will impact most.  

Whilst technology can’t talk back to signal a preference or opinion on workplace practices, your employees can and should be your most valuable asset for insights into both business-critical aspects and personal working environment/timing preferences.  Any decision should be data-driven and your workforce can help swing the pendulum for a more favorable and lasting scenario for all. Data collection within your workforce can take shape in many ways, whilst questionnaires can be subjective, it is also important to have a mixture of these, one-to-one and group discussions in order to get a true understanding of all opinions. 

  1. Technology 

Digital strategy, implementations, usability and security are all vital to the success of hybdrid working. Whilst most, have been addressed during the time of remote working, it is important to maintain emphasis on technological improvements to ensure a sustainable and efficient digital workplace. Prioritising areas to strengthen will rely on following the data and asking employees questions around areas they believe technology could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their working processes. However, there will be areas which are unseen, including the threat of cyber attacks on a disributed workplace. 

The use of technology within the office is likely to be quite different to pre-pandemic with increased useage of laptops, video conferencing and collaborative technology. The exact set up is likely to be determined over a number of weeks of adapting things to ensure suitability for all, which will only be realised once employees are back in the office. However, it is important to establish a way of working which can be agreed by all and implemented, so that everyone knows what is expected of them to support inclusion for all. 

  1. Leadership  

Managers and strategists have been through a challenging time over the past 2 years and this is definitely set to continue, with a fine balance between flexibility and rules around working practices. You will never be able to keep the entire workforce 100% happy with the decisions that will be necessary to ensure a sustainable hybrid working environment. Whilst it is important to take on all feedback throughout, it is equally vital to ensure employees are abiding by the rules put in place as they are there to maximise inclusion for everyone. 

Managing a hybrid workforce is not going to be easy, you will need the support of both leaders higher up and influential individuals within your team to achieve success. It is important to be transparent with all and engage with employees to allow constant input and feedback. This should all be centrally supported through consistent internal communication and consistency within the application of rules and best practices for all employees, top to bottom. 

  1. Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is an aspect of commercial strategy which has become a major pillar of workforce support within the last 5 years and was heightened through the panic & uncertainty of the world during the pandemic. It has become apparent that companies have a duty of care to ensure the wellbeing of their employees at all times both physically and mentally. Through the pandemic many organisations included remote sessions on mindfullness to support their workforce’s mental health and also provided a budget to they had a ensure comfortable working environment at home. 

Returning to the office will be equally as daunting as the move to remote work for some. Maintaining emotional support and empathy throughout can significantly enhance the experience for employees and should be an element of your strategy which is a constant. 

Overall, the move to hybrid working will be a balancing act with increased complexity to maintain happiness, inclusion, wellbeing and efficiency aligned with the business interests of the organisation to maintain competitive advantage. 

We would love to hear your thoughts on the Future of Work in this new era of hybrid working and are hosting two sessions in September where we will have HR & Digital Strategists discuss the planning stages of establishing their blue print and how they envision this will work to enhance working practices and success for years to come. 

If you would like to attend the online sessions you can register online here 

HR Transformation & Digital Workplace | Wednesday 22nd September

Fireside chats & presentations on:

  • Digital Tools & Technologies for the workplace 
  • Allowing for great productivity through digital application 
  • Creating an agile organisation 
  • Building resilience in the workforce through digital

Future of Work, Workplace Transformation & Hybrid Workplace | Wednesday 29th September

Panel Session Discussion on:

  • Trends within the digital tool landscape
  • Company culture & instilling innovative thinking 
  • Leadership beyond the pandemic 
  • Hybrid workplace models 
  • Future of work predictions 

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