Work has changed. Since early 2020, thanks to rolling lockdowns and workplace capacity limits, many industries look decidedly different. Distinction between the home and the office is blurred as employees and employers alike work through the turbulence.
Flexible working between the home and office — the ‘hybrid’ model — is quickly becoming the norm. Businesses should look to hybrid to seek protection against future lockdowns and other unknowns. Being equipped will be vital to keeping a business working in the face of future challenges.
For employees, research shows that hybrid working is now a key factor, both in terms of job retention and future employment prospects.
For David Okulicz, managing director of Kytec, the advice is for other businesses to embrace the change — because staff are overwhelmingly in favour. “From what everyone’s telling us, and certainly our experience, there’s definitely a big resistance to a full time return to office,” says Okulicz.
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“I think it’s a trend we will see across the world and it will become an expectation of workplaces. The old adage of ‘working from home doesn’t work for our industry’ just won’t fly anymore.”
Collaboration infrastructure is the first step
To be successful in hybrid working arrangements, businesses need to make sure their communications infrastructure is equipped for remote working. And with hybrid, it’s important to remember that even working from the office will be considered ‘remote’ in the sense of collaboration.
With a greater demand for hybrid arrangements, employees require more powerful and immersive collaboration infrastructure. “The hybrid part of that is making sure that you’ve got a device set up in the office which allows in-person and remote participants to contribute equally,” says Okulicz.
Equal-weighted contribution is the key to successful collaboration — especially across a digital distance. “Everyone’s going to have to feel like they’re involved and immersed in the same meeting, not remote participants and local participants not being able to communicate and collaborate effectively.”
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Technology beyond collaboration
Employee and business safety and security should be prioritised, too. Employees need to feel protected, and businesses need to safeguard private data, even beyond the bounds of the office.
“We’re seeing a drastically increased level of attempts and successes in compromising individuals and businesses,” says Okulicz. “[Previously] we had corporate firewalls and big locks on the front door and even if something got in, the chances of getting data out or the malware actually spreading through were relatively small.”
Now, though, businesses making the jump to hybrid are at increased risk of compromise. Increased protections beyond the walls of the office will give employees greater confidence in a business’s ability to manage hybrid working arrangements, and help with staff retention.
For this, Okulicz recommends implementing security overlay software and multi-factor authentication — both easy and relatively inexpensive ways to prioritise safety in the transition to hybrid.
Empowerment and new concepts of management
Okulicz says that for businesses looking to start implementing hybrid practices, they’ll need to find an empowering approach to people management.
“You need to operate in a different way to manage and inspire and motivate in a hybrid world,” says Okulicz
In moving to a hybrid model, it’s important to strike the balance between management and staff autonomy. As Okulicz has found at Kytec, regular team meetings and energising staff to feel involved, even when they’re separated, is critical.
“I think the biggest change operationally was definitely going to daily stand up meetings,” says Okulicz.
“It’s about making sure that people are connecting. It’s important that they feel safe, that they know how to communicate, that they’ve got help when they need to and that everyone works and pulls together as a team.”
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