“There are decades where nothing happens. Then there are weeks where decades happen.”
Most of the time change happens at slow increments, things evolve at a subtle level and it’s only when looking back over a long passage of time that you will notice a tangible difference. At other times monumental changes happen all at once. And this is what happened to the business world in late February 2020. Indeed, even though Lenin’s quote about ‘weeks where decades happen’ was written about a political revolution a century ago – it’s perfectly apt for how much has changed for the business world since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes for most businesses were certainly as tumultuous and as era-defining – with the vast majority of companies forced to change working models overnight. And in the short time since then, the resulting switch to remote and hybrid working has given businesses almost as many challenges as it has benefits.
Timing and Technology
Of course, that the business world was able to adapt at all during the pandemic is a testament to both timing and technology. It would have taken years, if not decades for companies to risk switching work models without the pandemic hitting when it did. And if it happened any sooner the tech might not have been ready. But ready it was, and it meant that the short-term hybrid working solutions available to businesses were remarkably effective in this time of crisis.
However, as capable as the technology was, it was designed with an eye to the short term. No one had fully envisaged what collaboration would look like if entire teams worked remotely. And there was a distinct lack of data on how employees would embrace hybrid working models, or how connected, happy and productive they might be in today’s unprecedented working environment.
So as hybrid working becomes the new normal, it’s only natural that there are considerable challenges for businesses in getting the most from their employees, and retaining their most valuable and productive talent.
However as with many of today’s business challenges, it’s technology that can provide the most effective solutions.
So what are the main challenges?
The main challenges which have emerged in the years since the pandemic can be divided into three distinct categories – connectivity, productivity and employee happiness. These are of course not mutually exclusive. Technology that doesn’t help with one area will likely affect another area. Poor connectivity can translate into poor productivity, while being too connected might be too much for your employees’ morale. So let’s look at each area to examine what the challenges are in more detail.
A recent ‘Breakthrough Study’ by Dell Technologies showed that 74% of 200 business and IT leaders in Ireland regard their people as their greatest asset in unlocking the potential of technology. That means that good connectivity will be key to enabling their employees. However many of the solutions implemented during the pandemic were not long serving at doing this.
The issues are often not on an individual level either but more so in a collaborative sense. More and more tools are evolving or emerging which give more of a team focus. Shared dashboards, collaborative design tools and whiteboard spaces allow for easier connection between co-workers. And conversely they remove the needs for an individual micro-management of tasks.
But of course these tools will work better for certain industries over others. It is of course tech companies who are leading the way in improving connectivity – not just because they are innovating the tech but because they are most suited – alongside fintech, creative industries, and consultation services.
The real challenge lies in helping all industries to better adapt and pivot to hybrid working. This may lead to an emergence of more tailored, niche solutions and that will only benefit hybrid working model in the long run. An element of one solution can become the main component of another.
Of course the valuing of their people above all else needs to be more than just talk by industry leaders, it needs to bear out in their staff’s happiness levels. The onset of remote and hybrid working has been truly revolutionary for the once desk-bound office worker. Work-life balance ratios have been transformed especially for certain cohorts like time-poor working parents. However not every age group will automatically be happier just because they can work from home. Graduates and younger team members need to learn to do their job, which is a lot harder if they are not shadowing someone or absorbing knowledge in an office environment. They also crave the social elements that a vibrant office can provide. Conversely, along with all employees, they need to feel trusted to get on with their job tasks without being continually monitored or micromanaged.
It’s interesting that the Breakthrough Study reported that over 60% of Irish employees feel they are not enjoying a better work/life balance since the onset of hybrid working. While a US study by Stanford University states that 56% of employed surveyed feared an ‘always on’ mentality.
This all means that there is a lot for management teams to balance. Their hybrid-working models needs to allow teams to easily connect yet easily disconnect and for individuals to feel motivated without feeling like they are not being trusted.
It’s a balance that might be hard to get right, but doing so will hold the competitive advantage for attracting the best talent and retaining a happy productive workforce. Ensuring you have the right technology to achieve this will also be key.
However, the raison d’etre of your business is not to focus solely on your employees’ happiness. It is more beneficial that your happy employee will also be a productive employee. And productivity is the name of the game in all this. That’s why any helpful solutions should optimise teamwork over individual work and visibility over micro-surveillance.
From a big picture perspective it’s a push towards agility and efficiency with your teams, tools and services that will drive this for your business. To achieve this you will need to invest in technology infrastructure that optimises the benefits of hybrid working and minimises the negatives. Any hybrid platform should be transparent, offering the right balance between connectivity and allowing team members the space to get things done. Tools and tech that offer this are emerging and some like our WorkStyle solution are already available.
How we can help your business with our WorkStyle hybrid working solution
As a leader in the hybrid workspace we are well aware of the long-term challenges that this new model is bringing to businesses who have transformed how they operate since 2019. That’s why we developed our WorkStyle solution, which puts the focus on teamwork and collaboration, ensuring your employees are better connected and more productive. It has been designed to facilitate hybrid with minimal intrusion, allowing team members to get on with their work. It’s also agile enough to suit most business projects making it easy to access the information at team level and support better decisions for collaboration.
And this is just the first generation of tech solutions which can help you optimise your emerging hybrid work models. As the business world continues to rapidly change so will the challenges, but we will continue to innovate with it and continue to offer you the best solutions as we embrace the changed world that is the 2020s.