As organisations tentatively explore their post lockdown return to the office, the term “Hybrid Working” has been born. In this article Richard Betts, Trig Point Consulting’s Lead Consultant, explores what does hybrid working truly mean to an organisation, why have a hybrid working plan and what are the pitfalls.
The big technology question is – has the pandemic been the catalyst to finally unlock the golden mantra of remote working so often alluded to by technology vendors; “work is something we do, not a place we go to” and the aged classic to be able to work “anytime anyplace anywhere”?
The advances in cloud communications technology have coincided with the disruptive forces presented by the pandemic. This led to a global gold rush as organisations reached to the cloud in a bid to support home working as organisations rushed to combat the reality of a lockdown.
Evidence suggests that the nation’s workforce working habits have also shifted, and the desire to balance working at the office and home has become a must have in the post pandemic workplace. The CIPD’s ‘Embedding new ways of working post-pandemic’ report found that 40% of employers expect more than half of the workforce to work from home after the pandemic. The scale of the shift in working practices can be gauged by the CIPD findings that before the pandemic, 65% of employers either did not offer regular working from home at all or offered it to 10% or less of their workforce. This is supported by the ONS who cite 5% of the workforce were home workers pre COVID-19.
The dilemma now being considered by Leadership Teams is should the short term tactical measure now become a viable long term strategy? The implications for getting this key operational strategic decision wrong will ripple far outside the confines of the office affecting customers, new hires, staff retention, brand image and potential financial stability. The rewards for making and implementing the right decision can be the complete opposite to the downside, with positive impacts on both the bottom and top lines.
Disruption, Adaptation & Business Survival
The last 18 months have truly tested organisations and their IT Teams as the global office population rapidly retreated into their homes converting living space into office workspace. The subsequent demand for Cloud communication platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and RingCentral resulted in a meteoric rise in their user subscriptions with the associated revenue growth. This trend is forecast to continue and we even saw Zoom and Zooming enter the Oxford dictionary.
Our recent LinkedIn Post provided a performance summary of the leading vendors:
The big question now facing leadership teams and employees is; where should their people physically work from now? There is no doubt that the stakes are high and rising as we move towards the Winter
A glance through the business pages on the BBC regularly features the latest hybrid working announcement from a large business, leaving the reader to form their own opinion on how the featured company treats or even values its workforce.
A relatively straightforward Hybrid Working policy has now evolved into a highly emotive topic which has become a key staff welfare matter judged by a mass global audience. Senior Management Teams now have a tight rope to walk as they tackle the hybrid working conundrum balancing staff wellbeing, brand ethical image, productivity, security and of course profitability post lockdowns.
Positively there are many benefits to a well-planned and implemented Hybrid Working plan. Trig Point Consulting has worked with organisations to help them plan and implement their Hybrid Working strategy.
Why Implement a Hybrid Working Strategy?
Hybrid Working is so much more than a buzz word used to grab headlines. It presents the opportunity for organisations to implement a strategic change which drives personalised customer engagement, facilitates flexible working options for employees, highly available simplified technology infrastructure and real cost savings & underpinning compelling ROIs. So much more than just a return to work plan.
Brand Image – A consistent means to communicate, hold meetings and interact with the organisation provides a positive image. Clients, stakeholders, employees and prospect new hires are attracted to organisations which invest in promoting a healthier (mentally and physically) workplace where wellbeing is recognised. Hybrid Working plays a vital part in helping support a balanced working environment.
Financial Savings & ROI – The financial model for most hybrid working plans involves a shift to an operating cost plan which is offset by a range of reduction, removal and consolidation measures. The output of this exercise is the rationalisation of technology services and/or suppliers. A shift to competitive call bundles or usage models, internet based calls/meetings and mobile first services lowers the billing spikes helping “smooth” the monthly telephone bills. A recent Trig Point Consulting project for a client where a Hybrid Working Strategy was implemented deploying Microsoft Teams saved in excess of £100K (60% saving) over a three year term.
Ease of Use – providing a consistent user experience regardless of the user’s working location is vital to help increase success with user adoption rates. By simplifying, the experience training can be tailored to user’s needs while removing barriers to change.
Health & Safety Hygiene – Typically users will be utilising their laptop, mobile and possibly tablet to support the telephone / collaboration applications. This automatically removes the need and cost to have handsets in the office while supporting a clear desk office policy. This is important to enable cleaning of desks and surfaces in the office.
Consolidation of Technology – The technology stack/estate needed to support a typical VoIP/unified communications service can be dramatically reduced, freeing up IT resource and budget. This move can allow IT specialists to be realigned to projects supporting the business instead of “keeping the lights on” remedial work.
Business Continuity Planning (BCP) – The very nature of hybrid working automatically requires the technology to be accessed regardless of physical location and is independent on the users choice of device. This is the ideal solution to allow the organisation to react to a disaster or risk management plan. The need for expensive back up telephone systems and improvised communication services in the event of a disaster should now be thing of the past.
Enhance Customer Experience – Allowing customers to easily communicate using their preferred method (voice, video, chat) regardless of where the user is located or their device can now be a reality. Realtime presence spanning devices will encourage deeper client relationships and promote greater collaborative working within the workplace.
Dodge the Pitfalls
There are always obstacles to manage with any programme of change, some of the key ones worth reviewing are below.
Walking blindly back in time
Ask yourself this very important question. Can your current Communications and IT Systems support the fundamental need to allow your users and customers to communicate seamlessly and consistently regardless of location? – if not then there is a very real risk you are stepping back in time into the “old world” when your staff were tethered to their office desk by their telephone curly cord.
Once staff were homebased, most users adapted their use of technology and devices to support their day to day needs. The reality is that a user’s experience of technology is more immersive and collaborative now then pre-pandemic. Lockdown disrupted the workplace leaving the users with limited choice but to adapt and embrace a new way of communicating depending on the technology/cloud services procured by the organisation.
The rush to home work has left most office telephone systems in a state of suspended animation while calls are forwarded to a cloud service or a mobile device. In person meetings were replaced with new technology online meeting services such as Zoom and Teams. Ultimately users are in control of how they want to communicate with their peers, suppliers and most importantly their customers.
As we head back to the office there is a very real risk the old system in the office has become unfit for purpose and even a barrier to work. Furthermore, as staff move between home and office the user experience will be a clash of two worlds – directly impacting productivity and profitability.
Now is the time to engage your users and understand how their customers want to communicate and how your users manage these communications now. Can your organisation support this same experience when the users are in the office?
A key consideration is that your customer wants easy consistent reliable methods to communicate with the organisation. COVID-19 has forced clients and users to evolve and adapt how they communicate.
Meeting Rooms – Do not leave your meeting rooms behind in the rush to get users back into the office. These areas are typically client facing and are a window into your organisation’s adoption of technology. Extending online meetings into a meeting room is the next big step to be tackled, ignoring this area in your plan can stop your hybrid working plan in its tracks.
Headsets & Handsets – The shift to headsets which provide good quality speech and audio are in short supply in the market. It is always worth reviewing the options and letting users choose from a range of devices. Both headsets and handsets can be difficult to source and should be procured well in advance of your live day.
Security – the very nature of a hybrid working plan is to distribute your work force and promote the use of mobile based technology in a range of physical locations. Security and compliance standards must be maintained and even elevated to take into account the wider cyber threat.
Plan for change
Trig Point Consulting has extensive experience supporting organisations to understand & define project requirements, preparing strategic business plans and implementing technology strategies.
Our extensive experience in managing the end to end process from discovery to planning, procurement to deployment and driving user adoption, allows our Consultants to provide independent impartial advice based on actual experience.
We can help you develop a clear strategy, procure the appropriate technology and services, then project manage the change programme that will be required to deliver a hybrid working strategy.
If you have any questions about your Hybrid Working Strategy or would like help making your technology work for your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact Richard and the team on 0203 855 6325, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.