By Stephanie Leontis, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Workplace Solutions
The pandemic changed the way businesses think about remote work. For the first time, many companies discovered that their employees could be productive and even shine in a work-from-home situation. But this environment has obstacles to navigate as well, such as decreased opportunities for collaboration, the potential loss of company culture, and more.
So rather than mandating full-time office work or implementing 100% work-from-home plans, many businesses are experimenting with flexible models of part-time in-person, part-time remote work. This has companies everywhere asking themselves:
“How can we create a flexible work model that benefits our workforce, customers, and business?”
Getting hybrid work right requires a balanced approach that takes employee preference into account while furthering overall business goals. Here’s what you need to know — and how the right technology can help.
Today’s Work Landscape
As offices have reopened and businesses have shown a willingness to experiment with flexible work, they are seeing the following benefits:
- Improved employee well-being. Across industries, employees report that remote work has resulted in a better work-life balance and increased well-being.
- Higher productivity. U.S. economic productivity increased over 3% per hour after the start of the pandemic, more than double the prior period’s growth, according to Goldman Sachs research.
- Increased job satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, a boost in employee well-being, lack of office distractions, and higher concentration and productivity levels have led to greater job satisfaction.
- A larger talent pool. With extremely low unemployment rates, a hybrid model helps recruitment and retention by offering the flexibility employees seek.
- Lower expenses. Commuting costs, meals, and even the need for an office wardrobe are slashed from personal budgets, while companies realize costs savings for items like business meals and travel.
- Reduced real estate needs. In a 2022 CBRE survey, 62% of large occupiers expect contraction over the next three years, and of that group, 84% cite hybrid work arrangements as the primary driver of contraction.
How to Create a Successful Flexible Work Model
The hybrid work picture isn’t all rosy, however. Managers cite challenges such as isolation and disengagement, missed communications, resentment between in-person and work-from-home personnel, and training and mentoring difficulties ― to name just a few.
These challenges are real. But they can be mitigated or overcome by focusing on five current trends and best practices for a thriving hybrid work environment.
Build a collaborative office environment
Companies are being intentional about creating a workplace environment that caters to in-person interactions while complementing work done virtually.
The office’s role is increasingly where the workforce gathers to:
- Interact with their teams
- Meet face-to-face with mentors
- Build long-lasting relationships
In this environment, the ability to find ideal meeting spaces has taken on increased importance. Workplace strategists are using desk booking software and room scheduling systems with calendar integrations, search filters, favorites lists, meeting recurrences, and setup wizards to save time and streamline collaboration.
Create the ideal workplace configuration
These days, business are focusing on creating an environment where the workforce wants to come into the office. Firms are crafting exceptional workforce experiences to differentiate their brands and improve employee well-being, with features like:
- Restaurants, on-site or near-site childcare, and pop-up events
- Design elements like staircases that link people to lounges and cafes for improved socializing
- Office neighborhoods that enable different teams of employees to gather at different times
Businesses are implementing technology to drive these initiatives. Hybrid work scheduling software offers features like full calendar integrations and check-in/ check-out through desk signs or mobile apps. And reporting tools give vital insights into important desk analytics, including where employees sit and which spaces are underutilized.
Improve your space utilization
With fewer employees in the office each day, companies are exploring tools like office hoteling to optimize their real estate usage, resulting in an increased focus on getting rid of underutilized spaces.
And with technological advancements and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), measuring space utilization has become easier and more accurate. Consider sensors, trackers, imagers, and machine learning. For example, optical sensors in smart cameras can use real-time images to detect movement and better measure how many people are using private and shared spaces and determine when these spaces are most occupied.
Cloud-based workplace management software can then aggregate the data from these sensors and trackers to provide robust analytics and reporting ― for better space utilization decision-making.
Fine-tune the customer experience
As organizations welcome employees back to the office, they are also welcoming customers and clients back to the office. Customer meetings are highly polished, with touches like:
- Room furniture positioned and customized for the meeting type
- Catering that matches the numbers and particular needs of attendees
- Audiovisual and video conferencing setups that are ready to go, no matter how large or small the client conference
- The ability to privately check in and view meeting locations
Behind the scenes, service managers are ensuring everything runs smoothly by integrating seamless email, ordering, and billing with all services groups. They are also creating white-glove office hoteling systems where employees can reserve desk space quickly and easily. This is typically done through a desk or room scheduling platform that eliminates potential errors like double bookings.
Tie it all together with technology investments
Today only a minority of organizations have the full technology necessary to support flexible work.
A Riverbed | Aternity global survey of business leaders in industries including finance, insurance, government, retail, and professional services found that just 32% of business decision makers and 33% of IT decision makers believe they are completely prepared to support long-term hybrid work.
But the situation is changing. So that employees feel connected and are productive wherever they are working, companies are putting the technology in place:
- Desk and room booking solutions
- Robust video conferencing systems
- Resource scheduling software
- Digital whiteboards
- Occupancy sensors
- Air quality monitors
- Thermal cameras
- Employee polling software
- Space utilization and analysis software
- Smart desks
- And more
The Future of the Flexible Office
For businesses to thrive in a hybrid world, they will need to create a structure that allows for the workforce to continue to deliver productive, high-quality work that ultimately delivers on the company mission of serving customers.