Redefining Work As Employees Return To The Office

New hybrid models offer tremendous opportunities—and pose big challenges. Here are five ways to make sure you get it right.

How and where we work underwent a dramatic shift two years ago, with employees across industries and around the world suddenly more likely to be working from their homes than in company offices.

Businesses scrambled to adjust to the needs, challenges and opportunities presented by remote workers. They had to provide the technology for employees to be productive and collaborate from anywhere. They had to address security concerns as employees accessed company data from home networks rather than corporate ones. And they had to navigate an evolving work culture, finding ways to stay connected with employees whose work and home lives were blurring together like never before.

Many of those employees have begun returning to offices in recent weeks, as companies have reopened their traditional workplaces in response to declining Covid cases.

Now comes the hard part.

We’re not going back to how things were before the pandemic. Some employees are going to be in the office, some are going to be at home, and many are going to be somewhere in the middle—operating from different locations based on the tasks they’re doing that day and the workstyles that best suit them. Cisco’s Accelerating Digital Agility research found that 98% of future meetings will include at least one participant not in the same physical location as everyone else.

This hybrid model of work will be harder to manage than when everyone was in an office, or everyone was remote. Special effort needs to be made to ensure that all employees have the same opportunity to contribute and be successful, no matter where they are.

Here are five characteristics needed to accomplish a hybrid work offering.

  1. Flexibility. People want to be able to work from anywhere. (Accenture’s Future of Work Study 2021 found that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model.) You need the ability to accommodate different work styles and locations.
  2. Inclusivity. Everyone needs to have a seat at the table, no matter where the table is.
  3. Supportiveness. Employees have been incredibly productive during the past two years, but fatigue and burnout are a concern. Mental health is critical. When people are not all in the same physical location it’s important that you can still pick up on how others are doing.
  4. Security, privacy and compliance. Employees must be able to access company data and resources in a secure manner no matter where they are.
  5. Manageability. You need to have a single place from which you can manage your hardware, facilities, devices, calling infrastructure, messaging infrastructure, meetings and everything you need to make sure that people can communicate.

Providing a successful hybrid environment is a cross-functional undertaking. There’s a technology component, providing the necessary tools for easy collaboration and for secure access. There’s a facilities component, configuring physical offices to be welcoming and include collaborative spaces. And it all starts with people and adopting inclusive practices, such as restructuring how meetings are run to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.

This is a unique time in history, an opportunity to redefine work. The expectations of employees and employers alike are changing.

Fundamentally, hybrid work means that work isn’t where you go, it’s what you do. It’s about understanding how employees work and that what they achieve is more important than where and when they work. By bringing flexibility and adaptability, you can meet the needs of your business while playing to the strengths of employees and how they prefer to work.

We’re moving into a world of borderless talent. Technology opens the marketplace, allowing us to better connect people in developing countries or rural areas with job opportunities. This gives employers access to a wider pool of talented people than ever before and is another way of driving an inclusive future for all.

Find our latest information on Hybrid Work and begin your journey.

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