There has been a distinct lack of control over the course of the pandemic. Communities, businesses and even the Government have been locked into a reactive state, with our route heavily determined by the course of the virus.
The level of autonomy that we expect to come through our own planning and decision making has been temporarily hidden.
However, the initial movement we were hoping for in terms of returning to the workplace is beginning to manifest and the discussions over how we will return to work, are now starting to show more detail.
The thoughts and hypotheses around hybrid working are becoming more real as they are translated into plans, policies and briefings. The time has arrived – we’re on our way back to the workplace.
So, what’s next?
What are the disadvantages of hybrid and remote working?
We already know that the whole concept of hybrid working needs to be ironed out. Successfully implementing flexible working is going to require a 360 framework that remedies the concerns and imbalances already predicted.
Some of the issues that leaders are deliberating include:
- Loss of work culture – which can also impact employee retention as well as wellbeing and productivity.
- Digital burnout – the lack of defined start and end points to the day have led to employees working well into the evening as well as over the weekends.
- Increase in video calls – a recent report by Microsoft saw that employees are now juggling a 51% increase in scheduled meetings as well as a 46% increase in notifications, which in turn can lead to stress and loss in productivity.
- Difficulties onboarding – joining a company while everyone is working remotely can be very hard on newcomers and puts more pressure on managers to train them as well as provide them with an active support network.
- Fewer opportunities – casual conversations and chance meetings are currently on hold, and as well as the isolation that that can bring, it is also curtailing the number of opportunities we have access to through general networking.
- Disjointed communication – conversations need to be planned and scheduled. They are more transactional in their nature and day-to-day conversations (that often spark ideas and innovation) are much less common.
Read more about the considerations for hybrid working here:
What do we need?
Solutions to the above concerns are already being proposed and we are seeing suggestions come through that cover shortened meetings (to allow for breaks, better concentration and reduced stress) no meetings Fridays, clear policies on remote work, adjustments around childcare and also better support for new employees.
But as we make our way towards a new way of working – whatever that model might look like – it has definitely brought into question, our priorities, needs and preferences when it comes to how we structure our lives.
What do we need to address?
The key takeaways from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index include:
Prioritisation is key for productivity – prioritisation really impacts an individual’s productivity. This means being able to decide what emails to respond to, what notifications to switch off and what they can say no to, in order to align their day with the overall goals of the business.
McKinsey’s feature on the trends defining 2021 continues how productivity may also be achieved by organising the workforce into smaller, more focused teams :
“Another leadership priority is to accelerate the shift toward getting work done using small teams focused on outcomes and characterised by a high degree of trust, collegiality and apprenticeship.
Rather than regularly evaluating progress, post-pandemic leadership is becoming about clarifying goals and strategy, as well as coaching and motivating such teams. Companies that made systematic efforts along these lines report much higher productivity than do those that didn’t. Many companies are just beginning to absorb this change, which will be an essential feature of the way work gets done.”
Better onboarding – The onboarding experience definitely needs refining and as well as making sure managers are better supported in ensuring a smooth integration, we need a much more seamless onboarding process. Not only to help new employees feel taken care of, but also to make sure they get a good first impression of the company, so they don’t start looking elsewhere.
Empower managers with insights. Knowledge is power. The report said, “A solid system for listening to employees will help leaders tap into the evolving needs of their workforce. Equip managers with these insights and ensure that they understand their heightened role in maintaining team connection in a more digital world.”
So, we will definitely be looking for new ways to stay connected as we move forward as well as understand how we can be more productive, without tiring out the workforce.
How can technology help?
In addition to the more general – and highly accelerated – level of digital transformation that continues to be a focus, there are more specific ways in which technology is impacting work processes and culture – in line with the elements highlighted above.
Productivity is achieved by adopting an all-encompassing approach. And a major element of this is allowing employees to drive higher value through focused tasks as well as cut down on the excessive number of video calls and ad hoc meetings that are on the increase.
Furthermore, reviewing and improving workflows, automating manual tasks and optimising how we work, allows employees to refocus their time on more value add activities.
“There are numerous challenges that a dispersed workforce presents,” says Head of Application Development at Evros, Trevor Dagg.
“When you separate teams and employees, what was working from a process and communication perspective can break down and critical tasks get missed, stuck or forgotten. Manual tasks including paper-based processes, are having to be re-evaluated to fit around remote and hybrid workers.
The good news is many of these types of issues can be solved through intelligent automation. Bots are highly adept at performing repetitive tasks and can do the work of 3-5 FTEs on a 24/7 basis, with a cost saving of up to 50%. They also allow you to eliminate human error while increasing speed and accuracy,” says Trevor.
“In addition, Business Process Management tools allow you to automate your workflows to ensure no steps are missed and that complex processes are fully managed from start to finish.
The processes involved for employee onboarding, for example, are often lengthy, complex and disconnected. This can create a lot of time-consuming manual work for HR and IT which is also prone to error – and is even more difficult on a hybrid and remote basis. This in turn can lead to poor experiences for new employees, as well as huge compliance and legal implications when vital steps are missed.
By defining your workflows and integrating your systems, you can create a clear overview of each process as well as leverage automation to connect up all the steps – even with legacy systems.”
Find out more about how we’re using automation to create an 80% time saving for finance and accounting teams here:
There is no doubt that teams need to be together – it might not be all the time. But being in the office drives innovation, ideas, passion and energy. And so collaborative workspaces will be key no matter what.
“When you lose connections, you stop innovating. It’s harder for new ideas to get in and groupthink becomes a serious possibility,” says Dr. Nancy Baym, Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft.
As companies balance a mix of in-person and remote teams, it will be important to remember that remote work makes for more siloed teams. This means, leaders must look for ways to foster cross-team collaboration and the spontaneous idea-sharing that’s been driving workplace innovation for decades.
“Collaboration is critical for maintaining innovation in the workplace,” says Business Solutions Practice Director at Evros, Paul Gilbride.
“But enabling this on a hybrid basis means having a simple and effective method of knowing when your colleagues are in as well as being able to work closely together and drive that energy back into your teams.
Our Office Pass app is already enabling over 15,000 users across 15 different countries to head back to the workplace safely. It allows you to define and book your workspace as well as see when your colleagues are in so that employees can continue to connect, innovate and grow their networks,” he says.
Find out more about the future of hybrid working here:
For our way of working to continue to evolve, feedback and insights are going to be paramount. We have already seen this in the development of our apps for flexible working:
“Office pass has presented us with the largest most purposeful insight into employee needs than any other solution we have released,” says Paul.
“The constant feedback loop has brought us features such as ‘in office team days’ for booking office areas for a monthly team session. ‘Office-Based collaboration’ for seeing who is physically in on a specific day and things like the ‘are you fit and well module?’ enabling you to adapt the covid questionnaire to a more up to date Government remit such as vaccination status. These are all the things that have changed rapidly over the summer and continue to keep us on our toes to rapidly evolve as required,” he says.
By enabling these insights through technologies such as Power Apps and Power BI, you can visualise and action your data, draw conclusions and also make efficiencies.
Planning your next steps
We are all presently challenging the traditional workplace model. And for decisions to be made, we need to focus:
As we head back to the workplace, we need to measure and analyse how employees are using the workspace as well as what they need, what’s missing and what could be made better.
For example, we are already doing this with our customers through Evros Office Pass and will continue to build their feedback into our solutions, to ensure they continue to meet the needs of Irish Businesses.
Investing in bridging our physical and digital worlds
The workplace is going to continue to be the hub for innovation and ideation. So, it needs to be a place of inspiration – somewhere that gets employees excited.
Moreover, we will need the everyday technologies that we rely on, such as Microsoft Teams, to provide new ways of working, wherever your employees are.
Improving employee experience
Automation is already empowering a much more efficient and focused way of working, It is enabling teams to break free from repetitive tasks and also refine their work processes. It will also be key for helping businesses to reduce costs, which again, is a major focus for 2021 and beyond.
Maintaining productivity without digital exhaustion
Productivity can be achieved through numerous ways but the key is to make sure employees do not feel overloaded. Wellbeing needs to be prioritised, meetings need to be balanced with focus time and employees need to feel empowered to structure their days without their work life bleeding into their home life.
Find out more
To discuss any of the technologies mentioned above, including our automation solutions, our business process management tools and our apps for enabling flexible working, just get in touch.
You can also read more in our blog: