Why a hybrid work structure will be key to reviving employee engagement and productivity in the post-Covid world.
There is no part of society or the economy that has not been touched by the Covid-19 pandemic. It saw the biggest shakeup to common working practices in living memory, with remote working becoming widespread for the majority of office-based workers. While the world of work will never be the same again, the assumption that office life, as we know it, would come to an end and people would want to universally move to remote working now looks to be an overreaction.
For the foreseeable future, the welfare of staff will continue to be of paramount importance, and as subsequent waves spread across Europe bringing further lockdowns, there will remain a high proportion of employees working from home. However, a new report from Barco ClickShare, Finding a New Balance, reveals that there is now a strong desire to return to normal, which includes reconnecting with colleagues and friends in a way that only office life can deliver.
Almost half of employees (49 per cent) say they enjoy home working far less now than they did at the start of the pandemic, while 85 per cent are keen to return to the office to resume the social aspect of working life. However, the desire to head back to the office comes with the caveat that people still want to retain the freedom, flexibility and functionality to enable them to work from home – but this time on their terms.
Employees see a future where they can achieve a positive balance of office and home working, spending a maximum of two days working from home. The shift to a hybrid work model is nothing new, but a trend that has been building for many years with the advancement of technology. Covid-19 has simply acted as the flashpoint, accelerating the timeline.
Technology is fundamental to this transformation, as hybrid working is only viable and productive when employees have access to the right tools and solutions. Office workers foresee a significant rise in the number of hybrid meetings over the next 12 months, according to the report, as businesses rely increasingly on virtual technology to connect their home and office-based teams. Video conferencing is at the heart of this virtual collaboration, with three quarters of workers (77 per cent) using video conferencing rooms at least once a week. Interestingly, workplace collaboration now revolves around the laptop, with 56 per cent of people expressing a clear preference for using their own devices to access and host virtual conferencing sessions, whether at home or in the office. It is no surprise then that virtual conferencing technology is now seen as the number one investment priority by office workers.
The wider adoption of virtual technologies will drive a redesign in office space to facilitate better connectivity between physical and virtual participants. Today, half of employees prefer formal meeting rooms over huddle spaces, as they are better able to accommodate the technological infrastructure required to facilitate virtual collaboration. In fact, during the past year, at the height of the pandemic, nearly half of employees reported a surge in daily meetings frequency.
Investment and further innovation in technology will see meeting quality and employee engagement continue to rise. Almost half of employees (49 per cent) admit that collaborating remotely does not yet come naturally. These shortcomings can be addressed by providing access to better IT infrastructure and workplace technologies to facilitate virtual interactions that are more natural and authentic and are able to bring the humanity back to online engagement. Barco’s quarterly Meeting Quality Index suggests a cautious optimism, with 35 per cent of people believing meetings have improved from this time last year.
Employee feedback strongly supports the need for face-to-face interaction at work. However, organisations must find the right balance between physical contact in the office and virtual collaboration. They must ensure that their employees have the best possible technologies to work effectively and productively together, whether they are in the office or working from home. Businesses must be inventive and adaptable in order to rebuild and eventually thrive in the post-pandemic world. If they can successfully navigate this transformation to a hybrid work structure, supported by the right technologies, they will be better prepared to deal with the challenges over the coming months or even years, and seize the opportunities that will surely follow.
By Lieven Bertier, Director of Workplace, Barco
Image provided by Barco