The future of work: combatting the Great Resignation

Paul Clark at Poly argues that technology combined with empathy will enable businesses to meet employee expectations about hybrid working

If digital transformation raised the bar on consumer experience, hybrid working is doing the same for employee expectations. The great work from home (WFH) experiment that swept us up over the past 18 months may finally be winding down.

But there’s no going back to pre-pandemic norms. Employees have had a glimpse of a different world of work. And when offices reopen, flexibility, personalisation and wellness will be key to creating workplaces that attract the best talent.

Technology will play a crucial role as employers look to build hybrid working cultures that are right for their organisation. But that doesn’t mean rolling out a few thousand Teams licenses and handing out headsets. It will require listening to what staff actually want, and a deeper strategic imperative to connect people, technology and spaces.

Wellness and equality matter

It’s become something of a cliché to describe an organisation’s most important asset as its people. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. In fact, over the course of the pandemic, most staff burnished their credentials, adapting quickly and effectively to the new home working environment.

Now the pendulum is swinging even further away from employers, as employees begin to reassess their lives and careers, in what has been described as “The Great Resignation”.

Hybrid working will increasingly be the most favoured strategy to retain these workers—enabling employers to deliver the reduced stress, improved work-life balance and zero commute times prized by staff but also to tap the benefits of office-based work. Of the 7,000+ hybrid workers we polled across Europe and the UAE recently, over half (54%) said they plan to split their time evenly between office and home.

However, while hybrid working has become essential in a market characterised by talent shortage, it must be delivered sympathetically. Many employees have expressed concerns that working remotely some of the time would have a negative impact on their career development and progression (43%), and that they may be discriminated against versus full-time office-goers (52%).

Over half (58%) felt that home working has made it harder to disconnect from work—forcing them into an “always on” culture.

Fixing these challenges will in part require home workers to be given the right set of immersive collaboration tools and accompanying IT support, so they can be as productive away from HQ as in it. That means offering the same experience as those working from the office. But it also means doubling down on efforts to tackle discrimination and exclusion.

Don’t ignore the office

At the same time, let’s not underestimate the vital role office-based work plays in a typical organisation. When asked what they missed about pre-pandemic work, employees emphasised person-to-person interactions and ambient learning—for example, having ad hoc work conversations or listening to colleagues talk about projects that lie outside of their area.

Many (42%) expressed concerns that the shift to remote work had impacted their ability to communicate and work with colleagues effectively.

When employees do come back to the office, they’ll be doing so with very specific objectives in mind. The top three drivers for going to the office were getting access to the right technology, collaborating and attending meetings. This makes it more important than ever that employers are able to support these requirements.

They’ll also need to better understand how their employees have changed over the past year-and-a-half. Noise is a real hot-button issue. Some 61% of hybrid workers told us they got more done while working from home because of the peace and quiet, and a majority (56%) are worried noise levels in the office will make them less productive. There are even concerns over “noise rage” related outbursts. 

Once again, technology can play an important role—for example, noise cancelling headsets, and quiet spaces like meeting rooms and booths equipped with collaboration and noise-reducing tech. Even something as simple as spacing out desks could help improve the environment for hyper-sensitive staff.

Focus on the future

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of hybrid workers believe the pandemic has changed working culture forever. That means organisations capable of responding quickly and effectively will be best placed to capitalise in the post-pandemic era. A large part of this will require an internal cultural shift to place renewed emphasis on equality, wellness and inclusivity.

Nowhere is this more important than in IT, where departments have historically purchased and deployed technology with zero user input. Things have changed. If your organisation wants to attract and retain the best talent today, it must listen to its employees, and what kind of workplace experiences they’re looking for. Understand the various personas that comprise your workforce and build technology around them, not the other way around.

The good news is there’s a wealth of sophisticated solutions on the market to ensure meeting equality. These range from video bars with auto-camera framing so individuals can move about the room, to all-in-one videoconferencing monitors, and low-touch, voice-based gadgets to limit physical contact. AI-powered technology helps eliminate background noise and crisp-up images to further enhance the virtual meeting experience.

Choice is not an issue. It’s what you do with it, and how strategically you deploy IT to ensure everyone has an equal experience, that will make all the difference.


Paul Clark is Senior Vice President, EMEA at Poly 

Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

© Business Reporter 2021

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