Just as the world is getting used to the “new normal” of remote working, it seems that the “next normal” is already on its way.
This “next normal” will be defined by hybrid working in one form or another. The cat is now out of the bag when it comes to the feasibility of remote working. Yet despite the high levels of remote work models anticipated in the future, many South African firms are poorly prepared. Only 15% who took part in the Willis Towers Watson Flexible Work and Rewards Survey, said their current job architecture fully supports a flexible and agile workforce, while 20% said it did not support it at all according to the global advisory, broking, and solutions company.
The pandemic has also demonstrated the continued need for real-world interaction. With vaccinations being administered worldwide and governments revealing roadmaps to the end of restrictions, many organizations are now turning their thoughts to how to enable employees to move seamlessly between working from home (or indeed wherever they choose) and returning to the office for in-person collaboration and meetings.
But just as every business has had its own unique experience of the pandemic, the exact arrangements for this next phase will differ from organisation to organisation. This means that while IT leaders are understandably eager to develop a plan to support their organisation’s hybrid working strategy, they must first determine what that strategy is.
To help you figure out the right approach, here are the top three things I believe that organisations must do.
- Get the right people in the room.
A siloed approach to creating your strategy simply does not make sense. Hybrid working will affect every area of an organisation, so every department must be involved in the discussion, not just the management team.
In South Africa businesses predict that in three years’ time a third of their staff (33%) will still be working from home.
Corporate Real Estate is likely to lead – what a company can do with its physical space depends on what space it has, how long it has it for and the rental contract. Among Aruba’s clients, we are seeing a large number of companies using the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink their real estate investment, even within more traditional sectors like banking. Many organisations are now looking at potentially downsizing, moving to new locations, or finding creative uses for existing spaces.
In addition to the Real Estate team, Human Resources and management will naturally need to be involved, weighing in on the wants and needs of employees, the demands of clients, and the company culture. What types of roles are your employees fulfilling? What demographics are you dealing with? How have they handled working from home so far?
The role of the IT team is clear: connectivity, and the technologies that support and secure it, are critical to facilitating the hybrid workplace. IT leaders must be ready to offer input on whether their organisation has the technology in place to implement this strategy, and to provide guidance on any gaps. Are you a mostly a wired or wireless company for example? They must also be able to address security needs and concerns.
And finally, we cannot forget Finance. Is this strategy feasible within the budget? How will it be funded? What are the financing options? Will it be a traditional CapEx or an OpEx approach?
- Consider your internal and external context.
If you consider some of the above questions, it becomes clear that any strategy must align with how the business operates, the needs of employees and clients, the workplace culture, and budget and real estate constraints – and getting the right people involved will make sure that this happens.
Less obvious however, is the need to ensure your hybrid working strategy aligns with the wider world in which your organisation operates.
The main consideration here is geography. Think of the difference between standard rental prices in city centres and more suburban or rural areas – both for commercial and private real estate. Your employees’ living spaces will undoubtedly influence how and when they use the office.
Network infrastructure and access to reliable, high-speed Internet also varies between areas and has huge implications for connectivity and your team’s ability to provide seamless, secure remote experiences.
Also consider the trends within your industry. The pandemic has already been a great instigator of change and this next stage is sure to result in even more developments. Factoring in trends now will ensure your company remains competitive and continues to meet the expectations of clients and talent.
- Determine which metrics to track.
The events of the past year underlined the critical need for business agility and flexibility. Keeping a close eye on your data – and holding regular meetings to assess and discuss it – is the only way to ensure that your hybrid working strategy meets fluctuating needs, attitudes, and behaviours.
Of the employers who took part in Willis Towers Watson Flexible Work and Rewards Survey In October of 2020. 24% said they did not have a formal policy to manage flexible working arrangements, while 61% only created a policy last year.
IT teams will be familiar with providing analytics on quality of performance. Technology is central to productivity, communication, collaboration, and security at home and in the office, and its functionality must be monitored.
But this data does not show the full picture, nor can technological performance be the only measure of success. Organisations must also track psychological wellbeing through frequent employee surveys and evaluations. After all, your hybrid working strategy only works if your employees feel that it does.
Beyond enabling the employee experience, technology can also help organisations track building performance. Smart sensors and devices can provide insights on how employees are using the space, energy consumption, who goes in or out, and more – giving departments like Real Estate, Facilities, Security and Finance the data they need to determine whether their requirements are being met.
Once organisations have addressed the three points above and defined their hybrid working strategy, they will be ready to move on to the next stage: setting up their business to support it. Here the steps will include integrating the long-term home office, reimagining the physical office and its connectivity, and financing the future workplace.
Over the next few weeks, Aruba will be providing a guide to help organisations achieve these objectives and implement a hybrid working approach that will satisfy all departments and employees, now and in the future.
Mandy Duncan, Aruba Country Manager for South Africa