The pandemic had a profound impact on just about every aspect of how we live, work, and share experiences.
After the public health crisis jolted the world in early 2020, initial panic gradually gave way to the more mundane challenge of getting things done without rubbing elbows. Delivering from afar became the order of the day.
Adjusting our work, consumption, and leisure habits to a more physically insular world required greater digital connection, and we made some dramatic adjustments to meet the moment.
In some ways, the pandemic served as a time machine, vastly accelerating trends that were already in effect before 2020. The most persistent, transformative of these trends were likely in the way we work.
When the world went remote in 2020, offices naturally followed suit, adapting their workflow processes to accommodate a work-from-home model. In 2022, few executives are looking at the pandemic to inform whether to bring back teams on-site or stay remote. The catalyst is fading, but its impact remains.
And today, one thing is becoming increasingly clear — the future of work is hybrid. In fact, working remotely and in the office is fast becoming the new normal at work.
The fuel for the Hybrid Era is coming from employees themselves, and success will favor the most agile, responsive companies to this demand. Employees want a hybrid model, combining working from home with office face time. The data is unequivocal in identifying the desire for face-to-face interactions, and mostly allays fears of lost productivity, communication, or innovation.
While every company and industry tells a slightly different story, one theme remains: the key to thriving in the Hybrid Era is intentional execution, listening to workers, and employing the right technology.
During the pandemic, people got used to working from home, and have realized that they can fulfill their responsibilities without being in the office full-time, as they were pre-pandemic.
According to Microsoft’s insights, 73% of workers now want remote work options. On the flipside, two-thirds of workers in the same survey want the ability to collaborate in person on some level.
LinkedIn data also suggests that employees are 2.1 times more likely to recommend working for a company that satisfies their need for work-life balance through time and location flexibility (as this is obviously a huge part of boosting employee well-being).
As a result of this newfound focus on flexibility, companies are now working to accommodate employees by tailoring their office spaces and work processes for hybrid, flexible work.
Hybrid teams and business leaders (especially in human resource departments) are finding that there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure the transition to alternative work models goes smoothly. A new set of KPIs is required to track performance and growth.
While generally popular and productive, the shift to remote work hasn’t been easy for many companies and employees.
Nearly half of respondents from the previously mentioned Microsoft survey cited a lack of essential supplies, as well as employers not helping with key work expenses, as the main challenges of remote work.
Burnout remains a major problem as well, due in part to soaring volumes of emails, real-time meetings, and messages. The term “Zoom fatigue” even went mainstream, representing the dangerous side effect of too many video conferences.
These issues haven’t hit all groups equally; generally, the more junior an employee is, the harder the transition to working remotely has been.
While most executives said they thrived while working from home, less than half of working moms and just 33% of single employees said the same. Of all age groups, Generation Z has fared the worst in the transition, likely explained by little time on the job before the pandemic and thus a weaker network to lean on.
A lot of challenges in remote and hybrid work arrangements, predictably, stem from physical isolation.
As we all learned, those spontaneous run-ins with a colleague and proverbial chats by the water cooler were more important than we realized. In addition to helping us socialize, they were opportunities to communicate with coworkers we may otherwise have little interaction.
On top of that, many companies are finding their departments are getting more siloed in a remote environment, with information-sharing and networking harder than ever before. While teams in the same department have become closer, there are fewer opportunities for interdepartmental communication. This has massive implications for company culture and can lead to disjointed action with a scattered sense of purpose. Every leader would consider allowing that a mistake.
Fortunately, we now have a powerful array of technologies at our disposal, working in concert to provide remote solutions to a lot of work problems.
We can digitally share huge amounts of information, coordinating and creating without sharing space. It should come as no surprise that companies that better leveraged these tools during the pandemic are poised to do better in the Hybrid Era.
How many Zoom invites or Slack messages did you receive in 2019? Regardless of the specific number, it’s a safe bet that it was a lot less than in 2020. The pandemic spurred companies to adopt a number of new and existing collaborative software solutions. Some teams found these easy to integrate, while others struggled to get on the same page.
While willing and often eager to keep working from home, few workers today are eager to adopt even more collaborative or productivity apps. The best way to streamline the hybrid workplace, create a positive hybrid work environment, and improve the employee experience is to use the apps we have and connect them to one another.
As Google noted in its Global Remote Work Survey:
“Hybrid work… doesn’t need more applications and collaboration surfaces. It needs deeper, more meaningful connections in the tools and surfaces we already have.”
The key to facilitating a shift to a hybrid workforce and combatting burnout, an increasing issue over the past two years, is to leverage and link existing solutions. Calendars, accountability tools, collaborative software, and communication solutions should be integrated into one seamless experience.
When new software is adopted, it should be able to easily join this ecosystem, sharing and receiving information from all other office applications. That’s why we’ve been hard at work building OfficeRnD Hybrid integrations for workplace tools like Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Slack, and Google Calendar.
The Hybrid Era is here. While spurred by the pandemic, the number of companies with a hybrid work model is only set to grow in the years to come, and will likely constitute the norm moving forward.
This new work model brings with it a wealth of opportunities as well as a number of execution challenges, from potential burnout to greater risk of siloed operations. Companies that can leverage technology while listening carefully to the needs of their teams are set to thrive in this exciting new paradigm. Hybrid is here to stay.
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