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2021 – a Year to Remember!

Contrary to what you might read online, hybrid work isn’t new, especially in tech. What’s new is the scale of the current hybrid work experiment.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many trends, including the move to flexible working models like remote and hybrid.

Now, many companies are all-in on the experiment. For example, Amazon, Apple, and Google have all announced some type of hybrid work policies for 2022.

The problem is, no one has really done that on a global scale, so we have little idea how everything will turn out. Even companies that say hybrid is the future haven’t started building their new workplace model.

While there’s still much uncertainty, most leaders agree that a successful transition to hybrid begins at the core of the company – its people.

(This article is based on one of the talks from our FlexWorld event, featuring Mark Gilbreath, CEO & Founder of LiquidSpace – Melissa Ansley, Head of Occupier Solutions at JLL Flex, and Ivan Guberkov – VP of Sales at OfficeRnD)

Start with People

There’s a great quote from Andy Jassy (Amazon’s CEO) in his company’s hybrid work announcement:

“First, none of us know the definitive answers to these (hybrid work) questions, especially long term. Second, at a company of our size, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how every team works best. And third, we’re going to be in a stage of experimenting, learning, and adjusting for a while as we emerge from this pandemic. All of this led us to change course a bit.”

In other words, even one of the most successful companies in the world doesn’t have the answers. Don’t worry if you don’t have them yet, either.

Even with all the unknowns, the common thread we can find in all hybrid work talks, strategies, and announcements are people. Put simply, the first step towards changing the way you work is to talk to your teams and understand the challenges they’re facing. After all, this whole experiment is about keeping people happy, engaged, and productive.

This process can be uncomfortable, as many companies are seeing that different teams have various requirements regarding the way they work. At the individual level, there’s even more variety.

Again, there’s no one size fits all approach here. However, this difficult process of understanding what people want and need is the only way to get organized around a successful strategy.

Once you have a strategy, you can start building your frameworks, policies, and other practical rules. However, keep in mind that merely offering the option to embrace flexible working won’t change much.

“Now it (hybrid work) is becoming the norm but we still need to make sure the foundation is there for our workforce to understand why it’s happening, what are the benefits and how do we make it easy for them to utilize these spaces. That’s where technology comes in” – Melissa Ansley, Head of Occupier Solutions at JLL Flex

Put simply, we first need to organize and communicate on a personal and team level. Only then should we think about making the transition as easy as possible via technology.

Use Technology for a Smooth Transition

Technology can either make or break the hybrid work experiment.

Here’s why.

Technology shines when it makes tedious or repetitive tasks easy, or even unnoticeable. When it doesn’t reduce friction, or worse – when it introduces it, technology stops serving you and becomes a form of debt.

An example of this issue occurs when managing a hybrid workplace via spreadsheets and calendars. Granted, you can probably do so, but it involves so much manual and repetitive work that the benefits of going hybrid are almost instantly counteracted by the stress of managing the whole thing.

“We’re going to have to create a simple and easy experience to tap into it (flexible work), but we’re going to also have to nurture these people back through another behavior change after they went through a violent one 18 months ago when they had to go home” – Mark Gilbreath, CEO & Founder of LiquidSpace

The smart way to approach this issue is with a simple and powerful hybrid workplace solution. That’s why we built OfficeRnD Hybrid – to help you easily manage the most important parts of your hybrid workspace.

Now, the specific technology you’ll need depends on many factors, including your company’s size, team structure, and work policy. However, there are three must-have features that pretty much every business needs:

  • Flexible desk and meeting room booking. If your employees don’t have dedicated desks, they must have the ability to see if there is an available one for them before coming to the office. Same goes for meeting rooms. Without such features, it’s easy for the whole thing to turn into chaos, which will just discourage people from coming to the office again. As your organization gets more advanced, you can even try building office neighborhoods;
  • Visual floor planning. Again, this is all about knowing which areas of the office are available in real-time. This is crucial if you follow a strict anti-COVID policy, as it lets you reduce the availability and make sure that only a percentage of desks are available for booking, for example;
  • Integrations with your current tech stack. It’s really hard getting everyone to use a new solution regularly. That’s why integrating your solution with tools like Slack, Outlook, and Google Calendar is essential.

Again, the specific choice really depends on your business’ needs, but if you want to get into more details, check out OfficeRnD Hybrid.

Lastly, remember that technology puts even more choice in the hands of individuals, instead of the company.

“We should trust that even though they’ve all settled into working at home and hacking out collaboration and bonding over zoom, many of them yearn for a quieter place to concentrate that might be the co-working space down the street, to have that collaboration session together, they want to jam together, they want to have that intensity” – Mark Gilbreath, CEO & Founder of LiquidSpace

In short, put the tech in the hands of employees, make it easy to book a desk, and trust them.

Experiment and Be Open to Change

Today, the only advice that applies to most companies is to experiment and be open to change. That’s how we find out what works and what doesn’t.

Over the next year or two, we’ll learn a lot more about hybrid work. Until then, the best we can do is to try and understand what makes people happy and productive, craft a strategy and framework that works for them and the company, and implement it with the help of technology.

If you want more details on this topic, check out the full talk on transitioning to hybrid work from our FlexWorld event.

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