Can hybrid working ever be as seamless as onsite?

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20 Jun 2024

Can hybrid working ever be as seamless as onsite?

The working landscape in Ireland has shifted significantly in favour of hybrid working in recent times. Many businesses now allow their staff to blend remote and onsite work to create their own flexible work schedules.

While hybrid working is hugely popular with staff for obvious reasons, for business owners the question remains can it ever really be as seamless as working onsite? The answer is of course a bit different from business to business. But it’s generally acknowledged that it can be, but only if it’s done well.

To make the best of a hybrid strategy, the key is to apply a two-pronged approach. By looking at the situation as both an IT challenge and also an opportunity to shape company culture.

Making hybrid working seamless

The best way to properly support hybrid and remote working is through the use of a good unified communications (UC) solution. One that brings together various tools such as voice calling, video conferencing, instant messaging and file sharing into a single platform. This is crucial as it streamlines communications by making all the channels a person might need accessible from one platform. Reducing the need to switch between multiple tools.

Real-time collaboration tools such as document sharing, project management and video meetings facilitate teamwork regardless of location. A unified platform provides a consistent user experience across all devices. Whether employees are working from a kitchen table, in the office, at a coffee shop or are on the go.

With all that said, for hybrid working to really be efficient, businesses need to focus on reliable technology infrastructure.

The bare necessities

Both the office and the remote locations staff work from need to have strong, reliable internet connections. This minimises disruptions during virtual meetings and collaborative work.

Additionally, employees need to be using updated hardware and software that supports UC solutions effectively. Clear communication policies are equally important. Establish which tools should be used for different types of communication. For instance, use instant messaging for quick questions and video calls for meetings. Schedule regular virtual check-ins to maintain engagement and monitor progress.

Employee training is also critical. You should provide comprehensive training on how to use the UC tools you provide and educate employees on best practices for remote work. Including time management and advice on how to maintain a good work-life balance.

Remember that security is still your responsibility even if your staff are working remotely. Make sure your IT function includes oversight of what equipment staff are using and for what purpose. Are these devices owned by the employee, or the company? Who’s ensuring they’re properly patched and don’t represent a security risk to the business?

For smaller businesses without a dedicated IT support function, it can be useful to engage with a trusted partner that can manage the way you facilitate remote working. Using a cloud-hosted application, it’s possible to mitigate against a lot of the IT challenges created by managing a remote workforce.

A new generation of AI-powered UC tools are also appearing on the market. Coinciding with the ‘sunsetting’ of many older PSTN phone systems. With more businesses moving away from the desk and fixed-line phone setup, it’s more important that employees can access the tools they need. When and where they need them. Rather than being tied to a set work space. This is true even for those staff that work in an office, as hot desking becomes more common. Often as a means of facilitating the reduced office space needed due to hybrid working.

Creating the right company culture

Hybrid working allows for a degree of flexibility that staff love but maintaining a team spirit and keeping people fully engaged. Without the usual daily office interactions can be a challenge. This requires careful thought, and keeping people motivated and on message isn’t something that can be left to chance. Offering flexibility in work locations is equally important. Give employees the option to choose where they work. Whether it's from home, a co-working space, or the office. Encourage regular breaks and remember that mental health supports are vital to prevent burnout and maintain productivity.

Likewise, communication gaps can occur if employees are not using the same tools or are unclear about communication protocols. Remote employees may feel isolated or disconnected from the team. Leading to decreased engagement and morale. Differing processes for onsite and remote staff can create confusion and inefficiencies.

Managing expectations

Set reasonable expectations for remote workers. This includes clearly defined expected response times for emails, instant messages and calls. For instance, a reasonable expectation might be to respond to emails within 24 hours and instant messages within a few hours during working hours. Defining this in advance goes a long way to helping staff understand what’s expected of them.

Employees who have a clear separation between work and personal time are often more productive and motivated during working hours. Finally it’s often a good idea to have rotating ‘in-office’ days to make sure that staff don’t go too long without meeting their colleagues face to face.

It really is that important that people feel a sense of being part of a team and not excessively isolated while working from home. Hybrid working can be as seamless as onsite working with the right strategies and tools in place. But it’s unlikely to come together without thoughtful consideration of the best IT tools to make it work, and the right work practices to make it sustainable.

If you would like one-to-one advice on creating the right hybrid set up for your business, book a free call with our V-Hub digital experts today.

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