[Blog] 5 Steps for a Successful Hybrid Workplace

Sep 8th, 2021
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Hybrid workspaces are the future of business. Proper planning is the key to success.

5 Steps for a Successful Hybrid Workplace

The Hybrid Workplace. This topic has been forefront for months. As noted in Forbes: Going Hybrid: The Future Of Work Is Here, the hybrid workplace is for everybody, everywhere, it’s key to employee retention, the time is now to shift to an interconnected workplace experience, and Smarten Spaces can make it happen. One big question remains: Is your business prepared?

Technology and circumstances have accelerated and expanded the reach of what we can accomplish. It’s now possible to do many jobs remotely, and companies have responded by bridging the number of employees in a traditional office environment with those who work from home. Hybrid workplaces allow for flexibility, productivity, and efficiency while providing everyone on the team with a better work-life balance.

Hybrid workplaces are not a fad, destined to disappear with the next business cycle. According to a survey by McKinsey, 9 out of 10 businesses intend to implement some combination of on-site and remote work. A similar poll from Gallup found that 52% of surveyed workers prefer to work-from-home full time and would even accept a pay cut to do so.

Hybrid workplaces clearly offer many benefits for all involved. But the advantages of a Hybrid Workplace model won’t magically appear on their own. Without the proper planning and right technology, managing a hybrid workforce can become a logistical nightmare. The more proactive you can be, the better.

No two businesses are alike, and indeed one of the benefits of a hybrid workplace is that it can be tailored to suit the particular needs of your company and employees. A one-size-fits-all approach fails to appreciate the very flexibility that makes hybrid workplaces so unique in the first place! Opt for a comprehensive workplace technology platform—like Smarten Spaces—that will address every aspect of workspace management and can be tailored to your unique workplace needs.

Even with the best tech solution in place, a few general guidelines can be immensely helpful when making the transition to a Hybrid Workspace. Follow these steps to set your company up for success no matter what comes next.

1. Empower Your Employees and Managers to Connect and Engage

Communication.png Workplace communication is now more important than ever.

Communication and connection invests everyone in the company. A successful hybrid workplace starts with communication and connection. Most companies have already established some means of communicating remotely with team members in multiple locations. But even the best tech can prove useless unless your workforce feels empowered and engaged.

Working from home means avoiding the commute, but it shouldn’t mean sacrificing a sense of community. A McKinsey & Company survey found that employees were far more productive at organizations that not only fostered connections but also made them matter. Companies can encourage teams working remotely to build social interactions into their shared digital environment. This includes activities such as health challenges (like doing a specific number of pushups or squats) or online cultural programs (to discover any hidden talents like singing, playing musical instruments, etc.) to foster the spontaneous conversations that often drive innovation and forge stronger connections. This kind of impromptu frisson can be supported via networking, mentoring, and peer coaching. These engagements become the bridge that connects the organization with the employee in more meaningful ways, thereby fostering action and yielding better outcomes. Such initiatives require management input, but with the active participation of all concerned, they can achieve and sustain the kind of community that helps employees perform at their best.

The Role of the Employee

Employees who work from home are expected to fulfill their responsibilities without requiring in-person management or oversight. This is most effective if they are encouraged to develop their own ways of meeting their goals and deadlines, utilizing company resources (and their own) to connect and share ideas with other team members.

For employees, that starts with being responsible and accountable. They should familiarize themselves with company guidelines for a hybrid workspace and know what’s expected from them while they are working from home. Self-analysis of work routines helps as well. Similarly, employees should be aware of how their coworkers operate, and what they require to do their jobs most efficiently. Clear communication is crucial.

The Role of the Manager

If remote employees are expected to maintain a productive schedule and complete projects on deadline without sacrificing quality, then a manager’s role is to create a Hybrid Workplace where everyone can be at their best. As a manager, ask yourself: What do I need to support a hybrid team and how do I demonstrate that I am open to flexibility in a hybrid workplace?

The answer should include involving and supporting team members, finding consensus on how teams will best work together, and prioritizing the health and safety of all employees. In short, managers must model, coach, and care.

To start, schedule workshops where everyone on the team can contribute to the creation of hybrid work guidelines (such as SOPs and FAQs). Support your team in taking both personal and collective accountability working on a hybrid team. Have regular check-ins on how the team agreements are working and evolve them as needed.​ Through Smarten Spaces’ Employee Engagement feature management can share company updates and posts with employees on a secure workplace network.

Importantly, empathize with the changing personal circumstances of team members and support them as they reassess situations. Instead of directly (or indirectly) penalizing employees who take such measures, you should encourage them to do so and validate their decisions. This entails using “soft” management skills, like consistent and constructive feedback, empathizing with worker points of view, and seeking compromises for issues like childcare needs and commutes.

A good manager can spot when a worker may be feeling isolated or demotivated, for instance, and take steps to reconnect them to the team in a manner that best suits their work habits. Here too, points of communication can make a huge difference. It’s up to management to establish those points of contact, encourage their use, and provide an easy and transparent means to address potential problems.

How and When to Take Action

Making decisions without enough information is a recipe for disaster, and this is precisely why managers should encourage teams to share their views and ideas. With Smarten Spaces, you can conduct regular surveys to keep a pulse on employee experiences, good and bad. This way, employees feel involved in company decisions and are assured their voices are heard while managers gain the insights needed to make smart choices. With an actionable plan for implementing healthy changes to adjust to a hybrid workspace, the right technology can work wonders. It should encourage personalization and yet allow simplicity of use. Not only does that keep lines of communication clear— ensuring that remote employees can keep in touch with team members and even have “water cooler” moments with workers in another location—but it encourages employees to embrace the right solution of their own accord. By facilitating this process and leading by example, management can expect to reap the benefits of a hybrid workplace.

2. Nurture a Culture of Flexibility

remote work2.jpeg The future of work is flexible. Over 70% of polled workers want flexible work options that include either working from home full time or dividing work between in-office and remote hours, according to research by Microsoft. This number is consistently climbing. The post-pandemic workplace will be defined by hybrid spaces and the ability of employees to better balance their work and home lives.

For management, flexibility means being able to meet disparate goals of individuals in multiple locations. You must know the various needs of your team members and provide them the means to meet those needs swiftly and simply. Transparency is very important, as is actionability.

A remote team member should be able to readily access the workspace data they need and have fruitful interactions with coworkers. Spontaneity and human connections can be difficult in virtual meetings, and managers need to find ways of encouraging those connections in a hybrid workspace. Similarly, one who has ready access to pertinent workplace data will feel more engaged and motivated. This is especially true when it comes to matters like scheduling and allocation of resources such as meeting rooms, which are typically management responsibilities.

All of that flexibility won’t mean much if the business itself can’t take effective advantage of it, however. That means translating the benefits of flexibility into policies that improve the bottom line. For instance, Microsoft’s study further reports that 2 out of every 3 polled decision-makers were considering redesigning or otherwise re-evaluating their office spaces to better match a hybrid work environment.

Here, Smarten Spaces can be the differentiator. Our automated platform offers the flexibility to manage your space demands efficiently and conveniently. By reviewing utilization data and trends and determining workplace capacity, businesses cut down on day-to-day operational costs while still maintaining health and safety standards and providing workers with an in-office environment that suits their needs.

A Hybrid Workplace solution needs to be agile enough to adapt, pivot, and grow with the needs of the business. No one can say what the future holds, but a system that lets you adjust to suit your changing needs while still performing as intended will provide tremendous returns on investment.

Ownership goes both ways. A Hybrid model that ensures an employees’ needs are met—rescheduling hours or a meeting so that a worker can attend to a sick spouse or child, for instance—will foster that sense of interconnectedness. Workers will reciprocate with heightened devotion to the company, and the time and stress saved by the hybrid workplace will translate into across-the-board productivity gains. Then, flexibility becomes balanced, and both the company and its workers thrive.

3. Invest in Hybrid Workplace Technology

workplacetechnology.png With the proper technology, any space can be a productive workspace. All of that flexibility and improved efficiency aren’t possible without the right technology. Smart corporate strategists are looking beyond their company's current tech capabilities to imagine what the company can accomplish in the future with the latest and greatest innovations in workplace management.

This is why technology platforms equipped with analytics, automation, and AI are becoming more and more popular. These tools help organizations to monitor performance, inform strategic decisions, and improve outcomes. As a result, strategy development is rapidly evolving from a tedious, ad-hoc process to one that's continuous and dynamic, helping companies think more broadly and creatively about a range of future possibilities in a hybrid workplace.

The Basics

Technology today represents an unprecedented source of competitive advantage. Consequently, the lines between corporate strategy and technology strategy are becoming increasingly blurred. The key takeaway here: each needs to inform the other.
According to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, businesses spent the equivalent of around $15bn extra a week on technology to enable safe and secure home working environments during the height of the pandemic. This figure, the report adds, represents one of the largest technology investment surges in history as lockdowns were enforced and businesses scrambled to keep operations running.
Modernizing systems and transitioning to an interconnected workplace experience can help unlock a company’s digital potential. Some organizations are turning to outsourced partners to reengineer traditional point solutions into a connected solution.

Smart Technology

AI functions to help automate things like creating and managing hybrid schedules—employees come to work on days after capacity management has been implemented or allowing managers and employees to create team schedules, for example—which in turn frees up valuable time to focus on other key business areas.

These smart technology solutions offered by Smarten Spaces take the guesswork out of organizing and scheduling hybrid offices. These include features such as automatic desk allocations to incorporate new office configurations and shared schedules that can be synchronized with available office space. The Smarten Spaces platform also facilitates meeting room bookings and similar resource allocations, with built-in data analytics features to gauge trends, identify problem areas, and inform critical decisions. Smarten Spaces gives you the flexibility to change along with your business’s specific needs: letting you grow without having to rejig your entire system every few years.

Resource Management in the Office

Resource management within current office spaces is one of the best places to benefit from a hybrid workspace. Careful management of desks and meeting rooms to better management of physical office space, which both reduces costs and improves the productivity of in-office workers. Smarten Spaces features are designed to address such concerns. The Desk Booking feature as known as Hot Desking, allows employees to book desks when they come to the office with and recommend the best seat near team members, while still ensuring compliance with health and safety standards.

The Smart Meeting Room Booking feature works much the same way: allowing integrated scheduling to book meeting rooms powered with real-time occupancy and recommendations for the best location. And all of it is automated so management can make the most effective use of everyone’s time.

Managing Employees

Beyond helping management utilize physical space more effectively, Smarten Spaces can prove invaluable in managing employees adjusting to hybrid working conditions. The Hybrid Scheduler provides work-from-home and work-from-office scheduling automaton, synchronization with calendars, and AI-based recommendations for the best days to come into the office. It helps your workers perform while benefitting from enhanced flexibility.

Smart Solutions in the Office

Smarten Spaces goes beyond scheduling and planning to address multiple common concerns in a hybrid office. The Visitor Management System provides health declaration forms and status tracking, as well as contactless access to prevent the spread of contagion. The Service Request feature enables employees can send requests and report incidents on the go through the mobile app. With so much going on, is there even time to grab a bite? You should, and there’s even a Smart Cafeteria tool that helps to keep numbers compliant with health and safety regulations, allowing workers to pre-order their food with contactless payment methods.

4. Communicate and Collaborate Across the Board

Collaboration.jpeg Collaboration improves communication and enhances productivity.

A hybrid model needs to be flexible and sustainable. When planning a hybrid model, it’s important to build active methods of collaboration into the system, establishing clear lines of communication that the entire workforce feels empowered to use. That means these resources need to be available at every level of the company, even with distributed teams, and everyone should focus on making this technology a normal part of daily operations. A recent Gallup study found that communication can boost employee engagement and retention: 26% of employees strongly agree that their manager's feedback helps them do better work. Fostering a transparent and collaborative environment ensures everyone on the team is primed to succeed. However, further research revealed that communication in most companies isn't great. Sometimes it's so bad that it drives people to quit: only 7% of US workers say communication is accurate, timely, and open where they work.

This may sound dismal, but there's an important lesson here: What employees hear is more important than where they are. It’s not about communicating more, it's about communicating better. Hybrid work isn't new but it's fast becoming the norm, and while effective communication is not the norm, it should be.

Opening Communications in a Hybrid Workplace

Workers in different time zones operating on different schedules will respond at different points in the day. That can lead to fragmented conversations where key points are lost. Encourage your team to write responses in detailed form, and to give other team members the time to read and process the exchanges. Notes should be encouraged as well. Make sure team meetings are recorded and that every team member knows where to access these recordings. In the event someone misses an important meeting, they’ll stay in the loop.

Equity of ideas and increased empathy are extremely helpful in these circumstances. People accustomed to in-person exchanges can miss subtle social cues that aren’t present in written exchanges. Encouraging team members to listen and ask for clarification can ensure that written exchanges are interpreted as intended.

Similarly, channels of discourse should be demarcated as such. Workers who know which outlets are for which kinds of communication will avoid cluttering the wrong channel with irrelevant information. Even more importantly, informal communication needs to be encouraged in a hybrid workplace to facilitate the kind of spontaneity and creative thinking that would otherwise take place in an all-office setting. The more your system can encourage such types of communication, and the more your team is encouraged to take advantage of it, the more seamless your hybrid workplace will be.

Tips to Collaborate in a Hybrid Workplace

Collaboration in a Hybrid Workplace is the best way to keep lines of communication open and members of your team connected over multiple work locations. While every business is different and each team composition is unique, there are several concrete steps you can take in order to establish good collaboration habits.

  • Schedule informal meeting times along with more formal get-togethers. For instance, add 10 minutes to either end of a given meeting to facilitate interaction.
  • Establish regular one-on-one meetings with team members and among team members. A 30-minute brainstorming session or discussion with two people can produce terrific results.
  • Encourage office visits for remote employees. Workers who prefer to work from home often do so because they can be more productive without the distractions of the office, and that should be respected. But periodic in-person interactions—one per quarter if not more often—allow the remote worker to reconnect with colleagues.

Smarten Space’s communication features are designed with these needs in mind, letting management establish and encourage collaboration in a hybrid workspace. Employees can use our People Finder app to locate coworkers in a reconfigured workplace, as well as key resources and directions from their current location.

The Workforce Management feature allows you to adjust employee schedules easily, sync them with your workforce calendar and crosscheck employee schedules to ensure they are balanced properly. This enhances flexibility and helps your workers be their best while benefitting from increased productivity.

The Employee Engagement feature allows workers to post updates and news on a common forum, while surveys and feedback let management honestly and transparently evaluate employee concerns and experiences. It’s intuitive so teams can get up to speed very quickly too!

5. Establish Policies and Workflows to Maintain Excellence

business process.jpeg Establishing policies and workflow patterns will provide the framework for an effective hybrid workplace.

Let employee preferences inform what policies to follow. Workers can tell you what parts of the system are functioning as they should and which ones need to be modified or abandoned. Trust their feedback and let it guide management when determining policy. Set up office spaces to reflect new hybrid policies, rather than forcing policy to conform to space. Establish private spaces for people who need quiet time to focus, as well as communal areas with more comfortable furniture for workers who require informal interactions and feedback.

Develop consensus within the team rather than enforcing policy from the top down. Management should set the pace, but, crucially, listen to team members and understand the dynamics that go on within it. Listen, reflect, and act. Someone with small children working from home, for instance, may need more flexibility in scheduling than someone working 3-4 days in the office. Encourage feedback when making agreements and setting team goals, and ensure that any pertinent concerns are speedily addressed and resolved. By ingraining such protocols into your planning from the beginning, you can not only transition into a hybrid workplace smoothly but maintain the momentum and make it an ongoing part of your business strategy.

A Comprehensive, Innovative Digital Workplace Solution on a Single Platform The future of work is here, it's hybridized, and it’s time to start thinking about your hybrid workplace strategy.

The world is fast transforming into a digital economy, where technology has changed how we live and work. It's no longer enough for businesses to simply be good at what they do: they must also adapt their business models around this new reality by becoming digital workplaces that can leverage automation, AI, IoT, and other emerging technologies to stay competitive.

Smarten Spaces was designed with the hybrid workplace in mind, and our smart features will streamline and simplify the way you organize yours. From desk and calendar management to ensuring employee safety, our innovative technology solution makes it easier than ever for your business to organize around this new reality of a hybridized workplace.

To learn more about how we can Smarten your Spaces, schedule a Virtual Interactive Workplace Lab today, and leverage the power of intelligent systems to take care of all your day-to-day hybrid workplace operations