Dorthe Jensen, VP, Global Marketing at EPOS talks about navigating the hybrid working landscape and how businesses can use technology and design to empower today’s workers wherever they are located.
Apple’s Tim Cook recently summed up the benefits of the post-pandemic workplace: “hybrid work will allow us to achieve the best of both worlds, the focus and collaboration of the office, and the flexibility and autonomy of remote work”.
Ongoing global support for the hybrid model can be chalked up to the fact that it offers important benefits for workers and businesses alike. Employees cite improved work-life balance, greater control over their schedules and less stress as primary benefits. This is because, at home, people can manage noise levels, lighting, temperature, and privacy, and tailor their environment to match comfort and productivity. But at the same time, office spaces remain a crucial hub for creativity, collaboration, and culture.
Navigating this dual landscape requires a delicate balance — one that provides the technology to empower productive remote working, boosted by office spaces that foster teamwork and bonding while providing quiet spaces for those that need to focus.
Office environments which work for everyone
With over 40% of UK organizations claiming that their companies have shifted to a hybrid model, businesses must make sure that office spaces are enticing to encourage staff to travel in and collaborate as a team. This is already having an impact on the way offices are set up.
Many organizations are already waving goodbye to assigned desks in favor of team pods and swapping solitary personal offices for open-plan spaces. Knowingly or not, businesses that take this approach are enforcing MIT professor Thomas Allen’s theory of proximity. This states that most collaboration happens within an 8m radius. Therefore, by physically moving people closer together, organizations are more likely to see staff working together and sharing experiences and ideas.
While collaboration via proximity is a powerful tool, the downside is that employees can find focused work in the office more demanding due to increased distractions. Background noise can seriously impact productivity leaving workers struggling to interpret and understand the entirety of what’s being discussed in meetings, impacting the absorption and retention of key information.
However, research suggests that by reducing the effort required in listening, more cognitive resources are freed for speech processing and encoding information into long-term memory, improving recall performance by 10%. What’s more, audio devices designed based on how the brain perceives sound can reduce the cognitive effort to interpret information, resulting in 35% reduced listening fatigue, in turn improving productivity. Investing in smart audio devices is an easy and cost-effective way to reduce staff frustration over noise levels and enhance concentration and productivity when in-office staff need to focus.
Equitable experiences for home and office workers
Another challenge in the hybrid workplace is enabling seamless communication and collaboration between in-person and remote teams. We have all experienced video calls where the sound keeps cutting out or where it is challenges for virtual participants to engage in a conversation that is dominated by the people who are together in a physical space. This is why modern businesses need to create an equitable workplace – one that provides the same opportunities – and visibility – for remote and on-site employees.
This means investing in collaboration and conferencing solutions that create a unified experience, empowering employees to engage and contribute effortlessly, regardless of their location. A key feature to look out for is exceptional voice pickup – this means that everyone in a meeting can be heard clearly, ensuring that all viewpoints are considered, and nobody gets left out.
However, technology alone does not have all the answers. Meeting etiquette must also evolve to ensure that virtual participants are being treated in the same way as those physically present – with opportunities to contribute, present and chime in with feedback. This may mean an adjustment in behaviors – for example a regular check in to ensure that virtual participants have had the opportunity to speak. But this behavior change is a small price to pay given the value that true collaboration can bring to a business.
Championing well-being in the Hybrid age
So, you’ve got your new office space and you’ve figured out the tech. But it doesn’t stop there. To maximize employees’ full potential and boost performance, hybrid frontrunners are also championing employee wellbeing. These frontrunner organizations recognize that employees in 2023 and beyond are looking for more.
According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trends Index, 53% of employees are more likely to prioritize health and wellbeing over work. A further 47% are more likely to put family and their personal lives first. Although offering hybrid work structure already provides an opportunity to improve employees’ lifestyles, many organizations are looking to differentiate their offering by thinking about how they can prioritize employee wellbeing to ensure employees feel positive about their employment status.
Research from the Foresight Factory suggests that as the employee and employer’s evaluation of purpose and work continues to evolve, nice-to-have wellbeing initiatives today will become business-critical in the next three to five years. This will include initiatives like subsidized counselling services and dedicated time for mental and physical wellbeing along with wearables that monitor stress and burnout.
Figuring out what suits your organization
Business leaders need to ask what well-being means to different people. Are yoga classes as a wellness perk helpful in addition to structural changes such as pay equity or parental leave? Will time for wellbeing initiatives get used, or would mandatory work-from-home and mental health days be better?
Similarly, business leaders could benefit from empowering employees by offering them a say in their working environment – everything from opting for a standing desk at home to choosing snacks for the office kitchen – as well as more substantial matters like the collaboration solutions an organization invests in.
For hybrid working to be successful, a balance of space will need to be calibrated for each organization and the wide range of individuals within it. What works successfully for one company or team may not translate to another, so the key is to spend time understanding the needs of your individual workforce and tailoring plans to its needs.
About the Author
Dorthe Krogh Jensen is VP, Global Marketing at EPOS, and part of senior management. She has 18+ years of experience as a commercial marketer, spanning marketing agencies to global corporations. She’s passionate about business transformation, brand positioning, and customer behavior, excelling at transforming strategy into execution to build enduring brands and grow tomorrow’s sales.