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Considerations for businesses in the new hybrid working environment

As businesses prepare for the final phase of lockdown restrictions easing, some are using the opportunity to rethink what their post pandemic working environment will be like.

22 June 2021

Recent business headlines suggest many of these businesses are now looking to a hybrid solution – one that blends remote and on-site working to create a more flexible approach. This is because organisations are keen to retain the benefits they gained from the new remote working practices that emerged in the pandemic.

Such benefits included:

There has also been a recognition of the value that being ‘on-site’ with colleagues can have on employees’ wellbeing. 

Of course, switching to any new approach requires careful planning and preparation.  Our June Business Club discussed the considerations for businesses in the new ‘hybrid’ approach to work.  

Steve Foster from Shipleys was joined by Club regular and technology specialist, Rob May of ramsac, to co-facilitate the discussion.

Finding ‘equality of experience’ in the new hybrid world

In his presentation, Rob reflected that businesses are currently at different stages in their return to office plans.  Some have already partially returned to the office; some never changed their place of work and some are still working fully from home. Universal to all though is that the business world has completely changed and is unlikely to return to the way it was. 

Innovation, rapid technology deployment and skill development which was expected to take years and years to roll out have been implemented in a very short time.

What hybrid isn’t and is

There is though much confusion around the ‘hybrid’ concept.  Rob explained hybrid working isn’t simply having meetings online using the likes of MS Teams and Zoom. Instead, it means that the standard working environment now brings together people both ‘in the room’ and those remotely. 

In doing so, the experience for everyone participating needs to be an equal one, where no one is at a disadvantage from their location and use of technology.

More than just technology

This isn’t, however, just about technology. The new environment warrants a fresh approach to working practices – one that factors in techniques that address elements such as…

…as people work together across multiple locations.

Rob argued that those businesses which seek out an equal experience for participants working in the hybrid environment would gain greater productivity and increase competitiveness.

View the slides from Rob’s presentation along with additional resources on this topic here: https://www.ramsac.com/shipleys-club/

Making online meetings better and more effective

Club members then discussed how online meetings could be better and more effective for participants.  In doing so, they considered meetings from:

Suggestions included…

Greater synergy or integration between the leading online meeting technologies – this would avoid people having to be masters of multiple software products in order to do business with different people and organisations.

Better connectivity and bandwidth improvements so people have a chance of positive experience irrespective of their location.

Being ready and having your head in the right place for online meetings.  With many people having back-to-back online meetings the traditional point to pause, reflect and prepare (which arose when you travelled to them) has been lost.  This needs to be scheduled into the working day, if you are to be fresh and on point in a session. 

Making the most effective use of the meeting also depends on when you schedule it – in the day, in the week, in the month. It helps to play to when people are most alert and engaged, or have access to the latest management information to support an informed discussion. 

Also consider and agree what a good outcome for the meeting would look like, so there is greater clarity among the meeting members and the meeting can be more effective.

Introducing an ‘etiquette’ or protocol for the group in an online meeting.  This will help everyone to have an opportunity to have their say and the meeting to be the most productive. It helps if the etiquette is published in advance, along with the agenda.

Using the office for the activities which can only be done on-site – such as the collaboration and in-person activities.  This requires planning and preparation so people aren’t simply doing what they could remotely and the premises is being used more effectively.

Making online meetings interactive – not simply a broadcast.  This means considering what questions and points to share to stimulate a discussion.  Also, it requires a good facilitator to encourage everyone to actively participate.

Being clear who is ‘in the room’ – sometimes people are off-camera and more than one person may be sharing a screen in a meeting.  It is therefore important to check who is participating in the meeting.  This avoids missing out anyone, particularly if they’re observing and not active in the discussion.

Summary

The pandemic has changed the way businesses work for good.  The speed in which new technologies have been adopted (and the skills quickly acquired in using them) mean organisations can be more flexible in their approach.  The efficiency, productivity and corporate social responsibility benefits this brings are ones organisations are loathe to relinquish. 

If businesses are looking to invest in their working infrastructure to make greater use of the hybrid environment, they may be able to benefit from tax incentives such as the new super deduction capital allowances and R&D tax credits. Talk to one of the Shipleys team for further information.

Finally, a very big thank you to Rob May from ramsac for his thought-provoking and invaluable insights during the session.

If you would like to join our future Business Club events, please contact the Shipleys’ Godalming team for more information.

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