How can businesses ensure hybrid working is successful?
To be fully optimized for a hybrid work set-up, what businesses need to focus on isn’t a simple transformation of their digital set-up, but constant and continuous change that takes employees experiences and feedback into account – digital acceleration as I like to call it.
Rarely are companies starting from scratch with digital so breaking down digital change into small, discrete efforts, embracing a culture of continuous change and ongoing iterative improvement that uses data to fuel their digital future, and puts the user at the center of their decision making, is much more effective.
Digital acceleration is all about extracting value out of IT systems and ensuring that data-driven information reaches those who need it, when they need it and in whatever form they need it in. Automating as many workflows as possible allows for this to happen within and across systems, functions and geographies. As companies rethink operations for future ways of working, we’ve seen digital acceleration like never before in the workplace.
By putting processes in place to constantly improve their digital properties, businesses can and should be constantly re-examining, updating, and iterating on them to accelerate new hybrid ways of working. If not, they risk finding themselves left behind by faster, more digital-savvy competitors.
A one size fits all approach to hybrid work will not be enough
Whilst opportunity for digital employee experiences has increased, we’ve simultaneously seen the challenges this brings for both businesses and employees. There isn’t a universal hybrid work approach that works for all, meaning businesses must focus on delivering the right technology for each individual employee. This should take into consideration the multitude of factors that influence workers on any given day, both in their day-to-day lives and their careers.
Whilst previously an individual might have been conditioned to work in a certain way based on the company that employed them, hybrid working means each employee has a greater power to determine their own way of working. Different generations may have different working patterns – parents with young children are likely to have different working schedules compared to young professionals living with flatmates – and technology adoption and tolerances should be considered right from the initial stages of any roll-out.
The success of any hybrid working model comes down to how well a business collaborates (opens in new tab) and communicates in a virtual environment. Clear communication - as well as an open mindset that focuses on both growth and development - is now vital for employers and employees as companies integrate themselves into a future that combines remote and office working.
Above all, efforts that are made to maintain employee and team morale are critical to ensuring the cultivation of positive and productive habits. Regardless of whether employees work from their kitchen table, a café or office desk, employee engagement should remain the top priority.
Be prepared to continually improve the employee experience
As we shift into the era of digital-led and digital-must, companies should approach the use of technologies to solve business problems and realize business opportunities not as a sweeping, one-off, digital transformation, but as ongoing, iterative processes: digital acceleration.
This means that as behaviors and external factors change, technology remains fit for purpose and that the company’s digital end state is never ‘complete’, there’s always opportunity to enhance it.
The benefit of implementing a digital acceleration approach for hybrid working is that it can help ensure all new processes are effective. As companies settle into the ‘new normal’ they can iterate to keep employee engagement high.
The challenge of planning for threats
Hybrid work has many benefits but there’s no denying it does take significantly more effort and planning for businesses in terms of protecting companies from external digital threats. Not just for big corporations, but for any company willing to invest in their technological future, there is hesitation when it comes to security.
Data security is vital, and within the walls of an office data can be kept secure using anonymization, encryption or anti-virus security measures. Yet as employees increasingly elect to work in public spaces – be it a café or co-working space – non-secure networks become a concern and questions around digital connectivity and the ramifications of security begin to rear their head.
As such, outside the sanctum of the office environment, there are a multitude of different challenges that could negatively impact both employees and the wider business from a data security perspective. Whether it’s securing customer payment data or complying with GDPR regulation, the risk becomes that much greater. For industries such as financial services, this has become particularly apparent, and goes some way to explain the hard push from many large investment banks to return to the office full time.
As a result, tools such as identity or access management have become indispensable for companies. These tools, alongside basic employee education and training, provide an extra layer of protection for companies to secure sensitive and confidential information. Identity authentication services ensure that users are indeed who they claim to be, and subsequent training helps safeguard them from engaging with malicious content or phishing emails. A great deal of responsibility lies with the IT team to equip employees with the appropriate tools to protect the perimeters of an organization.
Educating the workforce for successful implementation
The world we live in is rapidly changing and therefore practices must change too. For hybrid working to be successful, employers need to educate their staff around security and make it a company-wide priority, giving employees the tools and resources to accelerate security within our digital-first economy.
London’s mayor has continued to encourage the city’s office workers and businesses to embrace post-pandemic hybrid working – more to give the hospitality sector a much-needed boost than anything else – but regardless of why, every organization that moves into this new hybrid work future must ensure it allocates sufficient resources to technology investment to properly set themselves up for successful hybrid working.
Whilst the focus should be on technology to aid digital acceleration, it’s fundamental that businesses support the people using the technology too. As most staff plan to spend between two and four days a week in the office, leaders must look beyond technology and think more deeply about the employee experience of using that technology.
As I said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work, so for digital acceleration to drive business growth, companies must implement strategies that allow for employees to flourish regardless of where they choose to turn on their computer each day. If businesses ensure they’re people-focused, by supporting teams and operations with solutions that are bespoke and flexible, they’ll be well-positioned to overcome future challenges. Using digital acceleration to tackle both external and internal hurdles will mean that businesses are more agile to address future business needs.
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Helena Nimmo, CIO, Endava (opens in new tab)