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Entering the age of hybrid work

remote working
(Image credit: Image Credit: Eugenio Marongiu / Shutterstock )

IT workers have always been accustomed to high-pressure problems, ones that pop up suddenly and need to be swiftly solved. Then came the global pandemic, which created universal issues and rapid change on a scale we’ve never seen before.   

Like most IT workers across the world, my team at Paddy Power Betfair had to conquer a variety of unique and unforeseen challenges as we helped our employees transition to fully remote work. 

The innovations we’ve experienced – and the many lessons we’ve learned – guide us to the next chapter of the IT-employee relationship. With a hybrid workforce of employees coming and going between the office and remote environments, there will be more innovation and change on the horizon.

My team handles endpoint management for all Paddy Power Betfair employees in Europe – which translates to about 4,000 employees spread across five offices throughout the continent. As any IT pro at a large company knows, delivering a stellar employee experience to a staff of this size requires a lot of investment and iteration.

Fortunately, we had the right IT infrastructure to make it through the transition to remote work and provide our employees with safe, secure, and productive experiences. Hybrid work poses new challenges – and our IT team is hard at work planning for a new phase of enabling great experiences to Paddy Power Betfair workers.

Here are some of the most essential considerations we’ve identified for a successful hybrid workplace.

Agility and flexibility are essential to successful hybrid workspaces.

Even prior to the pandemic, we recognized the importance of providing employees with flexible working environments. Before everyone went remote, we had already started to shift towards agile workspaces, where employees don’t have assigned desks but instead can sit at a variety of locations when they come into the office.

In preparation for hybrid work, we’re continuing to optimize our offices for agile work. But our prior experience has provided us with a lot of lessons about the infrastructure required to pull off this sort of flexible environment.

The number one lesson we learned? Technology is critical to enabling a successful agile workspace.

Agile workspaces provide a number of collaborative and efficiency benefits, but we’ve seen firsthand that “hot-desking” can lead to pitfalls as well. When an employee comes into the office late and doesn’t find a desk, for example, that doesn’t make for a good experience.

The right workplace technology can help companies avoid these issues. We’re exploring software that will facilitate the elements of daily agile work: booking desks ahead of time, reserving meeting rooms, and so on.

We also recognized that flexible workspaces still need to provide a sense of unity and collaboration among smaller teams. The best solution is to designate specific areas to certain departments – so that employees get the flexibility benefits of being able to shift to different desks, while maintaining the collaborative benefits of being near the colleagues they work closest with.

IT teams have to provide a consistent experience to hybrid workers. 

Remote support has obviously been the top priority for our IT team over the past year. In the office, we had provided designated areas where employees could bring their laptops and discuss issues with an IT technician. With that option removed, we leaned on other support options – like our dedicated Slack channel where any employee could join and interact with IT workers.

Now, the top priority in a hybrid work environment is consistency. We’re anticipating a future where some employees will work in the office for a few days, and on other days they’ll be working from home or on the go. It’s the responsibility of IT teams to make sure there is no major experience that differs from one working environment to another.

One way we’ve addressed this issue is by using real-time technical data to track the remote experience compared to the in-office experience. We’ve supported this technical data with sentiment campaigns, which we use to collect the employees’ opinions and preferences related to their experiences. 

We’ve also leveraged digital experience scoring capabilities with Nexthink’s DEX Score, so we’re able to see the differences in scores between devices that are in the office vs. devices that are at home. By recognizing these inconsistencies in real-time, we’re able to act swiftly and take measures to close the gap.

Personas unlock important context to IT issues. 

As I mentioned above, access to technical and sentiment data are critical to understanding the experiences of hybrid workers. But there’s an important element that data alone cannot provide: context. 

Without context into who individual users are, what they do, and what individual problems they’re facing, it’s going to be difficult to consistently provide the right support to a large workforce that is distributed across many environments.

I believe personas are the key to gaining this invaluable context. First and foremost, creating detailed personas helps an IT team understand the nuanced differences between different departments, teams, and individuals, and provide more personalized support. But personas also make it possible to visualize the context of each IT issue, beyond what the data shows us.    

I’ll illustrate this point with an example. Let’s say there’s an IT issue that is impacting the digital experience score for 20 percent of our employee base. Every IT issue is important – but on the surface, 20 percent of 4,000 employees don’t necessarily indicate disaster.

However, by segmenting employees into specific personas, we’d be able to look into the issue with a more targeted eye. We might see then that while only 20 percent of the entire company is being impacted, the issue is affecting 90 percent of our Development team – a large and essential part of the business. Personas and segmentation would then have provided us with the context to identify a major issue that needs to be fixed rapidly.

The shift to remote work has prepared us to succeed in tackling hybrid work challenges.

It’s true that every major challenge is also a learning experience – and IT workers have learned a tremendous amount over the course of the pandemic.

The strategies we’ve honed during the transition to remote work are instrumental in getting us through this next phase, as we prepare for employees to return to the office.  

In some ways – like by creating easy-access communication channels between IT and employees – we want to replicate the office experience for remote workers. But we’re also replicating the best parts of remote work for our hybrid workspaces: all-wireless networks, the flexibility of location, and more personalized IT support.

While many of our long-term plans may have been set aside over the past year, this period of rapid innovation has given us the tools to succeed in conquering whatever challenges the next chapter brings.

Teodor Olteanu, IT Manager, Paddy Power Betfair

Responsible for driving IT strategy to support employees across several countries, Teodor has gained insights into ways organizations can leverage data to smoothly navigate periods of intense change and complexity.