Hybrid spaces are going to be a big talking point for the foreseeable future. So let’s take a look at how video meetings are going to look post-pandemic, and how they are going to shape the hybrid work experience.
This Zoom ad gives us an interesting glimpse into what the future of collaboration could look like.
Technology is going to be the foundation of the hybrid workplace, in a much different way than it previously has been used to facilitate business. The technology is going to expand to show remote workers what’s happening in the office – through file sharing, chatrooms, video conferencing, and more – as well as keeping in-house workers connected to all members of their team, regardless of location.
The New Conference Room
Prior to 2020, about “2% of 27 million huddle rooms worldwide were outfitted to support video conferencing.”
This means you’ll have new challenges to solve as team leaders, managers, and corporate executives. The first one is: “Are there any changes we need to make to our current meeting policies and the way we schedule them?”
There are also many health and proximity concerns in terms of making sure your conference room can incorporate good visual and audio of those within the room to those logging on remotely, as well as good visual and audio setups for everyone in the room to hear their remote team members clearly as well. The setup and function of conference rooms should be discussed and reconfigured to facilitate the most successful video conferencing parameters.
Video conferencing has been a great way to bolster more meaningful connections in virtual meetings, but how will that work in the hybrid workplace?
Remote and in-house connectivity may be part of the future plan – you will need to supply your team members with quality video equipment and technology (like Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and others) to ensure everyone can take their meetings wherever it suits them best.
Here are some best practices when conducting a video meeting:
- Make sure everyone present is clearly visible (some technology providers even have software now that can virtually “seat” everyone at the same “table”)
- Provide and/or check for high-quality audio connections
- Implement intuitive room controls for both scheduling and facilitation
- Provide avenues for real-time sharing and collaboration on work material
Hybrid and Collaboration Technology Training
With this jump to a hybrid model, your teams will need training for a few reasons.
First, the hybrid workflow is going to be markedly different from past efforts. It will take some adjustment from everyone before things start running smoothly.
And second, collaboration tools are also changing rapidly, to ensure they can meet all your hybrid workplace needs. And that means your staff will likely need more, or even comprehensive, training on the ins and outs of these rapidly evolving technologies.
Your fully remote workers will also need to be a part of this training and consideration. Remember that their home (or wherever they choose to work from) will present its own unique challenges when it comes to video conferencing, from audio to visual to even basic things like a strong enough internet connection to support video conferencing capabilities.
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The old and the new are no longer trying to outdo each other – they’re working together. As we’ve moved through recent challenges, many industries have found that in the discussion of in-house vs. remote work, there’s no clear winner. And this mindset opens doors for a new realm of possibilities to combine the two. The power of the hybrid workforce lies in each company’s ability to set parameters based on what works for their business and its employees.
Here are some things to think about when you are measuring the power of the hybrid workforce.
The Hybrid Workforce and Inclusivity
One of the hybrid workforce’s biggest challenges is also one of its biggest strengths. By allowing your team to operate from the location that best suits their work-life harmony, you have the chance to also improve the inclusivity of all voices.
Professional teams have never had more ways to communicate and collaborate than they do right now. And with these myriad options, you can incorporate fresh ideas and perspectives much more frequently. There is no longer the need to try and create meeting spaces and times that will work for 90% of your team at any given time – you can create threads, chat areas, and host files or virtual events to discuss and collaborate through all stages of a project’s life cycle.
The hybrid workforce also helps quell the issues caused by proximity bias – the belief that leads us to falsely assume employees are more productive when they have to come to the office every day. Productivity varies by person, not by place. And including the flexibility to work from home when needed means you will have better meeting attendance – you won’t miss out on the perspectives of those who may need to be home with family or take care of personal tasks during the traditional workday hours.
This inclusivity is good for fostering diversity and equity, as well. Many companies have more than one location they work from – hybrid work can help pull different teams together to work on a collaborative project without uprooting some employees from their normal offices.
The power of the hybrid workforce stems from its inherent ability to bring people together, even when they don’t come from the same physical or cultural place, ensuring every team member has a voice.
Models in the Hybrid Workforce
A common reason many companies (pre-2020) didn’t want to discuss remote work with their employees is that “we can’t operate remotely.” Now that this has been heartily disproven, what does the hybrid workforce look like for remote workers? For in-house workers?
For most people, being part of a hybrid model will mean many employees will engage in more fluid weeks – some weeks they’ll work remotely on Mondays and Thursdays, other weeks on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, for example. This is a more 50/50-style hybrid model.
Other hybrid models will mean that most or all of the work will be done remotely, with special events and projects requiring in-person office collaboration. Dropbox is one company that has decided to go “virtual-first”: this means all office spaces will be used for collaborative work, not solo work. It also includes a non-linear workday structure – this allows for core collaboration hours to overlap in team members’ schedules, while the rest of the workday can be dictated by the employee and their needs for that day or week.
Even if a business leans more towards a majority in-house hybrid model, many companies are still creating virtual-first solutions that can accommodate any remote worker’s needs. By hosting processes and files online as a standard practice, you can still work from anywhere, should the need arise.
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Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are leading the way in hybrid workplace research and new technology feature announcements. As these collaboration tools gather more data, it’s a great time for us to take a look at the trends that are emerging.
Zoom recently conducted a survey which found that 65% of respondents who have been working from home for the past year said “a hybrid work environment was their ideal work model,” with about half of that group preferring to work from home, and half preferring to work from the office. As the survey continued into more specific facets of hybrid work, the responses began to vary greatly, which shows there is a lot still unknown about how we will navigate this new era.
We’ve talked before about how the future of work will be focused on achieving success in the hybrid workplace. But where does collaboration fit into the hybrid workplace, what will it look like?
The Hybrid Workplace Will Vary by Industry
While essentially all industries had to pivot their work models this year to combat disruptions and challenges caused by COVID-19, not all industries will be perfectly conducive to hybridity – there are limits to the hybrid workplace model.
For example, healthcare has greatly expanded Telehealth and other online offerings, but there will never be a time when doctors and nurses will be able to see patients 100% virtually, thus creating a need for more “in-office” time than, say, an advertising agency or a retailer with both an online store and physical locations.
Technology can’t bridge certain gaps, and those gaps will still need to be filled with onsite workers.
The Hybrid Workplace Will Vary by Role & Personal Preference
Just as the industry type is a factor in hybrid work models, job type will also need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Traditionally, content writers, corporate teams, and other jobs where a majority of the work can be done on a computer and through conference calls tend to be jobs that lend themselves well to a predominantly remote work model. The same is true for certain management positions – a manager’s time can be split between the office or store, and home.
But cashiers, hospitality and restaurant workers, and health inspectors are not going to be able to work full-time remotely due to the onsite nature of their roles.
Also, some of the hybrid workplace dynamics will be determined by personal preferences. Two marketing department associates may have similar job duties and very different work models – the older associate with children may find it more beneficial to work in the office, while a single associate may enjoy working remotely to accommodate personal travel plans or other aspirations.
Technology Will Be at the Heart of Hybrid Collaboration
Since it’s possible that every single employee’s hybrid work model may look slightly different, collaboration and communication will be the biggest concerns as we try to create our ideal versions of the hybrid workplace.
To effectively steer a hybrid workforce at your company, you’ll have to leverage technology in more unique ways to cover all the new ways people will be performing their job functions, especially those that are highly collaborative.
It’s Changing All the Time
The hybrid workplace likely will continue evolving as employee preferences, work trends, and productivity evolves. In fact, many studies say that the flexibility it allows will create a sort of a la carte-style work model, where employees will have the ability to switch up their preferred routine to accommodate seasonal changes, appointments, childcare needs, and overall work-life balance clashes.
As it changes, we must be ready to examine and react to these changes in proactive and productive ways.
Take the Hy(brid) Road Early
Need help acclimating your team to a new hybrid workplace model? Meet Me In The Cloud is equipped with solutions to help you foster technology adoption and plan, set up, and execute flawless meetings and events. For more information, check out our Event Assist and collaboration technology adoption services.
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The hybrid workforce is the new future of work. It will mean merging the old with the new – creating spaces for collaboration within physical office spaces as well as using collaboration tools to fill gaps between onsite and remote workers.
But how do we achieve hybrid success while hosting and attending meetings? Here are some tips.
Replace Uncertainty of the Unknown with Training & Insight
Collaboration equity is a difficult concept to grasp – how do we mitigate uncertainty around a system that will look so different from company to company?
Collaboration equity is the ability to contribute equally, regardless of location, role, experience level, language, and device preference.
To achieve hybrid success, training is a must. But we’re not talking about standardized, mass-produced training modules or online skill-building courses. To train your employees effectively, you must first have insight into their current ability and aptitude levels.
Collaboration tools are vast and ever-changing. That means everyone on your staff will have different comfort levels with each application. This is similar to hybrid work models, where everyone has a different setup in terms of in-house workdays and remote workdays.
Creating collaboration equity means being open to learning what works and what doesn’t.
Improve IT Practices
There are tons of great ways to manage IT needs in a hybrid workplace.
For example, migrating every business capability and piece of data to the cloud is not often the best approach. Take some time to discuss, with other executives and your employees, which functions, applications, and information are must-haves in the cloud, and which can continue to be stored on intranets or in-house servers.
Before you integrate a hybrid IT system, however, you should do some testing and training to make sure your IT support staff doesn’t get overwhelmed with issues and requests immediately after implementing the hybrid system.
Time and training are important components in achieving hybrid success in IT areas as well.
Remember: It’s About Balance
The hybrid work environment, just like the newly ramped-up remote work environment, won’t be identical for everyone. But it should always be equitable. Using collaboration tools to bridge gaps in face-to-face communication should be a priority.
Also, remember that these differences in what each employee’s workday looks like can be hard to reconcile at first. Before the pandemic, there was a strong preconceived notion that working from home meant that your employees would be more distracted and less productive as a whole. But a quick Google search for WFH statistics will show that not only is that not true, but the opposite is often the more common case.
Achieving hybrid success through collaboration equity may seem like a daunting task, but if you do it right, you’ll see positive outcomes across all your business departments.
Conquer the New Normal with MMITC
Unsure how to get started on your road to achieving hybrid success? Meet Me In The Cloud is equipped with solutions to help you foster technology adoption and plan, set up, and execute flawless meetings and events. For more information, check out our Event Assist and collaboration technology adoption services.
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Digital collaboration is a hallmark of the future of work. There are many different types of collaboration tools and cloud-based software that can increase and enhance digital collaboration in your business.
With the rapid digital transformations we’ve seen in the last year, it’s important these new tools and technologies don’t create a silo-ing effect on your company’s departments. Silo-ing happens when each department checks their own digital solutions and workflow and, rather than opening a dialogue for collaboration, employees say something like “Everything looks fine on my end.”
Luckily, there are many benefits to digital collaboration that can open lines of communication and foster teamwork so your business isn’t handicapped by its new tech.
Knowledge management is the digital collaboration benefit that most closely prevents the information from being siloed, or not effectively communicated to teams outside the one where the knowledge is being created and, hopefully, shared.
Knowledge sharing is easily facilitated using digital collaboration tools, whether it’s through file sharing, discussion, regular updates in project threads, or video conferencing.
To ensure knowledge management is being handled properly, check to see how and where the knowledge is being archived. An indicator of good knowledge management is the ability to find information that has previously been discussed and compiled in an easy and straightforward manner. Using digital collaboration tools ensures that your team will have access to any and all information within your platform, whether they are in-house, remote, or freelance workers.
The customizability and flexibility that digital collaboration provides can also increase employee engagement.
When employees are trained and equipped with multiple ways to share and access information, it increases the likelihood that your team members will tailor their collaboration platform experience to keep themselves up-to-date on company news, projects, and changes.
“Features such as personalized dashboard, news feed, content sharing attributes, instant messages facilities, and recent updates help keep employees engaged and up-to-date,” according to Saketa.
For more on this, check out our blog post about fostering inclusion and collaboration in virtual meetings.
Cloud-based data is the easiest way businesses have found to navigate the remote work and COVID-distanced world. And digital collaboration allows for many different forms of communication, which can be tailored to meet the needs of each employee and their unique work environment.
Flexibility is going to be a main component of successful workplaces because employees in all industries have been shown in the last year that it is possible to create and sustain a hybrid workplace model in almost any industry.
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Technology adoption is hard to see if you aren’t monitoring your employee’s progress in new tech implementation. But this year, when new tech solutions were being added rapid-fire, we saw firsthand how easy it is to implement a tool without fostering adoption.
The temporary measures we added to deal with COVID-related changes have left holes in our workforce’s understanding of collaboration tools. Here’s how the pandemic accelerated technology adoption.
The Importance of Adoption
“If technology is part of the Innovation or Process Improvement that you are undertaking, your firm’s users must adopt the technology fully for any profound ‘change’ to occur,” says an Above the Law article.
When you focus on technology adoption, you can create a system where your tech solutions are fully integrated into your employee’s expertise. Rather than training for individual commands or projects, complete adoption of a tool means you can use that tool in more collaborative and valuable ways across the board.
The Role COVID-19 Played in Tech
As COVID-19 spread across the US and the world, businesses of all sizes had to pivot strategies from in-person dealings to contactless and online offerings.
Now that the dust has settled a bit, there are a lot of instances that highlight the need for true adoption in terms of technology and collaboration tools. Zoom meetings, online shopping, Microsoft Teams project collaboration – all of these things existed before 2020, but they were made necessary by the emergence of this virus.
As we move into 2021, these collaboration solutions have become commonplace and are likely sticking around for the future.
The Remote Work Boom
Remote work has been trending upward in popularity for a number of years and now that COVID-19 has forced a lot of new jobs and industries to figure out how employees can work from home, that collaborative technology expertise and adoption needs to be stronger than ever.
Though some remote positions will revert back to their pre-pandemic locations, many will stay remote, or become a hybrid of remote and on-site work. Without technology adoption, the skills and communication gaps that created issues before and during the 2020 changes will only be exacerbated.
The coronavirus has changed the world and thrust the importance of full-scale technology adoption into the spotlight. Collaboration tools are constantly updating their platforms and features to keep up with the demand for online solutions (see these update articles about Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Webex Teams).
As we continue making decisions that move us toward a tech-friendly future, adoption is the best way to ensure our teams, leaders, and employees have the best training so we can continue to make the most of these collaboration tools.
The Road to Full Technology Adoption
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