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Tech Talk: Are meetings the only way for hybrid workers to keep in touch?

By Ken Wong - 5 Dec 2022

Tech Talk: Are meetings the only way for hybrid workers to keep in touch?

Samir Sayed, Managing Director for ASEAN, Korea, Emerging Markets & Pakistan for Hybrid Work Solutions at HP. Image source: HP.

During the pandemic Working From Home was the norm. It saw the rise of video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams, as well as investments in communication tools like webcams and specialised speakers with dedicated support for video calls.

But now as we wind down from the pandemic, we are faced with a Return to Office situation. In fact, according to a new IDC Future of Work report, The Future of Workspace: Bringing Employees Back into the Office, around 25% of organisations across Asia/Pacific are already redesigning their offices, with 70% of them intending to do so in the next 18-months. They are redesigning their offices to bring employees back onsite and, at the same time, improve operational efficiency.  

Dr. Lily Phan, Research Director, Future of Work, IDC Asia/Pacific said:

Without a clear road map and demonstrated tangible ROI, office redesign projects will fail to deliver expected outcomes. For leaders and organisations, office redesign goals are to improve productivity and employee experience. However, they are averse to any disruptions to their business operations even if these will improve productivity

As for the key drivers for an office redesign, improving the employee experience, enhancing operational efficiency, accommodating hybrid work, developing the company culture, and saving costs have been touted.

But is an office redesign enough impetus to get staff to return? We spoke to Samir Sayed, Managing Director for ASEAN, Korea, Emerging Markets & Pakistan for Hybrid Work Solutions at HP to find out how management needs to persuade staff that RTO is good for them and the business, and if meetings are the only way for hybrid workers to keep in touch with office-bound colleagues.  

This office solution highlights the Poly Studio E70.

We've had 3 years to prove hybrid work was possible. Why this rush to get workers back into the office? What happened to the support for hybrid work? How does management sell RTO to staff?

We’ve no doubt that hybrid work is still here to stay, despite some companies trying to get part of their workforce back to the office. This push to RTO is proving to be a challenge, as workers themselves are resisting to return - Accenture research indicates that a large majority of workers (83 per cent) prefer a hybrid work model. At the same time, employers are also showing themselves to be unwilling to risk the resignations that are inevitable following a hard mandate to return.

To properly sell a return to the office, organisations must act intentionally and with a clear purpose when it comes to framing the reasons for people to come together. Questions like what people need to achieve, and where physical presence adds value, must be asked. Along the way, this vision must be clearly communicated across the organisation to enable people at all levels to buy in to.

 This TC8 is a simple video tool to keep connected.

We've started returning to the office now. So for those who spent on setting up a home office during the pandemic, how do they continue to get ROI on this investment?

For a hybrid workforce, leaders can look to maximise ROI for those in the office by supporting the employees and tasks required to be done while at the office. This can include ensuring that all meeting rooms are video conferencing-enabled, by extending video capability into social and breakout spaces and building new types of collaboration typologies in recognition of the fact that one size does not fit all.

At the same time, equal consideration should also be given to what people have access to at home. Ensuring that people are not disadvantaged under a long-term hybrid working model will rely on ensuring that the meeting experiences are equitable wherever they may be and for those working remotely to be clearly seen and heard in mixed meetings. At the same time, there must be consideration towards flexibility and giving employees the facility to ‘create their own use cases to some degree.

Poly’s research into different workplace personas highlights the fact that different employees are likely to be doing similar categories of activities across different locations and spaces. Being able to design the right environments, enabled by the right use of technology to support those activities, will go a long way toward helping organisations drive successful outcomes, building connections, maximising ROI on existing and new investments, and ultimately supporting the development of an effective hybrid culture.

This would be enough for any worker looking to Work From Home.

What are some mistakes companies are seeing during this RTO?

One mistake that we see companies making is thinking about hybrid work as the endpoint, rather than a journey. We’ve seen that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and that leaders must be intentional about testing various strategies as they go, gathering data and learnings about what worked and what didn’t, and iterating as they go. Hybrid work success is a long-term journey, and a culmination of all the lessons learned along the way.

In the same way, employers shouldn’t also be presuming that every job and role can be suited for hybrid work arrangements, especially those in front-liner and service-oriented jobs.

There must be consideration of the distinct types of employees they have in their company(s), the nuances of the work location and surroundings, the different workplace personas of each employee, the technologies required to do their jobs, and just as important, their opinions and reactions towards the various work policies being considered or put in place. Only then can employers make progress towards making the office a place that employees want to return to.

Now more than ever, listening to the voices of your employees is crucial, especially when it comes to both retaining and attracting talent.

Sometimes you need a little extra power to keep in touch properly.

Hybrid work so often focuses on where people are working instead of when or how. So how can management think more about how they can provide flexible, hybrid work arrangements even to people whose jobs require them to be on-site?

On matters of flexibility, whatever the job role, there needs to be both a top-down and bottom-up approach. The strategy and support from leaders and senior managers need to be balanced with a level of empowerment for teams to work out their own ways of successfully managing hybrid work, even for those whose jobs require them to be on-site. Better yet, as mentioned above, understanding the different workplace personas of your workforce can go a long way towards aligning both the workforce and leadership in terms of what works, and what doesn’t.

More importantly, the hybrid work culture needs to be clearly communicated across the organisation to enable people at all levels to buy into the shared vision. Once the culture is in place, leaders can then look to finding better ways to shape both workspaces and the technologies that can be provisioned, to help further enable that hybrid culture.

These voice solutions come with smart features to make calls easier.

Are meetings the only way for hybrid workers to keep in touch?

Far from it, in fact, while we’ve also been proponents of the fact that remote work works, a return to the office will also provide workers with the opportunity to connect face to face, not just in the meeting room, but also at the watercooler. When employees are engaged and feel like they belong, they perform better and are more likely to stay. Given that industries are seeing increased turnover in recent months, that can only be a good thing.


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