By: Vanessa Lovatt– Chief Evangelist at Glisser.
Before the arrival of Covid-19, most knowledge workers constructed their professional lives in terms of time spent in the office versus time spent working remotely – if indeed they were allowed to do so in the first place. Fast forward 18 months, and the distinction is altogether blurrier, giving rise to the concept of ‘hybrid working’ – a borderless way of working, empowered by technology, in which desk-based workers alternate between working environments according to need and preference.
The difference between the old world of remote working and the emerging hybrid reality is the flexibility it affords employees to make smarter choices about how their time is structured. Work from home days no longer need to be booked in advance. Employees no longer need to be subjected to endless office distractions when occupied with individual tasks. And meetings no longer require every person to be physically present.
Indeed, what began as an enforced way of working has now become a desirable organisational norm for a growing contingent of businesses. Our own research finds that two-thirds (66%) of large organisations are on record advocating some form of hybrid working for their employees
But, for many, implementing a working hybrid model is complex and challenging.
A look at the challenges
In many ways, the concept of hybrid working rests upon a fundamental change in how desk-based workers are perceived. The pandemic has shown business leaders that they can trust employees to work effectively outside of the office; that in many cases, productivity is maintained or even enhanced by working remotely, particularly when employees no longer have to commute long distances daily.
However, the problem is that even when organisations are seemingly clear about what they expect of their knowledge workers, the practicalities of their chosen approach can still be difficult to nail down. For example, when a business mandates that its hybrid workforce spends three days in the office and two days remote working per week, it immediately throws up problematic questions. Which teams come in on which days? Does everyone have to stick to the same days each week?
Added to this are two primary technology challenges – unification and engagement. Firstly, the technology used to facilitate hybrid working must unify the working experience for all employees, irrespective of whether they’re in the office or at home.
Secondly, the technology must engage everyone who isn’t there in person. One key takeaway from the remote working of the past 18 months is just how difficult it is to sustain people’s attention indefinitely through a computer screen.
One key challenge here is that some of the commonly-used tools fall short of what’s needed. Video conferencing is an excellent example of this. Basic video tools are useful in connecting small groups in informal settings, but their limitations have been exposed when used for situations requiring team-wide participation and engagement.
Introducing a better way
The good news is that there’s a better way. In fact, many large organisations are finding that the solution to this problem of engagement lies in an unlikely source – their event technology platform.
Event technology platforms exploded in popularity during the pandemic – as thousands of customer, partner and industry events were ported online – and companies worked hard to keep the show on the road. This technology aims to replicate the core components of an in-person event in the digital domain – from virtual lobbies to auditoriums and breakout rooms, to help desks and downloadable marketing collateral – online attendees get the same sort of experience that they would when attending a physical event. And for everyday collaboration, this technology works too. It ultimately lets businesses ‘treat every meeting like it’s an event’, ensuring that employees are provided with the best experience.
The most versatile technologies can unify the event experience for in-person and online attendees – so that everyone gets the same experience and the same benefits from the event, irrespective of how they’re choosing to attend. And it is precisely because of this capability that event technology is now emerging as a surprise frontrunner in the race to solve the technology challenges of hybrid working.
With the right technology, businesses can operate hybrid meeting spaces that are available across the entire organisation on an ongoing basis. Some platforms even allow for total customisation, meaning that the hybrid spaces reflect the branding and general look and feel of an organisation’s physical real estate. It’s a far cry from the unbranded, limited functionality of basic video conferencing, and a breakthrough moment as far as hybrid working is concerned.
So, choosing the right technology to support hybrid working is every bit as important as defining the hybrid working policy itself. Events technology may have emerged as a leading candidate to support organisation-wide hybrid working, but not every event technology platform is well-suited to the task. Business leaders must evaluate their options carefully and prioritise the technologies that afford them the most flexibility and control.
Ultimately, we believe that, while the challenges are evident, it’s crucial that companies make hybrid working successful – to attract and retain the staff who expect it, and to realise the productivity and wellbeing benefits it promises.
Vanessa Lovatt is Chief Evangelist at Glisser, an award-winning technology platform powering unique company event experiences and meetings, anywhere.