A little over 12 months ago, organisations were forced to change the way they worked and change how their staff interacted with their own organisations — virtually overnight. The degree to which businesses have adapted and the path they have taken, as we moved out of the crisis phase to embrace a hybrid working model, will play a large part in both their employees’ experience and, by extension, that of their customers.

Pre-COVID-19, there was a fear among businesses that if you couldn’t see your people, you could not have control. It was a traditional, hierarchical, and authoritative working model that the pandemic turned on its head. It brought change that was long overdue and forced organisations into a culture of trust overnight. The concept of having large teams working remotely, collaborating using digital tools, and still being productive was a phenomenon considered to be in the realm of emerging, disruptive companies. Senior leadership all over New Zealand had to rapidly move to a different mindset to trust that their people were going to be just as productive sitting at the kitchen table as they would be in the office.

Flexibility: opening up the conversation

The IDC InfoBrief [New Zealand's State of Agility 2021] commented on how well companies execute the hybrid working model. While more than 40 per cent claimed “key resources” were available to remote workers, only 12 per cent of respondents claimed widespread access where employees “can access critical information from any device, anytime and anywhere with consistent experience”. With companies increasing their investment in the employee experience, and with remote workforces a fact of life, we would only expect that number to rise in future InfoBriefs. In a sense, for organisations to survive, there’s little choice but to embrace these new ways of working.

The question for us at Datacom is how do we help businesses with that? For businesses trying to maximise the benefits of the hybrid model, we’d focus on ways to assess they were working well. Does the business have access to smart tools? Can it integrate technology, information and data, and processes to ensure its people remain highly productive?

We still have a lot to learn but how we work is not going back to how it was. The key now is to listen to your people and continue to optimise ways of working. Understand how people use the technology available, how often teams might want to come together to engage in person, where the limitations might be, and what roadblocks need to be removed.

The next phase of hybrid working is in the ongoing extension of mobility to provide people with the right tools and access for them to maintain the highest levels of productivity. Businesses must also continue to develop programmes and policies that create a culture centred around empathy, mental health, and employee wellness. Although there is a lot of upside to hybrid working, we all need to be purposeful about ensuring our people maintain a work/life balance as we blur the lines between work and home.

As businesses look ahead to 'what’s next?' after the pandemic, many have landed on the hybrid approach as the way forward. We know there is no going back. Businesses must make investments in digital infrastructure and cybersecurity tools to get the most value out of a flexible hybrid working model and continue the transition into this new normal.

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