Lessons in Hybrid Working, moderated by Lea Sellers, brought together technology leaders Troy Jensen, Senior Manager, Global Accounts, Shure; Joanna Drake, CIO, THG; Manish Chandela, Group CISO and Infrastructure Director, Unipart Group; and Denise Day, CIO, dunhumby, as they compared and contrasted their experiences wrestling with the pandemic.
An experimental phase
2020 and 2021 has been a huge experiment in virtual working. Organizations are now in a better position to understand the impact of large-scale virtual working on productivity, engagement and well-being. Have we learned anything? And, what lessons in hybrid working should technology leaders take into account when designing their strategies in teams in 2022?
A 2021 Work Trend Index report by Microsoft highlighted some interesting stats. First, around 73 percent of employees wanted flexible, remote work options to continue, whilst 63 percent of employees wanted more in-person work or collaboration post-pandemic.
Elsewhere, 39 percent of people felt exhausted, and when self-assessed, productivity remained the same or higher, with time in virtual meetings doubling compared to 2020. But networks and connections shrunk. People narrowed their interactions to their immediate teams, letting connections with people in their broader professional networks lapse.
There are recorded upsides of working virtually. Less or no commute, working hours to reflect your personal life, family time, and opportunities to inject more purpose into your working week have all been lessons in hybrid working many of us have enjoyed. However, there is a need to combat digital exhaustion and be deliberate about connecting with people outside narrowed circles as a result of virtual working.
Technology and investments in new tools can help us connect and interact with one another seamlessly, but it can be difficult to switch off. To combat this, some organizations, the roundtable heard, have implemented policies to help employees retain work-life balance and make time for focused individual work, such as asking people not to send emails after the close of the business day, such as France and Portugal have announced legally, or highlighting a day or a week where no one can schedule internal meetings.
A trend towards smaller, more siloed networks will present a challenge—one businesses have long been working hard to reduce.
Remote work has meant that many of the informal day-to-day interactions people have in the workplace has reduced. Conversations with colleagues in different business functions, whilst waiting for the lift or getting a coffee help to share information and connect ideas in an organic way, is now seen as a hidden way for the wheels of the business to keep turning.
This is critical to enabling creativity and innovation as well as building relationships and networks. One of the factors that fuelled tech innovation in Silicon Valley was the existence of spaces that helped people easily and frequently connect and share ideas. Smaller networks can lead to less creative problem solving, a lack of cross-functional collaboration, disconnection from the overall goals of organizations and less innovation.
Whether people continue to learn the lessons in hybrid working, or move towards hybrid working, there is a need to be more intentional about maintaining connections with people outside our immediate teams.
Lessons in hybrid working
Working remotely presents both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities can include the ability to hire talent globally, and ease the access to learning and development, whilst diversifying and retaining employee talent. However, to maintain our own mental wellbeing, productivity and increase organizational performance, leaders and organizations can also help staff maintain an equilibrium and stay connected with people outside their immediate teams.
These are lessons in hybrid working leaders across the industry can employ to support their businesses moving forward.
This roundtable debate on lessons in hybrid working is sponsored by Shure Incorporated.