The pandemic drove a new remote and hybrid working model for a great deal of organisations around the world. People have grown accustomed to the flexibility and other benefits this hybrid work model has brought. Others believe it has an equal amount of disadvantages, with some employees finding it difficult to adapt. What do these hybrid work environments look like in different organisations and how is it affecting them now?
With Sasha Qadri moderating this roundtable debate, the speakers include:
- Andy Caddy, Group CIO, PureGym
- Georgina Owens, CTO, Liberis
- Simon White, CDO, VolkerWessels UK
- Martyn Wallace, CDO, Digital Office, Scottish Local Government
- Chris Merrick, Sr Director, Global Marketing Integrated Systems, Shure Incorporated
Hybrid workspaces and offices
Moderator Sasha Qadri asked the speakers how their offices and workspaces have been working since the Covid-19 pandemic.
When sitting at home, Liberis’ CTO, Georgina Owens, had visions of what going back to the office would look like. “It was going to be this massive collaboration space and really interactive and innovative”, she said. In reality, she stated that they are still learning and have a long way to go when it comes to the future of the office. This includes the hybrid, remote and office work environment.
According to Andy Caddy, Group CIO at PureGym, his organisation is still in transition: “We are partly back”. He explained that the company is “not quite there” when it comes to figuring out how the hybrid work environment will look. “We’re trying to do ten years’ worth of advancement in working practice in 18 months”, he said. An area of concern for Andy is that it will be difficult to do collaborative working with people working at the office and others tuning in from home. When on team calls, he finds it harder to pick up on visual cues like body language. He argued that in the technical world, there are those who are introverted or aren’t getting their views heard.
“I think that we’re still looking at business models through the old lens pre-covid”, said Digital Office’s CDO, Martyn Wallace. In his view, organisations are trying to “shoehorn” old practices in the new world. He gave an “ironic” example of this. “I was asked to attend a training course in person on how to manage teams remotely”, he said. Martyn stated that he has worked from home for 20 odd years. His view is that work should be classed as a thing you do, not a place you go to.
Hybrid work: who benefits?
Sasha outlined how expectations have changed for those looking to join the workforce. She asked the speakers how the hiring process has changed since covid.
Georgina agreed with the idea that expectations have changed and shifted considerably. She explained that as a result, she has been hiring more people. The majority of the team had built their life around working remotely and this was evident after the pandemic. “Three of the management team do school pickups”, she said, with some doing morning drop offs. Georgina even pointed out that lunchtime is for dog-walking for some employees. However, she noted that they do have a full day where the team meets up and have in-person conversations.
The management style needs to change in order to enable employees to benefit from their work environment according to Martyn. He is in favour of the hybrid work environment. When referring to a physical place of work, he classified it as a “Mediaeval practice”. He noted that technologists need to think about design and best working practice. Overall, Martyn believes there needs to be a fundamental shift in how to deliver business. He said that leaders need to: “Help support the member staff to be individual but also [inclusive] as well”.
Shure’s Senior Director of Global Marketing Integrated Systems, Chris Merrick, had a different view. He agreed that while problems did arise from the pandemic, opportunities arose at the same time. Before the pandemic, those applying to jobs at Shure in London or Chicago would have been within the catchment area. With the introduction of hybrid and remote working, this “opened up the diversity of people” who submitted applications. He added that people are also more open to flexible working as a result.
Useful hybrid work technologies
Sasha asked the speakers what technologies they are looking for to help aid the shift to the hybrid work environment.
Earlier on in the debate, CDO of VolkerWessels UK, Simon White, mentioned technology and how that can enable a more collaborative working environment. “We have worked with different technology suppliers to run pilots”, he said. One example he mentioned was a meeting room pod with a built-in camera for conferences and meetings. When it comes to technology, Simon argued that it needs to be simple. He thinks it should be as easy as plugging in and getting to work straight away.
This roundtable was recorded at The Studio and made in partnership with Shure.