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Achieving a sustainable hybrid working model – work smarter, not harder

Looking back at 2020, the arrival of Covid-19 drastically accelerated the movement towards remote working. With no other option, thousands of organisations across a variety of sectors felt the strain of the initial logistical challenge and were forced to mobilise and adapt rapidly with minimal foresight or planning time.

However, as we pass the one-year anniversary of the stay-at-home message being broadcast across the UK and enforcing home working, it raises the question, how much longer can this form of working be sustained? And looking ahead, how can we enhance our working style to develop from a temporary remote working model to an effective hybrid working model as seamlessly as possible?

By shifting from a process driven system to outcome based, a hybrid working model would allow employees to choose where they worked, whether that be at home or in an office, with flexibility and the digital agility to change at a moment’s notice. Without the constraint of a set work location, this allows employees to have an enhanced work life balance, enables the recruitment and retention of top talent and will see vast reduction in pollution from unnecessary commuting and ultimately cost reductions in overheads. There are also significant benefits around increased employee productivity, reduced absenteeism and employee turnover and rental savings from downsizing commercial property.

As vaccination plans continue to roll out across the UK, organisations must embrace the ‘new normal’ and decide how they can make it work within their own models. To do so, companies should focus on their resilience strategy and enhance their digital agility. This can be achieved with the application of collaborative and agile technologies to transform what was originally an enforced situation into a long term and mutually beneficial hybrid approach.

However, as we shift towards this new style of working, there is a heightened organisational risk for companies that have chosen not to invest in making their employee environments as best equipped as possible. For example, pre Covid-19, offices were already using sensors to monitor things like Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ), CO2 levels, lighting, and air flow to comply with current legislations and ensure staff members were healthy and comfortable. Monitoring these elements are also fundamental to ensure optimum productivity, with research studies showing the likes of lighting increasing cognitive brain function and enhancing overall productivity.

However, when considering hybrid working holistically, businesses must apply an amalgamated approach. Organisations must ensure their staff feel safe and are best equipped to accommodate working within a shared office environment. Companies should review and implement preventative technologies which will assist with social distancing, applying technology which uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth contact tracing to minimise virus spread among employees, customers, and visitors. By utilising the correct technology, firms will be able to give employees piece of mind as well as the capability of remotely managing capacity within the workplace. With internal IT controllers permitted to limit access when an office space has reached full capacity, or alternatively, modifying floorplans when footfall within a space becomes a risk to social distancing.

Alongside avoiding the challenge of occupational hazards, organisations must acknowledge the heightened cybersecurity risk within their resilience strategy. With employees working from home on vulnerable home routers and multiple family members using the same network, the threat of socially engineered external threats alone is extremely high. To combat this, medium and large enterprises must review their outsourcing models, implementing additional IT and technology partnerships, particularly as the traditional skill matrix for IT workers evolves – perhaps including the assessment of home set ups and reviewing cybersecurity on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, the implementation of a remote access point (a nifty device which can easily be shipped to an employee and plugged into their laptop), allows for a secure download from a configuration in the cloud, effortlessly creating a centrally managed access credentials map for corporate policies to keep the network secure. This ensures IT departments can have full visibility and assist with troubleshooting anywhere – improving security, reducing IT service desk calls and enhancing employee productivity.

Historically, the UK has been referred to as the ‘sick man of Europe’, with significantly less productivity than our European competitors3. To see this change, government support and policy changes need to be explored. The time is now, as there is a ripe opportunity while we are all under the same threat, to identify the structure which needs to be put in place so we can come out of this more balanced, or perhaps even a step ahead from a productivity perspective.

It will be a long path to follow to thrive and flourish and this new way of working will be centred around identifying and accepting preferences in each individual workforce. Ultimately shaping a workplace model based on the employees and deploying a hybrid model to enable working from anywhere, positively impacting our organisational workings and day to day lives.

Paul Thomas, Head of Proposition Development at North.

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