30 April 2021

6min

Hybridising remote & presence: a new work experience

How will we work tomorrow? Along with the vaccine and Christmas holidays, this is one of the most discussed topics. There are many articles supported by opinion polls that demonstrate the extent to which the current crisis has accelerated our expectations of work: more flexibility, personalisation and personal development The  employee experience provided by organisations is even more crucial today to attract and hire employees, and also strengthen collective performance.   

 

This requires designing a productive and unique experience for employees, which must now combine distance (remote work) and presence (work in the office), while questioning the traditional places of work, employment practices, tools and organisations. To do this, we have two certainties:

  1. It is crucial to move away from a “unitary” vision e.g.the HRD taking care of teleworking, an IT department providing digital collaboration tools, etc. Organisations need to shiftto a “holistic” and integrated vision.  At onepoint, we stop talking about “work methods” and prefer the to explore the idea of the “employee experience”.
  2. The employee experience provided must therefore be specific and tailor-made. Accumulating knowledge from learning expeditions is in fact not enough because following the decisions of other companies is not appropriate. There is only one solution to move forward: embarking on a participatory design approach: understanding the corporate culture and DNA as well as the strategic ambitions fortomorrow.

While the solutions  that shape this new employee experience must be specific to each company, the questions to ask are similar.

 

What is the plan  to adopt for remote work?

This is the question whose answer determines all the others! When it comes to remote work, the “generation leap” takes place. At first considered limited, we have discovered many opportunities (professional and personal balance, time specialisation, etc.) and risks (isolation, , loss of socio-emotional cues, etc.).New digital collaboration tools have been adopted by organisations; managers have  embraced  this method of work, which was still raising doubts less than a year ago. The studies are unanimous in their conclusions: remote work is here to stay.. However, each company must define the type of remote work for its employees: at what pace, for whom, and with what flexibility? For tertiary functions, we identify four possible modes of remote work that companies can choose:: 1) tolerated (20% of the time), 2) regular (50% of the time), 3) majority (80% of the time) and finally 4) permanent (the famous “full remote”). The type of remote work is selected according to the culture of each company and its activities – of course, subtleties can be introduced,such as for specific professions or profiles, often in connection with social partners.

 

OTHER DIMENSIONS TO EXPLORE

Based on the adopted mode of remote work, the company’s resources and its strategic choices, a plan will  have to be formulated.   Employee packagesoffered to teleworkers: how will the home workspace be arranged? Should employees be compensated for their home electricity usage during work hours?, What aboutaccess to third-party office spaces and developing  a responsive of IT support network? Proposals made to non-teleworkers: what options are available for those who do not wish to telework? And of course, for companies not only employing “knowledge workers”, what could be offered to those with a profession that does  not allow them to enjoy the benefits of telework? Offices: Should the company maintain a large office space, perhaps in in the suburbs, or should employees return to the office in the CBD? What about opening micro hubs, sharing or allocating workspaces, maintaining or increasing the number of spaces dedicated to collaboration and exchanges, as well as developing green office spaces,  and creative-enhancing devices (tactile team walls, etc.)?

Mobility: depending on the location of the site and the level of “creativity” what possible  mobility solutions can be offered? This can involve the encouragement of carpooling or replacing company cars with  electric bicycles,)and deciding how many parking spaces to provide.

Catering: what is the future of traditional corporate dining which has faced a drop in attendance due to the emergence  of on-site and remote alternatives, (driven by new competitors such as Frichti and Deliveroo)?  How should organisations capitalise on these opportunities to find new places of exchange and the generation of new ideas e.g. with lunches or rotating cafes)?)

Practices and culture of collaboration: what tools should be used for what uses, and what criteria should be used to decide whether collaboration is feasible remotely or in person? How can the knowledge and skills for remote work be developed, including the way employees communicate remotely.? How can we protect our minds from  information overload and being overwhelmed by a busy work environment?How can we  create a “virtual meeting place”that is a real digital alternative to the office?

Time management: According to 2,000 teleworkers surveyed in June 2020 by Opinion way, more than 60% of meetings were held virtually. ,. So what ways can employees disconnect from the noises of the outside world to improve concentration and productivity? How can companies  facilitate disconnection at the end of the work day when an employee’s home is also a place of work? This is an issue company dialogue should explore with their employees.

New activities or positions to be created in the company: perhaps  a coach in time management or collective time facilitation could be hired, to prepare and streamline them, or an  e-community manager in charge of maintaining the digital connection between employees and their employer, regardless of  distance.

New modes of organisation to be developed in order to extract all the benefits of this new mode of work: employees could be more empowered in decision-making and  self-organisation, and perhaps could be offered flexible work hours for a job that would otherwise have fixed hours in an office setting.

The list of questions to ask yourself can be overwhelming. To answer this: get employees involved in the decision- making process, because when it comes to their experience at work, the input of employees is valuable. However, this is just the beginning! Well done, you have answered the above questions and designed a coherent and tailor-made employee experience! But there is more to bring to life, and this is where the real fun begins.

Reorganisation and removal, provision of IT equipment, negotiations with social partners, deployment of new software: there are many tasks to do, butlet’s put them aside for now, not because they are not important, but because each deserve their own article.    However there is one last concept that is worth exploring now: the work culture!

Indeed, developing a new employee experience requires a cultural transformation, from the style of management to the performance of most daily tasks. The framework of “how to work alone and together”, has been ignored for years but is very important to explore.

Such a cultural transformation requires large supportive efforts from across the organisation. However, in the process there will likely be a small number of people who will not be able to get on board. They will have to join other organisations where the workplace culture aligns more with theirs. If you selected scenario two or three in  the first question asked earlier in this article, you are therefore moving towards an employee experience involving both work on site and remotely. Remote work is not a short-term solution, but a long-term alternative to the traditional mode of office work. However, making distance and presence coexist   is more difficult than choosing one or the other. A concrete example can highlight this complexity: organising a meeting in scenario one (everyone is on site) or four (everyone is remote) will be easier than in a hybrid mode where half of the employees will be working in the office and the other half  remotely at home. A hybrid workplace setting multiplies the possibilities of how to work, and requires a lot of individual and  collective discipline, as well as a style of management tailored to this environment. These efforts are worth it, considering they improve the workplace’s ability to attract, engage, collaborate effectively and retain top talent; after all, it is the employees who will improve the organisation’s future performance.

Emmanuel Goutallier

Partner, Asia-Pacific