Accelerated Enterprise: The Key To Growth With A Hybrid Workforce

Most organizations have developed workflows to manage the processes that run their business for decades. But as more and more businesses cope with remote and hybrid work situations, these low-key workhorses are becoming critical engines of growth. They face a slew of challenges that modern programs may be able to solve through streamlining and automation.

A new report based on a survey of 505 C-level technology executives, conducted by Forbes Insights in collaboration with Adobe, shows that few organizations anticipate a full return to the 9-to-5 office. They expect their workforce to become a mix of remote, in-office or a hybrid of the two in the next two years.

Managing these environments brings with it the risk of higher information technology costs and cybersecurity threats, as well as process delays and the loss of employee collaboration and innovation. And that’s where workflow solutions such as employee- and customer-facing programs can help. Here’s a look at how executives are approaching these solutions—including the benefits of streamlining processes and the challenges to implementing them.

Adapting To A New Landscape

“All of a sudden half the workforce was remote, and we had to automate workflows for the purpose of business continuity,” says Holly Muscolino, research vice president of content strategies and the future of work at IDC. “We needed to be able to perform processes that hadn’t been possible to do remotely. Nice-to-have features became mission-critical.”

Forbes Insights survey respondents agreed: An overwhelming majority (86%) believe workflow software and implementation will be very important to succeed in managing a distributed, hybrid work structure, including 32% who say workflow solutions are critical to success.

More than three-quarters also say that employee-facing and customer-facing digital programs are important for increasing revenue, cyber security, operating efficiencies and productivity over the next two years. That’s a powerful recipe for business growth through digital transformation.

Streamlining Systems Integration

Digital workflows simplify processes by enabling disconnected systems to “talk” to one another.  “The primary purpose of a workflow system is integration,” says Tom Rodden, senior vice president and chief information officer at Varian Medical Systems. “When your workflow is well-designed, cross-application integration becomes seamless to your users.”

In a supply-chain transaction, for example, revenue recognition can be a challenge when different accounting standards are involved. Here, workflow integration can simplify and automate the data exchange between the customer, transport provider and distributor, as well as the backend system. Tools, like Adobe Sign, can integrate the communicator’s process to provide proof of delivery to Varian from partners, Rodden says.

Other executives agree: 40% of executives from organizations with an annual revenue of $5 billion or more expect their workflow solution budget to increase 15% or more.

Improving Implementation

Most executives agree workflow transformation is key to driving a future competitive advantage for their organization. Achieving it, however, will depend on the implementation. Barriers to adopting workflow systems and running them smoothly include security concerns, IT staff bandwidth and the prevalence of legacy infrastructure.

It’s best to start with a customized strategy that targets specific issues, advises Simon Longbottom, vice president of product marketing digital media for business at Adobe.

“It’s really about trying to understand what the biggest pain points are and solving them,” he says. “We’ve typically found that problems fall into the two main buckets of employee or customer. For example, a company could be trying to hire and onboard tens of thousands of new employees or might want to move from a paper-based customer acquisition process to an electronic one.”

Companies also need to decide which solutions to prioritize and invest in. Advanced workflow programs based on artificial intelligence, machine learning or robotic process automation are still not widespread—representing, on average, only 15% of the work being done today, according to the Forbes Insights survey. That number will increase to 17% in the next two years.

“In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, there was a knee-jerk reaction to get systems installed as quickly as possible,” says Muscolino. “Organizations now need to go back and evaluate what’s worked and what hasn’t to make sure they’re fully leveraging these technologies. It’s possible to simply digitize a manual process, which doesn’t mean that you’re fully leveraging digital technology.”

Muscolino adds that organizations now have a unique opportunity to examine what systems may need re-engineering and what should be eliminated altogether. “Workflow solutions should be codified so they’re not just an ad hoc solution to a crisis,” she says. “They need to be designed into an organization’s infrastructure and plans going forward.”

As more organizations adopt modern workflows, tools like Adobe Document Cloud with Adobe Sensei, will help teams streamline collaboration and boost their bottom line.

By Rama Ramaswami

Source: https://www.forbes.com

Critics by ThoughtFarmer

Back in 2020, employers found themselves at a crossroads, trying to ensure employees had all the resources they needed to maintain their productivity (and sanity), while still hitting organizational goals. This paved the way for the hybrid workplaceThe hybrid workplace is defined as a business model combining remote work with office work.

It may look different among organizations, but it typically includes the onsite presence of a core group, while others are free to come and go as they please, within reason. It may be the same employees mandated to be onsite, or it could include a staggering of different people present on different days or times. Or, there may simply be specific days where employees are requested to attend in-person meetings. 

The hybrid workplace generally allows employees the opportunity to fit work around their lives, rather than structuring work around fixed hours logged into an office. For many employees (and employers) it’s an optimal balance of productive work with reduced stress and less commuting.

A study by Boston Consulting Group revealed that 75 percent of employees who have transitioned to or remained remote during COVID-19, are at least as productive in performing their individual tasks as they were before the pandemic struck. And about half report that they are at least as productive on collaborative tasks that normally would be performed in conference rooms. 

Fuelling some of the anxiety about a return to office is the lack of safety associated with public transportation. In a study of 3,500 workers worldwide, 81 percent of participants said they used public transit to commute to work, and of this group, 67 percent were at least moderately concerned about commuting when they return to work during the pandemic.

Such anxiety is forcing many employers to either continue to allow employees to work remotely, or to implement a hybrid workplace model. Failure to do so could result in increased turnover, otherwise known as the turnover tsunami. In a study conducted by Fortune with Momentive, almost 50% of workers who are still remote or hybrid say they will look for a new job if their employer forces them back to the office after the pandemic ends.

A hybrid workplace prioritizes the employee, and encourages a stronger work-life balance. It additionally can help ease anxiety employees may have relating to returning to a public workspace, or commuting on public transit. This is particularly critical for those caring for, or who themselves, are immunocompromised.  A hybrid workplace is also a more economical workplace. With less reliance on large scale offices, organizations can save thousands of dollars in real estate and office maintenance costs. 

Organizations offering a combination of in-person and remote employees will also have a larger talent pool to work with, as they will no longer be confined to hiring employees in specific geographical regions. Additionally, a hybrid workplace can help build a crisis resilient culture by preparing organizations for potential future lockdowns. With many employees already working from home, your workplace can easily adapt back to a fully remote environment if necessary. 

Finally, a hybrid workplace can reduce the spread of contagious viruses, as employees can choose to work from home if they are feeling unwell. A hybrid workplace may also offer a solution to organizations with employees who aren’t—or perhaps cannot or have no desire to become—vaccinated. 

As some critics have pointed out, the hybrid workplace model isn’t without its flaws. Not all of us have the luxury of quality internet access, designated home workspaces, or distraction free environments. And obviously remote work or hybrid work isn’t an option for frontline workers (check out this post on how to engage your frontline workers) like many employed by hospitals, factories, and law enforcement. 

A hybrid environment may additionally put employees who cannot work in the office at a disadvantage of those that can. For example, consider a scenario where one employee is unable to attend an in-person meeting. Even if they join via video, there are potential side conversations they may miss out on. Female employees in particular may be at a disadvantage, as they are disproportionately expected to care for young children, and thus unable to return to an office environment. 

There is also concern that employees ‘seen’ in the office will be viewed as providing greater output. Remote employees may feel passed up for opportunities because they are less visible than those who return to the office. This could be especially problematic if leadership are the ones present in the office. In other words the physical office should not hold more power than a remote office. 

Equally important are the challenges associated with collaboration and communication. With two different experiences to manage, there is increased risk that one group may feel excluded in crucial conversations. Such scenarios highlight the importance of a robust hybrid workplace plan and a hybrid workplace assessment. If not properly executed, a hybrid workplace could create a divide between those who work in the office and those who don’t.

he hybrid work environment may be new, but the challenges associated with connecting and communicating with employees aren’t. The good news is that these problems were solved a long time ago with intranet software. Long before COVID-19, organizations around the world depended on their intranet to increase knowledge management, communication, innovation, efficiency, and resilience. Modern intranets take it one step further by automating a variety of business processes, like those involving paper forms

Intranets also make it easy for communicators to understand if employees have read important announcements, as well as to instantly broadcast critical news to employee employees through their mobile phones.  Finally, intranet software enables asynchronous collaboration, so employees can stay focused and on-task…..

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Understanding And Managing The 4 Types Of Hybrid Workers

Hybrid work isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Here’s how managers can better understand and support different preferences and attitudes across their hybrid teams.

The conversation between business leaders and employees about long-term hybrid work plans is a complex one. We’re trying to answer some really big questions: How is our in-person time best used? What tools do people need to succeed, wherever they are? How do we build a sustainable hybrid system?

As we strive to address these big-picture challenges, managers overseeing day-to-day operations are struggling through a messy middle ground. Every day, they’re tasked with guiding different types of employees in an entirely new (and often shifting) work environment that affects individuals differently. Managing hybrid work today can feel like trying to cross a bridge that’s still under construction.

To understand how hybrid work is affecting people, we commissioned a global survey with Economist Impact. One of its central findings was that 77% of hybrid workers agree that their managers need more specific training on managing hybrid teams. To help address this training gap, we took a deep dive into the Economist Impact research and coupled our findings with proven best practices at Google. With the right tools and guidance, hybrid teams can be successful and drive impact together, no matter where teammates work.

Discovering the four types of hybrid workers in your organization

Economist Impact recently categorized employees into four segments based on their relationship to hybrid work: evangelists, pragmatists, fair-minded, and undecided. Interestingly, employees did not fall into categories based on neatly predictable criteria like role, seniority, or industry. Instead, the primary driver was more personal: how hybrid work affects their everyday lives. The study found that feelings about hybrid work are often determined by factors like need for child care, length of commute, and personal work styles.

Here’s a look at the four types of hybrid workers identified by Economist Impact, coupled with tips for managing each one.

The evangelist: Happy with hybrid. They want to sustain the current model.

As you might guess from their name, the evangelists (24%) are the most optimistic about hybrid work and typically very satisfied with the policies, technology, and social dynamics already in place. Many work fully off-site. At Google, we have long had distributed teams who are central to our organization, so we recognize many hybrid work evangelists in our midst by their enthusiasm, productivity, and loyalty. The system is working for them.

The questions we are always looking to answer are: how do we make sure that our most satisfied employees stay that way, and how can we tap into their enthusiasm to help their colleagues see the benefits of a hybrid structure? Here are a few ideas:

  • Empower them to keep working in a way that supports their natural productivity, using centralized tools like Google Drive for easy collaboration and shared calendars so coworkers can clearly see their schedules and availability.
  • Invite them to share their best practices company-wide by creating and moderating Google Spaces dedicated to hybrid work tips, work-from-home hacks, and more.
  • Keep them engaged through short Google Meet check-ins on a quarterly basis, with the agenda focused on how hybrid work practices are functioning and whether improvements can be made.
  • Offer continuing support by making sure they have the right technology, especially if they work fully off-site. Ask: “Is technology helping them stay in the mix across all the ways and places that hybrid work happens?”

The pragmatists: Optimistic, but facing challenges. They need to be heard.

The largest segment identified by Economist Impact were pragmatists (39%), a group who is optimistic about hybrid work, but experiencing significant challenges with it. Their sentiment can be summed up as, “Yes, but …”. Meaning that they want hybrid to work, and they want to be a part of making it work, but they don’t think it’s working well… yet. Pragmatists feel that their organization’s new policies don’t incorporate enough employee input and are more likely to feel these policies are unfair.

Pragmatists are also concerned with blurred work-life boundaries. This demographic includes workers who have less location and/or time flexibility, so they may not be experiencing significant benefits of a “flexible” workplace. Here are some ways to support pragmatists:

  • Gather input by creating an anonymous survey using Google Forms. Ask what’s working or not about hybrid schedules, team processes, technology tools and training, work-life balance, etc. Repeat these surveys at regular intervals to ensure that pragmatists’ voices continue to be heard.
  • To improve flexibility while ensuring collective team work, agree on “core work hours” in which teams determine daily hours when they will typically be online and meetings will take place. Offer flexibility around the “non-core” hours for focused individual work or personal needs such as medical appointments or taking children to school.
  • Enhance transparency and shared understanding across the team about each others’ preferences and schedules using Calendar features like working location and focus time.
  • Enable teams to communicate and collaborate across locations and time zones through shared comments in Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

The fair-minded: Feeling good, hoping for continued cultural change. They want to improve the dialogue.

Most concerned about employee wellbeing, fairness, and inclusion, the fair-minded (23%) report an overall positive impact of hybrid work on their lives. Whereas the pragmatists express a “Yes, but…” sentiment, the fair-minded express “Yes, and…”. They like where this is going, and they want more. Over the long term, they are hoping for greater flexibility in their location and work schedule. They believe that better communication and collaboration will strengthen the culture of trust in the workplace and benefit everyone. Here are strategies for managing the fair-minded:

  • Foster social connection by adopting platforms specifically built for inclusivity and get creative in using them – it’s OK to have fun! Choose thematic backgrounds or break into small groups for a quick icebreaker before a meeting.
  • Build an inclusive environment by providing opportunities to bond at in-person events devoted to mentoring, discussion, and socializing.
  • Keep people informed via a “hybrid-work hub” on Google Spaces where management can share the latest policies and employees can ask questions.
  • Strengthen the culture of trust by shifting toward impact-oriented performance evaluations.

The undecided: Craving connection, direction, and better technology. They need to hear from you.

At 13%, the undecided may represent the smallest number of respondents, but they’re a group that need significant support. Why are they undecided? Overall, it’s because they’ve yet to experience significant benefits from flexible work. They’re more likely to be at organizations that have not issued formal hybrid policies, so they’re working in uncertain environments.

This group also reports higher rates of technology challenges, suggesting that they haven’t been equipped with the right tools to connect, collaborate, and communicate remotely. And finally, many are frontline workers who have suffered from limited social interactions or extra strain during the pandemic that has affected their mental health.

With so many challenges, it’s not surprising this cohort is the least confident about the future. Strategies for meeting the needs of the undecided include:

  • Clarify your hybrid policies through active communication. Consider hosting regular “re-onboarding” video calls with small groups to make sure everyone understands hybrid policies and gets training on new processes or tools.
  • Strengthen their sense of belonging with clear, inclusive updates on company wide projects and achievements via Google Meet video conferencing. Use the Q&A function so employees can ask questions and everyone can see answers, or conduct live polling to survey a specific topic. Follow up your meeting with an email recap for those who could not attend.
  • Help teams communicate and collaborate better with instant communication tools like Spaces in Google Chat, which keeps conversations about scheduling, shared tasks, and files together.

Let’s make it work

As leaders, it’s important to understand and acknowledge your team members’ different experiences of hybrid work. Do you know which of the four types your employees fall into? Taking the time to engage with them and learn their preferences allows you to shape policies while also making decisions that help the organization get work done. A thoughtfully planned hybrid work structure can adapt to individual needs, connect distributed workforces, and, ultimately, strengthen your organization. While our global shift to hybrid work was born out of necessity, we can use it to provide opportunity for every type of worker.

Vice President, Digital Work Experience

Source: Understanding And Managing The 4 Types Of Hybrid Workers

Related contents:

Insta360 keeps hybrid workers in the frame with gimbal-packing 4K webcam New Atlas

New Congressional Bill Would Create Hybrid Job Classification for Gig Workers – But is Already Facing Stiff Opposition JD Supra

19:41 Tue, 02 Aug
11:19 Fri, 29 Jul
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20:09 Wed, 03 Aug
Remote work is the norm, but not so much for leaders. theHRDIRECTOR

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20:32 Wed, 03 Aug

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What Does a Hybrid Office Look Like? This Company Has 5 Ideas

Like many companies, manufacturing technology firm Augury ditched its New York City office during the pandemic. With few people coming in, and most work able to be done remotely, paying rent on an empty office was a waste. But the need for an office didn’t go away completely, and now the company is fitting out a new space in the city. As it does, it’s fundamentally rethinking how the space will work by looking at who will actually be using it.

To help guide the new design, the company surveyed its teams to understand how different departments expected to use the space, especially in a more hybrid work mode. “When we were talking about that, we started asking what kind of people will be there?” says Tiffany Millar, Augury’s workplace experience director.

The people who’d be using the office, the company realized, fit into a few distinct categories—locals coming in semi-regularly, for example, or foreign-based workers visiting only rarely. Head counts might range from 20 people to 80, depending on the day, with different types of workers needing different spaces. “At a high level, we broke it down into five personas,” says Millar.

Home Away From Home

The first persona is what Augury calls Home Away From Home, or people who live in the tristate area who may come into the office once or more per week, even if most of their work can still be done remotely. “These were the people that essentially wanted to get out of their tiny New York apartments, or maybe it’s really loud because the kids are home,” says Millar. “It’s about getting away and going into the office,” Millar says.

The spaces designed for the Home Away From persona focus on the social side of work—a nice kitchen area, coffee machines, high-top tables where employees can work but also chat with people they may only see in person every few weeks. “It had a lot to more do with hospitality,” says Millar.

Time Traveler

There’s also the Time Traveler persona, or employees who are based in Europe and fly in for meetings but need a bit of a time-zone adjustment. The office includes space to store luggage, and even rooms where the jet-lagged can take a nap after landing early in the morning. “While they might not need a conference room at 5 in the morning, they definitely need a place to store their luggage or take a nap,” Millar says.

Hero Visitor

Another persona is the Hero Visitor, which Millar envisions as investors, board members, and potential clients who may visit quarterly. Spaces designed with this person in mind focus on creating a comfortable and fun environment while also showcasing some of Augury’s technology, which is used to monitor and perform diagnostics on industrial devices. The HVAC system in Augury’s new office will have its technology on display for Hero Visitors to see.

On-Site and Fresh Blood

More work-focused personas are On-Site and Fresh Blood—remote workers and new recruits who may be coming to the office for annual meetings or for the first time since being onboarded. The innovation economy—a reason to be optimistic. Creating global solutions that beget great economic opportunities requires a higher purpose

For remote workers in the On-Site category, conference rooms and breakout spaces are being designed into the office to enable easier in-person collaboration after months of working on projects only remotely.

For the Fresh Blood persona—mostly new hires and people being recruited—the design prioritizes way-finding and clear signage. “That space has everything to do with making sure things are easy to find,” says Millar. “It’s very overwhelming when you’re hired remotely and you go to the office for the first time.”

5 Personas, 1 Space

Each persona has influenced different parts of the office, which will have two floors. Millar says there’s no space that’s dedicated to one persona only, but rather that each will tend to use some sections of the office more than others. Instead of designing the space with one main user in mind, like Augury’s old office, the new office will include these persona-focused design elements to make it adaptable to whomever happens to be in the office on any given day.

While the end result may not look all that different from other pandemic-era office redesigns, it does suggest a new way of rethinking these spaces to better reflect how office work has so thoroughly changed. It’s an evolving concept, and one that the company is creating as it prepares to move into the space early next year.

“There used to be a very clear blueprint of how to build out an office. Post-COVID in a hybrid model, I would say that’s failing,” she says, noting that the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday office is no longer relevant to the way companies like Augury work. “Knowing who exists in your space, and understanding the gaps and the holes will help you create a solution before the friction starts to happen.”

The personas that Augury is using to guide its design may ultimately change, Millar acknowledges. She says it will be important to track how the spaces are being used, and by whom, to determine whether the design is meeting the changing needs of the different types of people using the office. The five personas Augury has designed around in 2022 may be completely different a year from now.

“I think we’re at the foundation of using personas,” Millar says. “Next comes issues of human behavior, and we’ll see whether we were right.”

By Nate Berg

Source: What does a hybrid office look like? This company has 5 ideas

Enter the Hybrid Workplace

Evidence is starting to emerge that workplaces that adopt a hybrid model early are most likely to thrive. In fact, a recent ONS Survey showed that 85% of UK working individuals favoured a hybrid approach of both home and office working. Similarly in the USA, 52% of US workers preferred a mix of both. And it’s not just a passive sentiment.

The number of searches for jobs offering remote working has increased threefold in 2021 in comparison to the year before. On a more local level, London tube passenger numbers are regularly around 60% of pre-pandemic levels. That includes the 25% boost since the lifting of restrictions on the 19th of January 2022.

What has changed for employees following the unprecedented disruption of the global pandemic is the way the working population consider work-life balance, well-being, and flexible working. Business owners and directors consequently need to address these concerns and make the appropriate changes to their office design and layout to accommodate hybrid working. This is one trend that’s likely to stay.

While the hybrid office is by no means a new concept, the Covid-19 pandemic has given fuel to it. It has changed the dynamic to one where employees move seamlessly between home and office work environments. But it also requires a different set of solutions and ideas, some of which include:

  • Wi-fi enabled spaces for connecting with staff working from home
  • Technology to book meeting rooms and private spaces
  • Configurable office furniture that is easy to move around
  • A combination of team-working collaborative spaces alongside private spaces

Hybrid design typically involves the reconfiguration of existing office space and furniture to create more collaborative and flexible workspaces. The key principle of hybrid design is to create spaces that transcend physical and social barriers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean less space. A communications agency we worked with in London reduced their number of desks from 200 to 100 while retaining their existing space. What they achieved was creative desk layouts and breakout areas for increased flexibility and dynamic working that allowed for collaborative engagement.

The space also included a new booking system that provided the client with a feature-rich cloud-based booking of workspaces and meeting areas. Similarly, Adtrak, a digital marketing agency in Nottingham, reduced its number of desks from 120 to 70 while retaining around 100 staff. The space was essentially reconfigured to include hot-desking areas, social areas, and meeting rooms designed for videoconferencing with remote working staff.

By: k2space

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Why The Return To The Office Isn’t Working

Andres is back to the office three days a week, and like many knowledge workers, he’s not happy about it. He says that while he and the other executive assistants at his Boston law firm have been forced back, the attorneys haven’t been following the rules. That’s partly because the rules don’t quite make sense, and people in all types of jobs are only coming in because they have to, not because there’s a good reason to go in.

“People have adapted to remote work, and truthfully, the firm has done a tremendous job at adapting in the pandemic,” said Andres, who would prefer going in two days, as long as others were actually there. “But I think it’s more the returning to work that they’re struggling on.” He, like a number of other office workers, spoke with Recode anonymously to avoid getting in trouble with his employer.

Andres enjoys working from home and thinks he does a good job of it — and it allows him to escape a long commute that has only gotten 45 minutes longer thanks to construction projects on his route.

The majority of Americans don’t work from home, but among those who do, there’s a battle going on about where they’ll work in the future. And it’s not just people who enjoy remote work who are upset about the return to the office.

Those who want to be remote are upset because they enjoyed working from home and don’t understand why, after two years of doing good work there, they have to return to the office. People who couldn’t wait to go back are not finding the same situation they enjoyed before the pandemic, with empty offices and fewer amenities. Those who said they prefer hybrid — 60 percent of office workers — are not always getting the interactions with colleagues they’d hoped for.

The reasons the return to the office isn’t working out are numerous. Bosses and employees have different understandings of what the office is for, and after more than two years of working remotely, everyone has developed their own varied expectations about how best to spend their time. As more and more knowledge workers return to the office, their experience at work — their ability to focus, their stress levels, their level of satisfaction at work — has deteriorated. That’s a liability for their employers, as the rates of job openings and quits are near record highs for professional and business services, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

There are, however, ways to make the return to the office better, but those will require some deep soul-searching about why employers want employees in the office and when they should let it go.

The current situation

For now, many employees are just noticing the hassle of the office, even if they’re going in way less than they did pre-pandemic. This is what’s known as the hybrid model, and even though people like the remote work aspect of it, for many it’s still unclear what the office part of it is for.

“If I go into the office and there are people but none of them are on my team, I don’t gain anything besides a commute,” Mathew, who works at a large payroll company in New Jersey, said. “Instead of sitting at my own desk, I’m sitting at a desk in Roseland.”

Mathew’s company is asking people to come in three days a week, but he says people are mostly showing up two.

Further complicating things is that, while the main reason hybrid workers cite for wanting to go into the office is to see colleagues, they also don’t want to be told when to go in, according to Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford professor who, along with other academics, has been conducting a large, ongoing study of remote workers called WFH Research.

Employees say that management has yet to really penalize people for failing to follow office guidance, likely out of fear of alienating a workforce in a climate where it’s so hard to hire and retain employees. Many others moved farther from the office during the pandemic, making the commute harder. The result is circular: People go into the office to see other people but then don’t actually see those people so they stop going into the office as much.

With 70 percent of office workers globally now back in the office at least one day a week, the excitement many people felt a few months ago is wearing off. For many, that novelty is turning into an existential question: Why are we ever here?

“It was sort of like the first day of school when you’re back from summer vacation and it’s nice to see people and catch up with them,” Brian Lomax, who works at the Department of Transportation in Washington, DC and who is expected to come in two days a week, said. “But now it’s, ‘Oh, hey, good to see you,’ and then you go on about your day,” an experience he says is the same as working from home and reaching out to people via Microsoft Teams.

Most of the people we spoke to use software like Teams, Slack, and Zoom to communicate even while they’re in the office, making the experience similar to home. If one person in a meeting is on a video call from home — say, because they’re immunocompromised, or they have child care duties, or it just happens to be the day they work from home that week — everyone is. There’s actually been an uptick in virtual meetings, despite the return to the office, according to Calendly. In April, 64 percent of meetings set up through the appointment scheduling software included videoconferencing or phone details, compared with 48 percent a year earlier.

One issue is that hybrid means different things from company to company and even team to team. Typically, it seems employers are asking workers to come in a set number of days per week, usually two or three. Some employers are specifying which days; some are doing it by teams; some are leaving it up to individual workers. Almost half of office visits are just once a week — and over a third of these visits are for less than six hours, according to data from workplace occupancy analytics company Basking.io as reported by Bloomberg. The middle of the week tends to be much busier than Mondays and Fridays, when there are empty cubicles as far as the eye can see.

There’s also a disconnect between why employees think they’re being called in. Employees cite their company’s sunk real estate investments, their bosses’ need for control, and their middle managers’ raison d’etre. Employers, meanwhile, think going into the office is good for creativity, innovation, and culture building. Nearly 80 percent of employees think they’ve been just as or more productive than they were before the pandemic, while less than half of leaders think so, according to Microsoft’s Work Trends Index.

Employers and employees generally tend to agree that a good reason to go into the office is to see colleagues face to face and onboard new employees. Data from Time Is Ltd. found that employees that started during the pandemic are collaborating with less than 70 percent of colleagues and clients as their tenured peers would have been at this point. Slack’s Future Forum survey found that while executives were more likely to say people should come into the office full time, they are less likely to do so themselves.

The nature of individuals’ jobs also determines how much, if at all, they think they should be in the office. Melissa, a government policy analyst in DC, is supposed to go in twice a week but has only been going in once because she says her work involves collaborating with others but not usually at the same time. She might write a draft, send it to others to read, and then they’ll make comments and perhaps, at some point, they all get together to talk about it.

“I see a lot of these ads for these teamwork apps — they always show these pictures of people sitting at a conference table and they have paper and all sorts of things on the wall and they’re really collaborating on product development or something,” Melissa said. “And I’m like, that’s not what we’re doing.” Still, she thinks that from managers’ perspectives, in-person is the gold standard, regardless of the actualities of the job.

“It feels like they just want people in the office,” she said.

It also depends on the pace of work. A financing services employee at Wells Fargo in Iowa said he works more efficiently at the office but that since his job consists of working on deals that come in sporadically throughout the day, that efficiency means he ends up wasting a lot of time playing on his phone or pacing around the office in between.

“What makes this so frustrating is that my wife will send me a photo of her and my 10-month-old son going out for a walk,” he said. “If I had a break at home, I’d go on a walk with them.”

Employers are certainly feeling the frustration from their employees and have been walking back how much they’re asking employees to be in the office. Last summer, office workers reported that their employers would allow them to work from home 1.6 days a week; now that’s gone up to 2.3 days, according to WFH Research.

Companies are rolling back return-to-office, or RTO, plans at law firms, insurance agencies, and everywhere in between. Even finance companies like JPMorgan Chase, whose CEO has been especially vocal about asking people to return to their offices, have loosened up.

Tech companies have long been at the forefront when it comes to allowing hybrid or remote work, and now even more tech companies, including Airbnb, Cisco, and Twitter, are joining the club. Even Apple, which has been much stricter than its peers in coaxing employees back to the office, has paused its plan to increase days in the office to three a week, after employee pushback and the resignation of a prominent machine learning engineer.

It seems like, for now, office workers have the upper hand. Many don’t expect to be penalized by management for not working from the office when they’re supposed to, partly because they don’t think management believes in the rules themselves.

“Our retention is better than expected and our employee engagement is better than expected, so I don’t think [our executives are] seeing any downside,” said Rob Carr, who works at an insurance company in Columbus, Ohio, where people are expected to be in three days a week but, as far as he’s seen, rarely go. “Honestly, if they were, I think they’d be cracking down, and they’re not.”

Carr himself goes into the office every day, but only because he and his wife downsized houses and moved a short bike ride from his office. Otherwise Carr, who is on the autism spectrum and says he doesn’t do well with in-person interactions, would be completely happy working from home as he is from his empty office.

“Hats off to Apple for innovation,” Carr said, “but they are, certainly from a Silicon Valley perspective, an old company.”

What to do about the broken return to the office

Solving the office conundrum is not easy, and in all likelihood it will be impossible to make everyone happy. But it’s important to remember that going to the office never really worked for everyone, it was just what everyone did. Now, two years after the pandemic sent office workers to their living rooms, their employers may have a chance to make more people happy than before.

“The problem right now is you’ve set something that’s unrealistic and doesn’t work, and when employees try it out and it doesn’t work, they give up,” Bloom, the Stanford professor, said. “If employees refuse to come in, it means the system isn’t working.”

To fix that, employers should explore not only why they want people in the office, but whether bringing people into the office is achieving those goals. If the main reason to bring people back is to collaborate with colleagues, for example, they need to set terms that ensure that happens. That could mean making people who should be working together come in on the same days — a problem around which a whole cottage industry of remote scheduling software has cropped up.

That said, Bloom believes there’s no golden rule on how often it’s necessary to go in to get the benefits of the office. Importantly, when workers do come in, they shouldn’t be bogged down with anything they could be doing at home.

“First, figure out how many days a week or a month constructively would it be good to have people face to face, and that depends on how much time you spend on activities that are best in person,” he said, referring to things like onboarding, training, and socializing.

Employers need to be realistic about how much in-person work really needs to happen. Rather than making people come in a few times a week at random, where colleagues pass like ships in the night, they could all come in on the same day of the week or even once a month or quarter. And on those days, the perks of coming in have to be more than tacos and T-shirts, too. While fun, free food and swag aren’t actually good reasons to go to the office.

How much someone needs to come into the office might also vary by team or job type.

“For me, coming in to do teaching and to go to research seminars, that might be twice a week,” Bloom said. “But for other people, like coders, it may just be a big coding meeting and a few trainings once a month. For people in marketing and advertising, mad men, that’s very much around meetings, discussions, problem-solving — that may be two or three days.”

Another thing to consider, especially for those who truly like the office, is how they can get that experience with fewer of the downsides.

Currently, even employees who still like their offices a lot aren’t necessarily using them. Real estate services company JLL found that a third of office workers are using so-called “third places” like cafes and coworking spaces to work, even when they have offices they can go to.

Matt Burkhard, who leads a team of 30 at Flatiron Health, is one of those workers. He says he works better at an office than at home, where he has two young children. And while Burkhard enjoys going into his office and goes there once or twice per week, though he won’t be required to do so until later this summer, the trip to Manhattan isn’t always feasible, especially if he has to do child care for part of the day. So he’s been going to Daybase, a coworking space near his home in Hoboken, NJ, three or four times per week.

“I’m just a lot more focused when everyone is in the same place working,” Burkhard said, noting that he hasn’t asked his company to pay for the $50 a month membership fee.

For many office workers, the current state of affairs just isn’t working out. So they’re doing what they can to make their experience of work better, whether that means renting coworking space or not showing up for arbitrary in-office days. They don’t necessarily hate the office. What they hate is not having a good reason to be there.

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AI And The Secret To Employee Happiness

When I started working as a mainframe operator in IT in 1988, I felt like I was part of a secret club. None of my family understood what I was doing; my friends would ask, “what’s a mainframe and why do you have to work nights?”

My onboarding took months, and a typical workday began with staring at a blank screen. Since mainframes didn’t come with a mouse, I would enter memorized commands like “=3.4” and “Sys3.AF*” to navigate the data sets I needed to find.I don’t think many workers today would put up with that.

Any manager who has tried to hire an employee today will agree the war for talent is real. Job perks like free lunches and on-site laundry just don’t cut it anymore. To recruit talent today, there’s really one thing that every enterprise needs to do: Make work better.

Make work easy

I’ve found that companies invest in digital transformation for three reasons: To work faster, to work more efficiently, and to change or expand their business models. But the end result of any digital transformation should be a better experience, and leaders often neglect the everyday experience of the workers who actually achieve these goals.

Consider this. Outside of work, most people have grown used to finding a new home, getting pet care, and organizing travel all with just a swipe of their finger on the touchscreen. They expect the same level of ease when it comes to the technologies they use at work. It’s no coincidence that the latest release of the Now Platform invested so heavily in improving user experience.

Sure, the interface looks beautiful. But the experience goes deeper than the surface by making the usage more intuitive. Good user experience is about simplifying and hiding complexity so that using it comes naturally to anyone. Make work easy.

Flex on flexibility

Many workplaces have returned to on-site or hybrid work, but I don’t think we’ll bring back the rigid workday schedule. The last two years have taught us that, while face-to-face and real-time interactions are invaluable, many other tasks can be done just as well, if not better, asynchronously.

Yes, it wasn’t fun to work from a makeshift standing desk in the kitchen while keeping one eye on a freakishly fast toddler. It’s no wonder why some employees have eagerly returned to the ergonomic office stocked with free snacks. But some of us love attending a meeting without sitting in traffic, having lunch without navigating a packed cafeteria, or taking a two-hour afternoon break to compensate for that evening call with Tokyo. You have to accommodate both types—and everyone in between.

Leaders learned the hard way in 2020 that you can’t just flip a switch and change the way a business is run. You have to stay ready with workplace technology that can support various—and changing—work models.

Flexibility, supported with a solid digital foundation, is no longer a choice. Clearly communicate what your employees need to deliver and let them decide where, when, and how. Or you can try to force a rigid work model and watch your talent flock to another employer.

AI and human intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive. They work best when they work together.

Automate the mundane

Automation has freed employees from many repetitive tasks, making work more fulfilling and creative. The digitization of work can go a step further by tapping artificial intelligence that effectively sorts through massive amounts of data and makes prescriptive recommendations. AI can even be used to make it easier for employees to be promoted internally—a huge factor in retaining and rewarding your workforce.

There’s a misconception that AI is designed to replace human workers. But for me, artificial intelligence is actually about the interface between people and machines, making lives more interesting by automating the mundane, removing friction, and presenting the right information and insights.

Better together

Knowledge workers thrive when they can harness technology to make more effective decisions. These decisions aren’t only reactive but also proactive—something that AI enables through its predictive power, which can anticipate and adjust to a world full of constantly changing variables.

When it comes to digital transformation, we think of how it impacts the bottom line by improving speed and efficiency. But how do we improve speed and efficiency? By empowering our talent with the delightful and intuitive experiences they deserve.

AI and human intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive. They work best when they work together.

Dave Wright is ServiceNow’s chief innovation officer and acts as an evangelist for how to improve workplace productivity. He has worked with thousands of

Source: AI And The Secret To Employee Happiness

.

More contents:

What is a Digital Transformation Strategy? »

What is a Digital Business? »

How to make a Digital Transformation Strategy? »

Digital Transformation Strategy in 2020 »

Where to Start with a Digital Transformation Strategy »

Who should be involved in creating a Digital Transformation Strategy? »

What happens to businesses that don’t have a Digital Transformation Strategy? »

What are the top 5 Digital Transformation Strategy Frameworks?

How do I measure if my Digital Transformation Strategy is working? »

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