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The future of hybrid work: Answering the pertinent questions

Lukasz Ulaniuk

Remote work was already gaining popularity before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has fast-tracked this process – disruptions that were expected to occur over several years are happening within months, hybrid work is no longer an option but a new norm, and enterprises can improve their workplace strategies by asking the right questions and seeking answers from those that have proven experience in this arena.

The Capgemini Research Institute surveyed 500 organizations and 5,000 employees around the world and spoke with academics and executives, and found that remote working is definitely the new normal – 75% of the organizations expect at least 30% of their employees to work remotely, while over 30% expect 70% of their workforce to become remote. As they transition, organizations are finding that remote work boosted productivity and cost savings by up to 24% in Q3 2020.

The Capgemini Research Institute’s (CRI’s) premium journal for CXOs, Conversations for Tomorrow, covers this topic in its latest edition, The Future of Work Starts Now.

Every company wants to keep its employees satisfied and productive because a great employee experience translates to great business results. As more people work from home or remotely, the employee experience becomes increasingly critical to employee satisfaction and many other key factors that impact business performance.

Based on CRI’s discussions with global leaders and experts, our common consensus is that there will be no going back to a 100% in-office model in the foreseeable future – or perhaps ever. However, the precise definition of “hybrid working model” may vary from company to company.

Rapidly evolving market trends and world events have underscored the importance of delivering a workplace of the future, which is more sustainable, feasible, credible and personal. Working closely with customers on their digital workplace transformative initiatives, I often face pertinent questions. Enterprises have faced unprecedented challenges in the past two years, so these questions bother us all.

Q: If hybrid working becomes the norm, what will be the purpose of the workplace? What will workspaces of the future look like?

The shift to a hybrid workforce model is inevitable and it is revolutionizing the way people and companies work. Organizations will decrease office space, which will have an impact on sustainability and carbon footprint reduction. The role of the physical workspace will switch from the traditional “fixed” to a modern “flexible” model. Hot desks, adjustable spaces, collaboration zones, virtual meeting rooms, and new tech solutions will transform our office culture and the way people meet at work. The office will become a flexible space designed to enhance team collaboration and creative brainstorming, and it will be inclusive for those collaborating virtually. IoT solutions will play a greater role supporting and enforcing health and safety policies, e.g. through presence tracking. Integrated resource management and platforms will address multiple use cases – from AI-enabled hot desk booking, through car park booking, through visitor management, to indoor turn-by-turn navigation solutions.

Q: What are the key challenges that might arise from hybrid working and how can they be overcome?

Although the way we work is becoming increasingly governed by digital solutions, the new normal is nothing without a human dimension. Organizations have found that the remote model boosts productivity and cost savings. However, while productivity may have increased, employees are increasingly expressing concerns about the long-term consequences. They are heavily affected by a sense of constant availability online, which can result in burnout. Younger workers in particular need more support and effective supervision. Today, nurturing a remote workforce has become business-critical. Companies have to focus on their employees – on changing needs and behaviors, on collaboration and communication improvement, on the right management and operating model, and of course, on data privacy and security. A more sustainable, hybrid approach will support employees, boosting their motivation and performance by encouraging autonomy, empathy, trust, and transparency. This will require new leadership models and effective workplace transformation, which can only happen when HR, facilities, and IT work together.

Q: What types of technologies and solutions (flexible working solutions, collaboration solutions, desk and room management, etc.) should organizations invest in to ensure hybrid work schemes are successful? Do you think entirely new solutions need to be developed?

There are diverse solutions to be taken into account to ensure hybrid work schemes are successful. The biggest challenge is the human impact in the digital workplace. This means building new relationships, transforming work culture, and providing workspace innovations according to changing people demands. A new work environment will require implementing the right infrastructure and technologies, which enable the adoption of efficient, intuitive, and secure digital tools. The office redesign will require establishing new collaboration zones, both physical and virtual, including VR-, AR-, and MR-boosted; introducing integrated workplace management platforms and effective desktop as a service solutions; application of IoT data to influence human behaviors. The key point is keeping a focus on the user’s journey, and user-centric design to map technology solutions fitting employees’ needs to boost their well-being and achieve a great user experience. Capturing, measuring, and tracking employees’ experiences will allow identifying the levels of motivation or engagement scores by tracking IT performance data, work, or communications patterns. The effective adoption of new solutions by employees calls also for a new approach (such as gamification), to empower collaboration, interaction, and creation in this hybrid work era.

Capgemini has proven its expertise in end user transformation at thousands of successful client engagements worldwide. Our Connected Employee Experience services bring a new level of choice and flexibility to employee interactions, engagement, collaboration, and support, delivering transformative workplace solutions—all on an expedited basis to meet today’s urgent needs .We have been recognized as a leader in managed workplace services by leading analyst firms. If you want to explore how we can help you succeed in your workplace transformation agenda, please contact me.

Before signing off, I would recommend that you read the latest edition of our Conversations for Tomorrow – The Future of Work Starts Now, and also two of our recently published research reports –The Future of Work, and the Fluid Workforce Revolution.