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What do you need to consider before adopting a hybrid workplace?

Laura Sophie Mina
16 Aug 2022

How does a company create a hybrid workplace?

Even before the COVID pandemic, many organizations were asking this question, as they had decided to get ahead of the curve and embrace more flexible working conditions. But with the spread of the coronavirus, the transitory process has necessarily been greatly accelerated. Now the question is bigger than ever, as nearly 3 in 10 employers expect that more than 70% of their workforce will be fully remote within 2-3 years.

However, while companies broadly understand the importance and future impact of the hybrid working model, many also aren’t certain how to go about launching this kind of transition. It’s not enough just to identify and supply employees with the necessary hardware needed to support remote working. Businesses also need to prepare their workforce for new ways of collaboration while having a plan for how they will handle their office space. Ultimately, it comes down to three pillars: people, space, and technology.

Preparing people for the hybrid workplace

For now, let’s focus on the people aspect of the hybrid workplace, as the one constant across all businesses, no matter their preparedness for a hybrid workplace, size, or ambition, is a need to support the workers through any change.

Getting the hybrid workplace right requires more than equipping them with new tools. Instead, a company looking to make such a substantial transition needs to undergo an entire shift in its working paradigm. Though the specific details change depending on circumstance and an organization’s particular goals for the future, a successful hybrid workplace is built with four universal levers: organization design, digital leadership and talent, the digital workplace, and the management of the real estate.

Organization design

To adopt a new paradigm, a company will need to redefine its target operating model, which means defining the setup needed in terms of people, places, and structures. This involves enhancing digital leadership and fostering a remotely connected community within an organization, recognizing the changes that must be made to processes to fit the new structure, and identifying new ways of working as well as personal and team rituals

There are a variety of approaches that can be utilized to fully understand the gap between the existing and future needs of the workforce, which is essential when preparing to adopt a new operating model. One option is to create personas related to different groups of employees and the unique needs that new processes will need to address. To do so, a company must identify ideal representatives for different worker groups before following a chosen interview process to gather the needed information.

With a substantial knowledge base to draw upon, it becomes substantially easier for any company to clarify its roadmap to the hybrid workplace and fully understand the actions it must take to get across the finish line.

Digital leadership

In any transition from a traditional to a hybrid work environment, it is essential to recognize the fundamental change to team structures and coordination that will occur. When leaders can no longer rely on face-to-face interactions on a daily basis, they will need new options for guiding their teams and maintaining cultural ties that direct people towards the fulfillment of a shared goal. Part of this process focuses on new leadership KPIs, including a different set of expectations, such as valuing the wellbeing of employees and fostering a culture of trust.

The challenge leaders have to face in a hybrid environment is recognizing and rewarding their team members in a virtual setting, which can change both the available incentives and the metrics by which those benefits are awarded. Due to the lack of human interaction and visibility when working from home, employees can experience a sense of detachment and disengagement from their manager. Therefore, it is critical for leaders to recognize this challenge and reassure their teams that their efforts and commitment are seen and valuable to the organization. Regular one-on-one check-ins, for instance, are an effective way for leaders to both express recognition of employees and share feedback on their ongoing performance but have decreased in frequency with the expansion of hybrid working.

With people working both in and out of the office, it’s critical that a hybridizing organization finds ways to keep its teams connected and to ensure that they are part of a cohesive culture. Whether by setting up new, online social events, extracurricular activities, or simply regular checkpoints to maintain essential channels, all of this work will go towards adapting teams to the new work structure and enabling productivity.

An effective tool that can help employees cope with a digital transition and adaptation process is mindfulness, which represents the ability to be fully present at the moment whether working in or out of the office. By encouraging mindful practices like breathing methods, gratitude greetings, calendar blockers, or wellbeing breaks, leaders can contribute to creating an environment fostering growth and collaboration. In particular, they can help their team members build resilience, increase their productivity, learn and develop their individual purpose, and improve their overall wellbeing and sense of belonging to the company.

The digital workplace and real estate

Unsurprisingly, a hybrid workplace requires a digital environment in which employees can connect both from inside and outside of the office. A customizable equipment catalog represents an essential technical element that enables flexible work and communication. A wide variety of potential solutions, such as a virtual campus, VR, and booking tools that can create an office that is connected across any mixture of workspaces, enable any company to create a digital environment suited to its particular needs.

Of course, so much technical change will require a great deal of communication with employees. Throughout the digital transition, it is crucial to provide them with the right coordination material, support, and a strong change management plan; this will enable team members to more easily shift their ways of working, thus reducing any potential confusion or resistance.

In addition, while this may seem to add nothing but challenges, a truly agile, innovative company can find an opportunity for overall improvement. As we rethink the workplace and how we work together, we have a unique opportunity to rework shared spaces, both physical and digital, to support a more sustainable approach.

Of course, the introduction of a digital workplace to support a hybrid structure does not mean that physical infrastructure ceases to exist. Fortunately, real estate has a major role to play in the hybrid workplace, though as with each of the levers, it requires a thorough understanding of the transition’s challenges and a plan to fully realize the potential value. A company can truly maximize the benefits derived from its offices by launching a redesign that better aligns physical space with the new digital setup.

In addition, a number of logistical questions have to be asked. Which employees need to come into the office regularly and how often? Who needs a dedicated workspace as opposed to more flexible arrangements, such as hot desks? And, in a hybrid workplace, to what degree does travel remain essential and for which employees?

Every company will likely have its own answers based on the existing balance between office and remote work, its vision for the future, and the sensitivity of its work.

A path forward

If all of this sounds complicated or even mystifying, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

But there is more good news for businesses everywhere: at Capgemini Invent, we’ve been asking these exact questions and developed an approach for answering them. Expertise covers a lot of ground and helps when it comes to selecting solutions and methodology for implementing a change and undergoing a transformation.

Education, communication, and adaption require a finer touch, however. If a business wants its hybrid workplace to succeed, it needs to put in the work beforehand to ensure that it understands the exact requirements a solution needs to fulfill. This can include gamification or interactive learning depending on the audience in question and the organization’s culture.

Finally, keep in mind that hybrid workplaces are likely to continue evolving, meaning that a business needs to be ready for changes to technology, security, and employee expectations. Fortunately, organizations can learn to be adaptive and replicable processes can be put in place to ensure that, in the future, internal reviews can be performed again with a great deal more clarity and preparedness.

While hybrid workplaces pose a great number of challenges and questions to the organizations who wish to establish them, the answers do exist and the opportunities awaiting those companies that make the effort outweigh the short-term costs. Capgemini Invent is ready for a future of work built on more flexible conditions.

About Author

Laura Sophie Mina

Senior ConsultantWorkforce & Organisation