The Tech You’ll Need for the Hybrid Office
Moving to hybrid work will require organizations to reimagine their office spaces. Our experts break down how to evaluate hybrid-office technology to determine what is right for your organization.
After a year of working from home, a return to the office is finally within sight.
Vaccines are rolling out. Reopening plans are being drafted. And the anticipation of returning to a sense of normalcy is growing.
Most organizations have identified hybrid work, in which employees split time between the office and remote work, as a key component to their reopening plans.
A recent Gartner survey of 127 company leaders found 82 percent of respondents planned to permit remote working at least some of the time after reopening offices.
On the surface, hybrid work may seem like an easy transition, particularly for companies that have had employees working entirely or mostly remote since early 2020. Considering many organizations spent the last year implementing and optimizing remote work, they might think the hardest part is behind them.
Unfortunately, moving to a long-term hybrid work model is not as simple as turning on the lights and welcoming back employees to the pre-pandemic office they remember. Like remote work, organizations must rethink and improve the office experience.
At WWT, we are helping many organizations identify, evaluate and design the technology they’ll need to support their new hybrid office.
In this article, we’ll discuss the types of hybrid-office technology you should consider first and how to evaluate solutions to determine the best fit for your organization.
Aligning hybrid-office technology to organizational priorities
Designing a hybrid office requires IT, human resources (HR) and facilities teams to work together to determine the physical and technical requirements necessary for a successful reopening.
It’s important to start by taking a holistic view of your technology portfolio to understand how or if existing technology can be repurposed or integrated with new solutions to derive maximum value.
Organizations should prioritize three key areas when selecting hybrid-office technology:
- Employee safety and wellbeing
- Employee experience
- Company culture
Employee safety and wellbeing
Providing a safe work environment should be the top priority of any organization’s reopening plan.
Employees understand how the office can become a breeding ground for germs. Organizations must do their part to try to prevent disease transmission by enhancing cleaning and sanitization procedures, implementing safe social distancing, and reducing occupancy levels, among other safety initiatives.
Technology like digital signage and touchless solutions can help ease employees’ fears and support organizations’ safety efforts.
Digital signage can display social distancing reminders, the date and time a room was last cleaned, and up to date safety protocols.
Touchless solutions allow for hands-free joining of video calls in meeting rooms, contactless visitor check-in and employee facial recognition for time clocks. For example, Cisco Webex Assistant allows employees to join a meeting using voice commands.
When evaluating digital signage and touchless technologies for your organization, ask these questions:
- Will my digital signage content be static or interactive?
- Will I need to deliver content to meeting room screens, mobile devices, websites or all the above?
- How will touchless technology impact employee processes? (e.g. Replacing traditional time clocks with facial recognition systems will require employee communication and training.)
The hybrid office will be a hub for social gatherings and highly collaborative work. This means fewer assigned cubicles and desks (if any) and more meeting rooms and huddle spaces conducive to ad-hoc brainstorming sessions. But an organization’s work doesn’t stop at creating these new spaces; employees must be able to easily reserve them and navigate the new office layout.
Room reservation and office hoteling applications allow employees to pre-book available rooms and locate their teammates. These applications can also provide facilities teams with real-time analytics to help identify opportunities for reduced energy consumption.
Another option is hot desking, or reservation-less, unassigned seating. Employees can work at any open desk or seat when they arrive at the office each day. While hot desking is a cost-effective option, it has received criticism from workers who like the stability of an assigned space rather than a first-come, first-serve approach.
Lastly, digital wayfinding solutions can provide interactive maps throughout the office to help employees orient themselves with the new layout. Facilities teams can leverage this technology to create a digital blueprint of the building for optimized space management.
When evaluating space management applications and wayfinding solutions for your organization, consider the following questions:
- Which spaces will require a reservation?
- How will employees be able to view which spaces are available? (e.g. Kiosk boards, scheduling boards, mobile app, etc.)
- Do I need to limit capacity in specific rooms, areas and buildings?
No matter where employees are located, they need to feel connected and part of the team. This becomes significantly more challenging with a mix of remote and office-based employees.
Organizations must be prepared for every meeting to include at least one remote participant. This means equipping meeting rooms and collaboration spaces with seamless, easy-to-use videoconferencing technology.
Beyond meetings, remote employees need to stay informed of important events and announcements. Organizations can also leverage digital signage solutions to deliver consistent messaging across any screen — from existing in-office displays to a remote worker’s computer screen.
When evaluating videoconferencing solutions for your organization, consider the following questions:
- How can I integrate with my existing videoconferencing platforms?
- In the next five years, what percentage of my workforce will be remote versus office-based?
- What meeting sizes are common within my organization? (e.g. one-on-one, medium to large groups, town halls, webinars, etc.)
Start designing your hybrid office
While the shift to all-remote work forced tremendous technical and cultural changes, the shift to hybrid work could be even more disruptive.
There are hundreds of hybrid-office technology solutions available on the market today. Leveraging a partner like WWT, and our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), can drastically reduce the time it takes to evaluate these solutions so you can find the right fit for your organization faster.
Our partnerships with leaders in space management technology, such as AppSpace, allow our team to advise organizations on how to best implement and integrate solutions to achieve an optimal hybrid-office experience.