99% of HR leaders expect at least some of their workforce to follow the hybrid model after COVID-19, according to a recent Gartner survey1. This opens up exciting opportunities - and presents new hybrid working challenges for companies to address.
The benefits of hybrid and remote working have the potential to be huge. Two studies by Harvard Business Review2 show that knowledge workers are more productive working from home. Remote work encourages your employees to take ownership of their work and can reduce distractions. But to maximise these digital working benefits you need the right support in place.
For many businesses who’ve been forced into remote or hybrid working, the ‘silo of one’ has become an issue. The value of collaboration to an organisation, particularly one grappling with the challenges of digital working, is clear. Recent Gartner research3 found 71% of HR leaders are more concerned about employee collaboration now than they were before the pandemic. And GoRemotely4 reports that 50% of employees are more engaged when working in collaborative environments.
That collaboration and teamwork are critical to success is not new. And technology provides people with more options for collaboration. The key is that business leaders need to intentionally create collaboration opportunities for their hybrid and remote workers. The payoff, according to Gartner5, is greater levels of innovation.
Creating ways to collaborate means making access to digital workspaces available to the entire workforce. If the organisation uses Microsoft Teams, for example, everyone should be able to access Teams from wherever they are and on any device.
Making collaboration easy and frictionless is another way to break down silos. If people need to switch to another digital application to chat to a team member, share a document or make notes everyone can see in real-time, collaboration becomes a burden. Enabling people to collaborate in the flow of work, as Atlas does, keeps people focused and makes collaboration productive and rewarding.
The physical presence of our co-workers is something we’ve taken for granted. Being in the same physical space keeps us on the same page and reminds us we’re part of a team. Without it, it’s harder to stay engaged. And as a leader, it can be difficult for you to motivate your staff when you don’t know what might be affecting their morale.
People are increasingly accustomed to a more social digital experience, even at work. Microsoft has recognised this, and Microsoft Viva goes a long way towards creating both a more engaging work experience and allowing managers to measuring engagement.
Atlas augments Microsoft Viva by bringing coherence to content scattered across Microsoft 365 and other applications, meaning people have a single platform from which to access all information and features.
Knowledge too, plays a huge part in how engaged employees are. At the core of the thinking behind Atlas is the idea that knowledge needs to be captured, shared, democratised. When people can tap into all available knowledge, they work smarter and better and are more engaged in their work.
Teaching people new things is difficult! Even more so when you’re trying to teach someone a piece of technology using that technology – a situation many of us found ourselves in with remote working software. It’s slow-going getting people up to speed with new solutions.
Having a company intranet with a help centre full of how-to videos, FAQs and forums where people can ask questions helps employees learn how to use new technology and processes and troubleshoot issues. (Learn more about effective onboarding in a hybrid work environment in this blog.)
When things are designed with a people-first principle they become more user-friendly and easier to figure out. Which is how Atlas works with Microsoft 365; it gives the technology a user-friendly and intuitive interface that's been shown to directly increase adoption and usage rates.
As people spread out, so do their files. Slow internet connections, VPN difficulties, and clunky legacy software can lead employees to store information wherever they can access in the moment. Often this isn’t a place anyone else would think to look! Annoying in the office – disastrous when working remotely.
A good document management or knowledge management solution will automatically tag content when it’s saved, making it easily searchable. A digital workplace centralises information, making it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. Instead of having to search for a document in email, chat and a SharePoint library, for example, a single search query will collate all related information.
Atlas and Microsoft Viva Topics take this principle further, using tools and AI to target and customise content and surface all knowledge relevant to the context. This means that people find knowledge even if they didn’t know it was available and get the information most relevant to them. Serving up relevant and requested information also helps filter out ‘noise’ and distractions. (More about how Microsoft Viva helps businesses manage hybrid working challenges in this blog.)
Teaching a new employee to navigate an idiosyncratic shared file system becomes even more time consuming when you aren’t in the same room. It’s important for information to be shared intuitively so that people can find what they need.
The user-experience needs to be simply and friendly. A fast, comprehensive search experience is essential. Information and people who can help need to be easily found and contacted and knowledge sharing should be applauded.
According to RingCentral6 the average person has 60-90 apps and 69% of workers waste up to an hour per day navigating between them all. Ugh!
This has been exacerbated by digital working as people juggle communications software on top of collaboration platforms, as well as all the programs they use for their primary job.
A digital workplace solution like Atlas provides a single digital platform from which you can access all the apps you use at work. Even better, Atlas provides a more intuitive, user-friendly interface to Microsoft 365 technology making it easier to use and allowing you to use it in the flow of work. Being able to access all the digital tools you need in one place is a valuable hybrid working solution.
Outside the physical workspace it’s easy for teams and individuals to become insular. Lack of communication can end up with people duplicating each other’s work or failing to share vital knowledge. This is a costly inefficiency - poor communication and collaboration costs UK companies £8,000 per employee, every year, according to a report by Mitel7.
Changing this requires a cultural shift, one that values knowledge and rewards those who share it readily. Atlas supports this by centralising information, collaboration and communication. In other words, you don’t need to leave the application you’re working in to email a file to someone or to search for a document. By removing the friction of these tasks, you allow people to work across team boundaries freely.
With employees logging in remotely, new vulnerabilities are created. These are exacerbated if frustration with slow legacy software leads people to use unauthorised programs for file sharing or digital communication. And IT support is more complicated to manage from a distance, leading people to seek their own workarounds for problems.
Technology like Microsoft 365 has underlying infrastructure features that support your security requirements. Added to that, Atlas provides a user-friendly interface that enables people to self-serve within the governance framework set by your IT team.
Many businesses have attempted to address remote working challenges by creating a ‘virtual office’. But trying to simulate the physical office has proven to be counterproductive. Bids to recreate ‘watercooler moments’ through virtual touchpoints and high levels of virtualisation can actually be draining and create a sense of being ‘always-on’. “[Many] of the strategies that organisations are employing to ensure productivity are actually exacerbating these fatigue drivers, says Alexia Cambon, Gartner8. ”
This fatigue eased when managers instead focused on taking advantage of the flexibility and opportunities of digital working. Encouraging conscious collaboration was key. Tools like Microsoft Viva Insights offers employees and their managers ways to manage this, including booking in ‘focus time’ and identifying trends work trends that can either be healthy and therefore encouraged or unhealthy and therefore can be addressed.
Hybrid or fully remote working presents challenges, yes, but there are also digital working solutions and opportunities. These solutions can be found in everything from shifts in company culture and management to technology. Here’s a checklist for you to see how your company is handling these new work challenges.
A robust digital workplace solution will accommodate all these solutions. It can support cultural changes such as democratising knowledge, setting clear expectations and enabling flexible working. It provides a tangible solution in the form of a digital space in which to collaborate, find information and communicate. And by making it easier for people to access information and tools and do their work it grows inclusivity and employee engagement. In short, a robust digital workspace helps people and businesses meet and solve the challenges of hybrid and remote working.
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