7 biggest challenges and realities of a hybrid office
written by Marc Miller (Co-Founder of Imagine IT)
There are legitimate and real fears with this “New Normal.” However, along with these fears and challenges are some very big opportunities.
For a long, long time, work was a place to go. Our parents and grandparents got up in the morning and went to work … it’s simply what was expected, and everyone did it.
But this new generation is introduced to a “new normal. This new normal includes a full or partial remote workforce and a hybrid office.
Remote work has now become a reality. A few progressive businesses have accepted this as a viable work option. But, in most cases, this is the exception, with a very large percentage of workers still heading to the office every day.
The world changed in March of 2020
In March of 2020, COVID-19 became a horrible reality, and nothing was the same. Businesses were forced to send their workers home. The workforce was pushed out of the office. Millions of home offices were created as places where work was to be accomplished.
Businesses scrambled to adopt technologies that would allow for this remote work to thrive.
Pre-COVID, going to work was normal, post-COVID remote work is the “new normal.”
From an office worker’s perspective, everything pre-COVID was normal … and the “new normal” is what we are experiencing right now.
Today, we are finally seeing more and more workers heading back to the office, but according to recent studies, remote work is here to stay.
How many people will be working from their home offices … no one knows. But, studies predict that companies who excel at remote work might have a distinct advantage over companies that demand workers return to the office.
The new normal might become the “new abnormal”
Unfortunately, our world continues to change. It seems as if we face new challenges each day.
The new omicron variant of the Covid virus has authorities across the globe wondering about the safety of travel and large gatherings.
Mask mandates ebb and flows as new variants are discovered and studied. As a result, many people are choosing vaccination while others refuse, causing additional confusion and fear.
Abnormal and change are becoming the new normal.
Technology has become the foundational bedrock
From an office and work perspective, technology has become your foundational bedrock. As a result, work environments with the ability to quickly adapt to remote work are experiencing less disruption and less frustration for the employee and the customer.
Flexibility and adapting to this changing world are imperative and have become an important competitive advantage.
My business is different now … and I don’t like it!
Business owners are worried about the current state of the world. However, running a business with people in the office and working remotely presents challenges that have not been faced before … not on this scale.
Here at Imagine IT, we’ve been asking business owners about these new challenges for the past year. As a result, we have found the following to be the top challenges for business owners:
Top 7 Challenges for Businesses in this New Normal
- I don’t know if my employees are productive.
- Is my team communicating as well as they were before?
- I am concerned that we are not communicating as well with our customers.
- Is our culture as strong as it was before?
- My team members don’t trust each other like they used to.
- Hiring is impossible if I don’t offer a hybrid (in-office and remote) work environment.
- We are not safe (from a cyber security perspective)
The concerns listed above are real and pose a big challenge for business today.
These 7 challenges all revolve around 3 very important realities, and without an understanding of these realities, there will be no way to resolve the challenges.
3 Realities Common to the 7 Challenges
ONE: Things felt better before Covid, but few of these “things” were actually measured, so no one really knows if they were better or not
Let’s face it, things are such a mess right now; everything before Covid seems like it was great … and if not great, at least better. I hear this a lot from business owners, “I just don’t know if my employees are productive when working from home.”
My question back to them is, “How productive were they when they were in the office? How were you measuring this? Did each of your employees have a productivity measure and goal that they were held accountable to?” And in most cases, the business owner answers, “Well, not really. My sales guys did, but no one else really did. So I guess it is just more of a gut feeling.
There is a certain comfort level when a manager or a co-worker can pop their head over a cubicle wall and check in on team members. When we “pop in” and see others typing away or on the phone, we assume they are productive.
Were your people productive before they went remote?
These random in-office checks help us trust our gut feeling that folks are being productive. Of course, this is not possible in a remote work environment. We can jump on a video call, but do we know they were productive before the call?
Productivity, by definition, is the amount (of work) that a person can produce over a period of time. In all cases, this can be measured. In some cases, like in the example of sales, measuring this can be very easy. In other cases, like an office manager measuring productivity can be more difficult … but it can (and should) be done.
TWO – You fear that things are worse now because you still are not measuring them and therefore don’t know
The unknown scares us, so when our gut tells us that productivity might be less or our culture might be collapsing, this bothers us and creates fear.
We were not measuring things like productivity, communication, or culture before … and we don’t have plans to quantify them now, so our fears grow … and grow and grow.
(Hard) Business Attributes
Some attributes of a business are easier to measure than others. Business leadership meets regularly to review business attributes. For example, if the business is a manufacturing company, they track and measure the number of widgets they produce. Salespeople can measure the dollar value of the sales that they win. Lawyers measure the number of billable hours that they generate. When these attributes are attached to things or money, we call these “hard attributes.” Typically, hard attributes are easier to measure and track.
(Soft) Business Attributes
Soft business attributes are things like culture, communication, happiness, trust. Unfortunately, these attributes are much more difficult to measure because metrics are not typically affiliated with them.
But companies across the globe have figured out very effective ways to measure these attributes and are doing it every day.
How To Measure Soft Business Attributes
The most common way to measure and track soft business attributes is using a survey tool. Well-written surveys can extract valuable information that is typically viewed as “emotional or feelings.”
Obviously, as humans, emotions and feelings are very important, and thus these well-constructed surveys are extremely important. We will discuss this in a future post, but here is a quick list of items involved in the survey:
- Determine metrics or characteristics that could/should be measured
- Who will be responsible for measuring, reporting, training?
- Design the survey to measure the KBA
- Establish a baseline
- Examine the results from the survey and establish targets and milestones
- Implement a Change Management (Training) program
- Re-measure the KBA and compare it to targets
- If necessary, make plans to continue or engage in more “training.”
As mentioned, we will produce a future post that gives more detail to the process above. Still, applying this process and developing a well-structured survey will allow your company to measure these important soft business attributes.
Creating measurements helps eliminate the unknown and the fear
THREE – When these 7 Challenges are tied back to the company financials, they become huge opportunities for growth.
Pre-Covid many important business attributes were unmeasured and thus were unknown. Consequently, they were not looked upon as positives or negatives because they were largely overlooked.
Remote work has turned a focus on many of these extremely important attributes. For example, are your employees truly happy? Are you communicating with your customers effectively? Do your team members truly trust each other? Do the team members trust management?
Interestingly, each of the questions above has a connection to the company’s financials. So, by measuring and understanding these attributes, a company starts to control aspects of the business that seemed “uncontrollable” before.
Control of these previously uncontrollable business facets will give leadership teams stronger abilities to forecast and predict important changes in the business climate. Covid has forced millions of workers away from their offices and into their home offices. Unfortunately, some business owners will ignore these questions and will continue to find doubt and fear as these questions surface.
Other business owners will embrace these critical questions and transformational practices to measure the soft business attributes that speak to these questions. The process of measuring these attributes will facilitate an understanding of business environments that will foster loyalty, consistency, greater productivity, and greater profits.
Real and legitimate fears with this “new normal” have forced organizations to embrace a remote or hybrid workforce. And businesses that adopt this remote work environment have a big advantage.
But an even bigger question to ask yourself is; were you measuring your team’s productivity before COVID hit? If you weren’t, then it is very difficult to know if they are less productive now.
It is clear that technology is connected to every aspect of this “new normal.” And organizations that not only embrace these technologies but also put metrics in place to measure them … will be far more successful during this time.
How is your organization dealing with these challenges and realities? And what can you do to help your company thrive in this new normal?
Join us at an in-person and virtual seminar on December 9th for …
The New Normal: 6 Technology Tactics To Create A Successful Hybrid Office
Or reach out to us if you have any questions regarding your remote workforce, cyber security, IT support, or other technology-related questions.