Working outside the office has become normalised during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even employers who were traditionally hesitant about allowing remote work have had to enable it. With the road ahead still a long one, many businesses are now making remote work permanent, with “hybrid working”, “WFH/WFA”, “flextime” and “telecommuting” all among the different terms being used.
But there’s a lot of confusion over what all these actually mean. Do workers never have to go into the office again? Can staff literally work from wherever they like, whenever they like? Here’s a guide to the different terms being used when it comes to working outside the office, and the implications for businesses.
1. Hybrid work
Hybrid work refers to the post-pandemic future of most organisations where some of the workforce is working remotely (not in the office), some in the office (a traditional building/facility/campus), and some swapping between the two on a regular basis (such as home two days a week and office three days a week).
This situation creates a challenge for businesses as they need to ensure the workforce can communicate and collaborate whether they are working at home, in the office or anywhere in between. Joining a virtual meeting from different locations typically creates inequitable experiences for participants, where some are more clearly seen and heard than others. It’s vital that employees are provided with personal and group solutions that level the playing field so everyone can see, hear and share with everyone else equally no matter where they are working.
2. Working From Anywhere
This is a more general or broader way to describe how employees are going to work post-pandemic. Businesses have to be prepared for employees wanting to work at any time and from anywhere. In this situation, people and teams need solutions that will let them engage and collaborate anytime and anywhere without being at a disadvantage.
Solutions that enable mobility and flexibility are key. Just as executives have long worked between different offices, or sales people have been out in the field, now formerly office-based roles will work from different locations.
3. Return To The Office/Return To Work
As vaccines take hold, more and more companies are starting to ask employees to return to the office (also referred to as Return to Work). This presents a new challenge, as higher hygiene requirements and social distancing are here to stay. Desks may need to be further apart, front counter/customer facing staff may need screens, and meeting rooms may have to be restricted to a maximum number of personnel.
Businesses are trying to figure out how much and exactly what kind of spaces will be needed. They must also consider what equipment/tools employees will need to continue attending virtual meetings. The time and cost savings experienced with virtual meetings, as well as ongoing requirements for social distancing, mean that they’re also here to stay. The focus is on preparing office spaces for both individual and group communication and collaboration, including conference/meeting rooms, private offices, cubicles, hotdesking and hoteling areas.
4. Working Remote/Remote Working
This is the general term for anyone working away from a traditional office facility. It includes people working from home, third spaces (co-working spaces), and those travelling for work through an airport or in a car. These individuals are usually at a technology disadvantage when joining virtual meetings. They can’t see who else is on the call, they can’t hear clearly, and they don’t always look and sound clear to everyone else on the call.
Businesses and workers alike must make sure that they have the right equipment to look and sound their best so that they can fully engage as they work remotely. This includes training people on how to use equipment effectively, taking into consideration aspects such as lighting and background noise.
5. Workstyles & Personas
Different personalities and roles shape what people need in their jobs to be successful. The responsibilities people have and the tasks they need to perform often dictate the tools and equipment they need to perform at their best. In the post-pandemic world of Hybrid Work and Working From Anywhere, it is especially important that businesses take into account the different employee workstyles within an organisation when making communications solutions decisions.
One size does not fit all. Businesses should not order the same personal equipment for all employees or try to guess or mandate what people need. For the most productive results, businesses need to understand the unique requirements of each individual and select personal collaboration solutions that best match. For example, we’ve identified several different types of workstyle, such as “Office Collaborator” and “Connective Executive”, and their respective collaboration requirements, so solutions can be built around specific needs for the most effective outcomes.
To work and collaborate effectively in the world of remote working, both office and remote locations, as well as the staff using them, have to be properly equipped. Working outside the office can be just as productive, effective and enjoyable as traditional on-premise operations.
By Andy Hurt, MD Poly ANZ
This article was first published by Kochie’s Business Builders