Technology has always shaped work, from early typewriters which organized thought, to digital technologies that expedited communication.
The challenge for HR leaders and managers today is how best to respond to and capitalize on the rapid adoption of hybrid working and the technology that enabled it.
Earlier this year, Apple’s Tim Cook recalled staff to the office, saying there was something essential missing: ‘each other.’
Cook also recognized the need for employees to see more of their families, and this is where remote technology has been successful in enabling a hybrid compromise between working at home and working from the office.
Tech throughout time
The 1990s and 2000s gave us desktop computers and email. While speeding work up, and encouraging a culture of accountability, desktop computing exacerbated the interpersonal skills we were losing, and the resources small business owners lacked.
This informed HR training, internal reviews, and overheads.
During this period we were in no man’s land of being tied to highly expensive offices in city centers, yet we did not have an effective remote internet to get away from an antiquated nine to five existence.
Just when digital technology became defter (contrast the cumbersome nature of email to Slack or Microsoft Teams), the pandemic occurred, invoking an overnight shift to remote work.
This seemed like a rare example of changes in technology happening just in time, alongside changes in society, and the two were in harmony.
Then the cracks began to appear.
More than half of employees believe remote work will hurt their career long-term.
Remote working has also forced us to confront the implications of an “always on” society.
Portugal’s decision to make it illegal for your boss to text you outside of office hours shows how a progressive technological step can lead to an impractical or regressive societal one.
And yet the lessons of remote work should not be lost.
Doing hybrid working right
We have engineered our way out of rigid full time office work and towards a more flexible culture. This is not something we can forget.
Fixed working hours, a lack of choice in remote or office work and working with outdated technology are still among some of the leading reasons why staff are looking for new employment.
Companies today are leaning back in the direction of having an established ‘hub’ to operate around, if not always from.
Property developer confidence is on the rise as demand for office blocks has started to recover.
The exclusive office is increasingly becoming the shared workspace. These workspaces demand green offices, meeting rooms, recreation areas, superfast broadband and transport links as part of a 360 degree experience that hybrid workforce needs.
We also must understand that a hybrid workforce needs more than a hot desk, which itself can be underused and inefficient.
Staff need readily available meeting rooms, concierge services, visitor management and catering functions manageable on the same digital platform.
A digital-first workplace
The digitization of office management is particularly important in instances of high turnover or when many employees work remotely.
A changing environment for a changing workforce must be communicated and managed in real time from the same digital touchpoint.
Until now, employees have had to balance an average of 16 mobile and web applications as they move around the workplace, organize meetings and register attendance.
We must refine this into a single solution that helps leaders get the best out of their staff.
HR managers should invest in employee self-service tools that facilitate better communication, creating opportunities to voice opinions and report concerns.
Developers today are responding with internet of things (IoT)-enabled smart builds. Across London, new office blocks are being completed with hardware built in to track how spaces are used, better informing managerial decisions on staff rotas and room availability.
By extension, the modern shared workspace must use information gathering to its advantage: by automating data collection with IoT sensors, cloud technology, and 5G-enabled fast data sharing, companies can understand how their premises are to be used, serviced, and budgeted.
Looking ahead, artificial intelligence (AI) will increasingly have a role to play in identifying and interviewing employees.
Smart contracts built on the blockchain can more securely process confidential information, and may also be used to process payments more rapidly for contractors.
By saving time, smart contracting could cut back-office costs, giving HRs more time to manage employees.
The convenience of working from home must be weighed against the benefits of working on-premises, with all the associated advantages pertaining to productivity, career development, relationship building, and mental health.
Between the flexibility of remote work and the transparency of the office, leaders should see the hybrid opportunity in forging a new company culture guided by technology to achieve the best of both worlds.
The changing workspace can be unsettling, yet technology will continue to be our north star.