With news of companies including Microsoft and Google announcing their plans to return to the office, some businesses are putting a swift end to remote work. While organizations begin to initiate their return back to the office, business owners are faced with the decision of whether to continue remote work, return to the office full time, or implement a hybrid work model.
Yet, the perfect recipe for your business may consist of implementing aspects from each of these three models. That being said, it’s critical to establish an effective workplace model that enhances both in-person and virtual collaboration, provides improved quality of life for employees, and encourages business growth.
In the past year, businesses have had to adapt more than ever. From rapidly transitioning to remote work to implementing new technologies, companies have had to react quickly to not only thrive, but survive. At the same time, organizations have learned the importance of connectivity and how technology can enable work from anywhere.
SMB Group’s recent study showed small businesses are starting to think more strategically about the work place with 59% expanding their work from home programs, 47% investing in better technology to support remote workers, and 51% creating a long-term strategy for more flexible workstyles. The idea of what the office is has drastically changed, and the success of remote work points toward a hybrid future.
With so many employees not only adjusting, but beginning to prefer flexible work models, businesses face new challenges in returning to the office. Remote work has nixed long commutes, generated mass migrations out of costly cities, and with more and more companies instituting flexibility, many don’t want to return to the office.
From a sustainability standpoint, re-igniting commutes means increased pollution from vehicles, increasing imports to metropolitan cities, and heightening carbon foot prints. Additionally, on the hiring side, a return to the office limits companies’ ability to hire talent from any location while eliminating job opportunities for those in more rural locations. Businesses must consider these challenges when planning their return to an office.
What Hybrid Work Looks Like for Us
With these challenges in mind, Zoho has decided not to initiate a full return to the office, but rather implement a hybrid approach that is focused around giving our employees the full freedom to decide where and how they want to work, while also providing sustainable action and social good for local communities.
Taking a hybrid approach, we’ve begun opening spoke offices in smaller cities near larger hubs globally in order to expand our search for talent, allow employees to stay in their smaller towns, and provide opportunities to those in smaller communities. We know that talent is universal, however opportunity is not. With this in mind, our philosophy is rooted in providing opportunities that allow employees to live in their hometowns, while giving them jobs that usually are found in cities.
At the same time, our workplace model stresses environmental sustainability and connecting back to nature. For many, remote work has allowed people to spend more time outdoors and work in unique locations, due to global connectivity. We want to continue these measures by providing more open space that allows for collaboration and connection in an outdoor environment.
In Austin, Texas we did away with our plans to build a corporate headquarters and instead, started a farm on the property where employees can grow their own vegetables and fruits to share with friends and family. We had surveyed our employees to see if they had interest in farming and about 50% of the company showed interest. Within a year and a half we now our producing over 200 varieties of healthy organic fruits and vegetables grown by our employees for them to enjoy.
The farm has allowed our employees to re-connect with nature, but also has added in-person collaboration to a degree that has not been possible during remote work. Taking a hybrid approach allows businesses the ability to design the work place customized for their unique needs, while adding to their business strategy for the future.
Key to a Successful Hybrid Workplace is Technology
Global connectivity has been critical in enabling remote and hybrid work, and will continue to define the dynamic workplace. Technology has given us the ability to accomplish work efficiently while collaborating effectively, all without being in a traditional work setting. SMB Groups’ findings showed 41% of businesses made significant changes to their technology strategy in the wake of COVID-19.
After putting technology changes into place in the wake of the pandemic, this has facilitated an easier transition into implementing a hybrid model for businesses. Cloud-based technology has enabled employees to work from anywhere and still have a sense of connection through online meetings, chat tools, and other collaboration tools. Additionally, using integrated software has aided businesses in automating tasks that were previously done in person.
Technology has been embraced by most businesses in some sense throughout the last year, and it’s important that businesses think about how to harness technology no matter what workplace model they choose.
At the same time, remote work, and even hybrid work, have created an uptick in individual productivity, but there’s no doubt that collaboration has taken a hit. Businesses must take this into consideration when putting their hybrid/remote plans into place, and remember that finding the right solution will take time.
Think of this transition similarly to the transition from main frame to the network of networks, which is the internet. This is where a centralized system went to distributed systems. It will be similar on a human level. Companies are transitioning from collaborating at one major office (in a main frame model) to a network of offices collaborating together (a distributed model) with our hybrid approach. It’s important to listen to employee’s needs, use tools that evolve with these changing models, and figure out the best way to connect your employees.
Benefits of a Hybrid Workplace Model
The hybrid work model blends the best of both worlds by giving employees the freedom of flexibility, while also catering to in-person collaboration and team work.
- For small businesses, one of the biggest benefits of the hybrid approach is cost savings. By doing away with a large corporate office, companies can save money by opening smaller offices in more cost-effective areas or go remote completely.
- By opening an office in areas where your employees live, hybrid work enhances employee satisfaction. Employees now have a better quality of life by living in more affordable regions, eliminating time-consuming commutes and promoting flexible work hours to fit their lifestyle.
- Utilizing your business for social and environmental good. The hybrid workplace provides the freedom to create new initiatives. Whether it’s building an office from sustainable materials, setting time for your team to connect with nature, or helping local communities; all of these will enhance those around you, while improving your business.
- You’re no longer locked to talent based on location. Having an office, remote work, or a mix of the two allows you to hire from any location so that you can find the best talent for your organization.
The pandemic has revealed that with the power of technology work can be done from almost anywhere. So whether your company wants a full return to the office, full remote work, or a unique mix that’s all your own, take inventory of how your business will grow in an ever-changing environment and economy, and note how that growth will directly impact the quality of life of your employees and future employees.
By taking note of sustainability, local communities and employee satisfaction while planning for unpredictable futures, businesses can establish a future that includes a fluid workplace that melds to fit whatever your needs may be, be it an organic farm, small spoke offices, and beyond.
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