Our shared experience over the past two years has fundamentally changed our way of working, but also our working methods. Around the world, business leaders are responding to phenomena such as the silent shutdown, the Great Recession, and a radical shift in employee expectations as they attempt to balance business performance in a fluid and unpredictable economy.
Today, organizations have a better understanding of how technology can connect people and increase productivity, but there are still unanswered questions: How do you make hybrid work work?
But to remain an attractive employer and attract new talent, business leaders must now meet employees where they are. This requires a shift in thinking, including the adoption of technologies that promote international collaboration and redefine traditional notions of productivity.
Adopt the hybrid model
No two companies are alike. Likewise, there is no uniform approach to future work models and environments. In 2022, however, the companies all make the same observation: their employees are in favor of the hybrid model.
The more people who appreciate the benefits of flexible working models, the more this factor comes into play when assessing the attractiveness of a job opening. For the youngest, like Generation Z, there is no turning back. In fact, the likelihood of applying for an ad on LinkedIn that says “flexibility” is significantly higher for Gen Z (77%) than for Millennials (30%) and others on the platform.
Necessity is the mother of invention. This principle showed itself at the beginning of the pandemic, crystallized by the way companies moved the entire workforce to virtual platforms. The pandemic is now largely behind us. However, the zeitgeist, forcefully expressed, requires companies to embrace the hybrid model and think seriously about implementing clear and detailed strategies for work environments that optimize the long-term employee experience.
Indeed, we’ve seen companies calling for a full return to the office have suffered the costs, just as many of them have suffered severe backlash on social networks.
Not all technologies are created equal
Not only has technology helped overcome the pandemic crisis, but it has been redesigned to adapt to it. Today, there are more innovative solutions specifically designed for businesses and employees to optimize hybrid work across physical and virtual environments.
Hybrid work is often associated with the emergence of virtual meetings. In fact, since February 2020, Microsoft has indicated that the average Teams user has seen a 252% increase in time spent each week in meetings, with the number increasing by 153%2. Workers must be equipped with the right technological solutions to meet the demands of hybrid work. These solutions should promote productivity, individualized work models and help reduce the brain’s cognitive load.
Loss of meetings, hybrid work has shown that today’s lifestyle presents a growing share of challenges outside the office, which relate to the environments where we now make our calls and attend our meetings. From the noise of a construction site in the background, to the noise of a coffee shop, to a roommate or noisy family members – it’s not always easy to work from home or on the go. However, truly hybrid organizations in 2022 can make audio problems a thing of the past.
It is up to business leaders to better equip their employees with the solutions they need to work effectively. The EPOS research and development team is working on solutions designed for hybrid workers. We know that hybrid workers need collaboration solutions that are versatile, dynamic and compatible with the pace of new work styles. For company managers, this means investing in future-proof solutions.
As part of any hybrid work strategy, business and IT decision makers must invest in technologies and collaboration solutions that meet employee needs. Ultimately, this comes down to maximizing performance and minimizing disappointing audio experiences. Given the many solutions available on the market, these decision makers must ensure that they invest in equipment that integrates future technologies such as active noise reduction or AI for improved voice capture.
While it may be tempting to choose cheaper collaboration tools at a time when budgets are tight, this choice can be a false economy and lead to reduced efficiency, as well as the risk of having to replace these devices quickly.
In the pre-pandemic world, a definition of productivity was possible. The question was not where to do the work or how to collaborate with colleagues. This is not the case in the rapidly changing hybrid world, where it is not possible to codify work and lifestyle in the same framework as before – the emergence of hybrid configurations requires a broader definition of productivity. Therefore, companies must act more consciously and seize the opportunity they get by rethinking the concept of productivity, as well as the corresponding temporal and situational factors.
The correlation between hybrid work and improved business performance is well documented. It is sometimes tempting to equate higher levels of employee engagement with business success. But this thinking risks neglecting factors that promote long-term innovation. Redefining productivity in the hybrid age comes down to assessing the individual trade-offs between the following factors: individual well-being, work styles, business needs, and an organization’s culture and social connections that can drive innovation.
lead from above
Redefining a company’s culture is a complex task. On a day-to-day basis, it is important for a business manager to define a hybrid strategy associated with clear and deliberate tactics that promote a better work-life balance for employees, while encouraging employees to meet in physical places for the benefit of social and cultural interaction.
In the longer term, this also means investing in collaborative solutions that support hybrid strategies. This is especially true given the increasing number of companies recruiting talent from a more geographically dispersed network. Business leaders must therefore adopt more deliberate strategies in relation to equipping the workforce with collaboration solutions adapted to hybrid work. In other words, it is about adapting the technological solutions to the specific requirements for a function as well as individual preferences.
Despite technology’s transformation of work environments, it does not replace leadership or culture. Today’s managers must know how to take advantage of the opportunities that technology offers while cultivating the company culture and sense of belonging to a community to maintain the level of engagement and motivation of employees in the long term.
Those who manage to implement this type of hybrid strategy will be in a good position to attract future talent as they enter the market, offering them flexible employment, well-connected technological solutions and meaningful cultural experiences.
Source: Survey conducted at the Oticon Center for Applied Audiology Research (CAAR) audio laboratories in Denmark, 2022