The modern workplace is made up of all types of workers. There are those who work in-house full time, on-the-go remote workers, those who work from home and hybrid workers who split their week between office and home. According to a Work Trend Index Report, 73% of employees want flexible remote work options long-term. In a study we published last year we found that 68% of people would like to work remotely at least two days per week.
If blended hybrid workplaces are here to stay, it no longer makes sense to have office spaces that cater for the needs of the office worker alone. Today’s workspaces must put remote and in-person workers on equal footing.
“A year from now, hybrid meetings will be the norm,” says Shiraz Cupala, product leader for Microsoft Teams Meetings Platform Innovation. “So, the question becomes: How do we connect the pieces so that when we’re all in that hybrid room together, everyone has equal access to information and an equal voice at the table?”
Here are some tips for reimagining the workspace to cater for the needs of a modern hybrid team.
1. Carefully Consider Collaboration Space
The rise in remote working doesn’t mean the end of the office. In the remote working study we mentioned above we found that 92% of workers want to at least spend some time in the office every week. However, for most organisations a change in approach is needed. If team members are mainly working from home, there will be less of a need for individual office units and a greater requirement for collaboration space.
Workers will want, and need, a physical space to come together and connect. This doesn’t mean congregating in some cubicle or dark corner of the room. Instead, there could be workspaces, conference rooms, meeting pods, and focus rooms. These spaces allow remote workers to come into the office and collaborate with other members of their team. It should also cater for those joining discussions from remote locations.
2. Consider Those Who Aren’t in the Room Also
Occasionally there will be meetings held in the office where all attendees are present in-person. However, as teams become more widespread, we expect the ratio of in-person attendees and remote attendees to approach a 50:50 split. With that in mind, it’s important that meeting rooms consider both parties.
All attendees should be able to see, hear, and collaborate with each other seamlessly. The goal is for attendees to enjoy the same high-quality experience whether they are in-person or attending remotely. To learn more about the new hybrid meeting, check out this blog post.
3. Make Content Sharing and Brainstorming Easier for Everyone
When collaboration or brainstorming sessions take place, the way in which speakers share content is incredibly important. This is especially important when catering for both in-house and remote staff. If someone is presenting in a room, they need to think about the experience from the online attendees’ point of view.
For hybrid meetings, enhanced Microsoft PowerPoint features allow speakers to see and interact with their remote audience members. Projecting the online meeting room onto a bigger screen, creates a more connected, collaborative environment. When the online meeting room is projected onto a screen, speakers can see everyone more clearly and respond to attendees when they put their hands up or ask questions. This feeds into a more equitable meeting experience.
Other features such as The Microsoft Teams Whiteboard make it easier for individuals to collaborate from multiple locations. Microsoft Whiteboard is a free-form, digital canvas where people, content, and ideas come together. Whiteboard integration in Microsoft Teams meetings is powered by the Whiteboard web app, which lets Teams meeting participants draw, sketch, and write together on a shared digital canvas.
4. Adopting a ‘Virtual-First’ Rule of Thumb
We’ve had a lot of experience with office work. We know what works and what doesn’t. There have been decades upon decades of trial and error to leave us with the processes and office norms we have today. At this point we should be confident that when people are face-to-face, in an office environment, they work well together. So, when it comes to hybrid meetings or hybrid collaboration, it’s the online party that we should be more vigilant of. That is why it’s important to adopt a ‘virtual-first’ rule of thumb.
In meetings this means thinking about the experience from the remote attendees’ experience. If you are chairing a meeting, it means asking for the opinions of the online attendees first and making sure they are fully engaged. If you are collaborating in a room together on a whiteboard, you should consider whether you are alienating the remote attendee and try a more inclusive option. Most importantly, it means making sure that remote attendees have all the tools and technologies needed to do their work as effectively at home as in the office.
5. Foster a Culture of Hybrid Connection
During the pandemic, as people got used to a new way of working, one thing that seemed to be ignored was office camaraderie. As a workforce, we adjusted to doing our tasks at home and running virtual meetings. However, often we forgot about the space in between – the informal conversations in the hallway, the chats by the desk, the impromptu catchups by the watercooler or the random sparks of creativity.
These mightn’t seem that important but oftentimes it’s where ideas are created, and deeper connections are made. As we adjust to a new hybrid workplace, it’s important not to lose this component of office life. Encourage staff to meet up on Teams channels for a few minutes here and there with no agenda in place. Management should create an environment where one person isn’t afraid to spark up an informal conversation with another. These little moments can be huge, both in terms of employee wellbeing and fostering a culture of innovation.
Preparing for a New Type of Working Life?
We’ve said it before but although organisations are returning to the workplace, they are re-joining a much-changed working environment. If you are adjusting your business, you will find value in some of our recent posts.