By Jeremy Wubs, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Bell Business Markets
How I came to believe in the power of the hybrid workforce
Companies across Canada have come to embrace the idea of the hybrid workforce: some employees working from home, some operating in the field and some heading back into the office. But if you had asked me one year ago if a hybrid model would become the dominant way of working long-term, I’d have said no.
While we had the technology to make remote and hybrid work happen, as an “office person” my entire career, I believed the in-person office environment was essential to productivity. When that environment was disrupted, I had serious concerns about whether employees could stay energized and feel connected to their colleagues.
The truth is, I was wrong.
Hybrid work is the new reality
Through my interactions with business leaders across Canada, it’s clear that hybrid work is here to stay in a big way. And for me personally, it’s become my preferred way of working.
It’s important right up front to be clear about the distinction between remote work and hybrid work. Remote work is all about setting people up to work offsite, usually from home. Hybrid work has many more combinations and permutations, with employees moving between different locations fluidly and dynamically as their needs (and those of the business) change – with a consistent experience provided to them anywhere they go.
Many businesses weren’t sure how far to go with hybrid work when the pandemic started. Thinking the situation would be temporary, they didn’t see the need to drastically rethink the way they worked. Instead they adopted “best effort” quick fixes that weren’t designed for the long haul.
But about nine months in, something changed. I saw it firsthand: in virtual meetings with clients, I went from being the only person on video to seeing entire teams of senior executives – 30 or 40 people from across the country – all on camera, engaged in productive dialogue.
Three must-haves for an effective hybrid workforce
So what makes the hybrid model succeed? The conversations I’m having with clients have changed a lot since March 2020. We’re talking less about technology and more about what they’re trying to accomplish in their hybrid workforce journeys. In general, these discussions tend to focus on three critical elements of any hybrid workforce strategy – measuring productivity, enabling collaboration, and encouraging engagement.
Companies are looking for guidance on how to enable their hybrid workforces to be productive whether they’re in the office, at home or on the road. So we’ve been talking about connectivity, security and other enabling factors that help ensure employees have access to the data and applications they need to do their jobs well, no matter where they’re located or what devices they’re using.
When teams are moving from place to place, maintaining effective communication, teamwork and information-sharing becomes vitally important. Businesses are looking to Bell for solutions that make calling, meeting and chatting simple and effective – whether that’s among internal teams or with external stakeholders such as clients, partners and suppliers.
Which is about attending to the human factors of the hybrid workforce. It means not just getting the right tools into the hands of your people, but also making sure they’re comfortable with those tools and can use them effectively.
Engagement is also about making time for social interactions. People working from home don’t get the same informal socialization and team-building experiences they would if they were together in an office. Businesses need to build those interactions into their day-to-day planning – for example, booking time into the agenda for team events that aren’t about work. For me, replacing the ad hoc conversations while waiting in line at the coffee shop with scheduled “virtual coffee” breaks has been a great way to catch up with people and stay connected.
The good thing is that the hybrid work toolset directly supports this kind of engagement. If we were still on audio conference calls every day, we’d be missing out on the real-time visual feedback and information that video provides. The ability to read people’s faces and respond in the moment strongly helps support engagement.
No turning back
While it takes time to adjust, with the right technologies and the right mindset, businesses and their employees are now starting to realize the tremendous potential of the hybrid workforce. Hybrid work is here to stay 43% of Canadian employees will still be working remotely one year after their offices fully reopen* 42% of Canadian businesses plan to adjust long-term IT spending plans to support hybrid work*
For example, I’ve found that it’s gotten easier to connect to more people more often. Back in the office, there were people from other locations I might have seen two or three times a year. Now I see them two or three times a week on video. It’s an added bonus I didn’t see coming. As I continue to have conversations with our clients, I’m learning more and more about the unexpected benefits they’re seeing themselves, and also what they need from us to seamlessly connect their hybrid models to their larger digital transformation journeys.
While I hope to have the opportunity to go back to the office at some point, I also don’t plan on giving up the benefits of hybrid work. I’m excited to see where this new way of working goes next – and how our team at Bell can help businesses across Canada build a more productive, collaborative and engaged working environment, now and in the future.
To learn more, visit bell.ca/hybridworkforce or contact your Bell representative.
* IDC Canada