Although remote working has been around for a long time, it took a global pandemic to turn it into a commonly accepted practice in the world of business. It may have needed a push to bring it into the mainstream, but now that it’s here, it’s clear that it’s not going away any time soon, and many candidates are prioritising remote working as a key differentiator when looking at potential jobs.
The practice of remote and hybrid working brings with it many advantages for businesses - including the ability to access talent from a much wider pool, greater staff satisfaction and potentially even the option to save costs by downsizing their office space - but it also brings challenges. One of the biggest concerns for any organisation when implementing a hybrid work (opens in new tab) policy is how to ensure that teams can still collaborate effectively when some members are in the office and some are at home.
Fostering inclusion among remote staff
Without proper consideration, remote staff can be left feeling isolated and under-appreciated, and important information on projects can slip through the cracks left by poor communication between remote and in-office staff. This is a vital challenge to overcome if businesses are to operate effectively in a hybrid model, but there are a number of approaches that can be taken to solve it.
Video conferencing (opens in new tab), for example, has already demonstrated its usefulness, and has firmly entrenched itself as an indispensable part of any organisation’s hybrid working toolkit, but there are additional factors that should be taken into consideration when deployed in a hybrid setting.
It’s important to use video conferencing capabilities in a thoughtful and inclusive manner to ensure that remote participants aren’t shut out; for meetings involving some team members in the room and others dialing in via video, the seating arrangements should be laid out so that video participants can see everyone in the room and no one has their backs to them. This way, they’re able to have a full and equal part in the discussion, rather than feeling sidelined.
Similarly, in order for remote staff to feel comfortable making contributions, businesses need to make sure that they can be clearly seen and heard by those in the room. Having the right equipment is essential here; meeting rooms should be fitted with a video conferencing solution that supports this, but that’s only one side of the coin. For staff that spend the majority of their time outside the office, a dedicated webcam (opens in new tab) and microphone - or an upgraded laptop (opens in new tab) with improved built-in video conferencing capabilities - may be better suited to meeting these needs than their current setup.
Choosing the right software for remote and hybrid work
Businesses should think about how their software choices can help facilitate workflows outside of collaboration. SaaS-based document creation tools like Google Docs or Microsoft Word can allow colleagues to work on the same file simultaneously, regardless of where they are in relation to each other, which can be highly efficient for brainstorming or collaborative problem-solving. Cloud storage (opens in new tab) can also make managing large projects smoother by making sure everyone always has access to all necessary files.
SaaS (opens in new tab) tools can help team cohesion outside of the strictly mechanical aspects of an organisation’s operations too, however. For example, collaboration platforms (opens in new tab) like Microsoft Teams or Slack can be a useful way for businesses and teams to organise around projects and quickly share information, but they can also be excellent vehicles for maintaining social and interpersonal bonds which can often deteriorate in a hybrid environment.
Setting up public channels where people can discuss non-work topics such as music, hobbies or pets, for instance, can be a fun way to facilitate the kind of casual conversation that you’d find in a typical office setting. This can help ensure that remote staff aren’t left feeling isolated due to only interacting with other team members to discuss operational matters.
Scheduling regular structured group catch-ups and team meetings can play a further role in this, keeping everyone in the loop and informed about what’s going on both with specific projects and with individual workloads, as well as what’s happening throughout the wider business. Spontaneous informal check-ins are good too, though; some issues or events may feel too small or inconsequential to bring up as part of an ‘official’ meeting, so making time for regular casual conversations with remote staff can give them the space to share these updates.
The future of work is hybrid
Remote work may have been thrust upon many of us unexpectedly, but it’s here to stay, and businesses of every size need to put the work into getting their hybrid strategy right. Not only is it going to be a key factor in staff satisfaction, acquisition and retention going forward, but the productivity benefits of a well-executed hybrid working structure will pay dividends far beyond the effort required to put it into place.
- Return to the office prepared with one of the best business laptops (opens in new tab)