When pandemic pressures hit in full force last year, the business value of video meetings increased exponentially. From Zoom and Teams to Skype for Business and Cisco Webex, enterprises across the country prioritized remote communication to help keep corporate objectives on track.
Steady progress on controlling the crisis, however, has many companies considering their back-to-work approaches: What happens when staff starts returning to the office? According to a recent Harvard Business School Online study, it may not be “business as usual” anytime soon: 27 percent of professionals would prefer to stay remote full time, and 61 percent said they’d prefer to work from home two or three days per week.
The result is a growing need for a new approach — a hybrid work model that empowers staff flexibility without negatively affecting performance or productivity. Robust videoconferencing and collaboration tools form the foundation of this framework but require significant shifts in corporate culture to deliver on connective potential.
With Hybrid Work, Businesses Must Focus on Relationships
Despite technology advancements designed to reduce latency, improve audio quality and enable easy sharing of multimedia assets, video calls will never achieve connective parity with in-person meetings.
In other words, videoconference fatigue won’t evaporate as some staff members return to work. “It comes down to human nature,” explains Rick Vanover, senior director of product strategy at Veeam. “The one thing that’s missing is authentic human interaction. Companies who embrace hybrid work models that are based on human interaction are the ones who will succeed.”
To reinforce remote relationships and bolster corporate culture, companies need to support staffers regardless of where they land on the connectivity spectrum. Those returning to the workplace require safe, socially distanced meeting environments equipped with technologies capable of seamlessly connecting multiple staff members. Those working from home, meanwhile, need organizational support when it comes to connective capacity, identity management and access.
“It’s not about the new normal, it’s about the next normal,” Vanover says. “The next normal will be hybrid. We’re not going to flip back and pretend nothing happened. When organizations come back to work, it will be different. We will see that platforms that had momentum before will continue to build.”
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3 Keys to Effective Hybrid Workplaces
In practice, this means the broad adoption of videoconferencing technologies to empower meetings anytime, anywhere, and ensure remote staff have the same opportunities as their in-office counterparts to contribute and collaborate. While Vanover notes that “in the next normal, anything goes,” he suggests three steps to help companies effectively embrace the hybrid work model:
- For Vanover, “standardization is the first step. Businesses need to pick a platform and go with it.” Here, the choice of platform is less important than the commitment to consistency; organizations need to find what works best for their teams and ensure broad adoption.
- Businesses should consider adjacent service integrations that consider the entire technology ecosystem, such as file sharing solutions that are natively integrated with video collaboration tools, in turn reducing complexity for end users.
- Video meetings “have pivoted from pockets to the population,” says Vanover. As a result, he notes, “the onus is on IT to make collaboration a delightful experience,” which in turn requires transformation of IT environments to support the bandwidth, throughput and responsiveness required by digital video solutions.
4 Rules for an Effective Hybrid Work Culture
Etiquette also forms a critical component of hybrid work culture, especially when it comes to video meetings. Four simple rules can help companies reduce the risk of wasted time and effort:
- Clearly define expectations. Companies must communicate any policies or boundaries around meeting attire, rules of order and employee interactions to help cultivate consistent culture. Peers and mentors can help bring newer employees into the fold.
- Meet when it matters. No one wants to attend a meeting that could have been an email. The ease of video calls, however, makes these mundane meetings more tempting. To ensure staff bring their best, meet only when it matters and limit the invite list to those who truly need to be there.
- Establish secure boundaries. “Not every topic is suitable for use on digital collaboration platforms,” says Vanover. For example, discussions that involve sensitive data such as personally identifiable information or proprietary corporate assets may be better handled in person to reduce the risk of eavesdropping or exfiltration. By establishing secure boundaries up front, companies can reduce the risk of potential data compromise.
- Create comprehensive policies. Last but not least, Vanover recommends creating “broadly applicable and simple policies” that apply to all staffers, regardless of how and when they connect. These may include arriving on time, keeping mics muted when not speaking and ensuring that all relevant video software platforms and peripherals are kept up to date. The result? Improved consistency and less wasted time across collaborative environments as staffers shift between at-home and in-office work.
Variety is the hallmark of hybrid work models. “One mindset will not apply to everyone,” says Vanover. “One decision will not apply to everyone. Instead, we’ll see the complete spectrum: Some will want to get back at it, some will want to stay at home, and everything in between.” To support these initiatives, businesses must cultivate corporate culture that leverages the value of video to facilitate — rather than frustrate — staff connections at scale.