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We will start our thoughts on this topic by declaring upfront we do not have a clear answer to the question in the title. In a hope to be useful, we are simply sharing our approach and the tools we are using to address this rather current topic. We are all in something of a socially distanced fog where colleagues may never have met, and collaborations start and end with a Zoom.
However, change is here and businesses need to achieve a tricky balance between ways of working remotely and the need to build real connectivity and dare I say, even bring some fun back into the working day.
The companies that embrace the change and pioneer new effective ways of working may will gain competitive advantages in terms of attracting talent, levels of productivity and even reducing operational costs.
Crossing the Rubicon
It is fascinating to see the different strategies being adopted around so-called hybrid working. From the more draconian approach by Goldmans around the primacy of the office desk to the “work anywhere, forever” policy being promoted by some tech giants (Spotify, Twitter). In addition, of course, many organisations are treading water somewhere in between, including ZAG. The long-term answer is most likely to be built around a commitment to flexibility.
In order to try to make a little more sense of the challenge, we have organised our own thinking based on recognising different modes of working, establishing some core principles and identifying the technology to support new ways of working
Heads Down, Heads Up and Heads Together
If needed, 2020 certainly reminded us all of how adaptable we can be. One of the Covid benefits is the emergence of new modes of working. Modes that always existed but we are now accelerating into a more codified approach
There are times when people need to get their heads down to get the job done. This mode of working lends itself well to the quiet comfort of home but if your home is not an oasis of calm, it could equally be about finding a small corner in an office location somewhere, to focus and get the task done. There are essential moments, where putting heads together in an office will be the best way of getting the richest outcome, or indeed landing the right message. We have missed these moments in 2020 and there is a danger we have even forgotten what it is that we have missed. So we are certainly looking forward to some heads together time. And there are, of course, times and tasks that don’t fit neatly into either category when we must have our heads up. Perhaps true hybrid working where you may have colleagues in the office and colleagues collaborating remotely, on the same task.
What matters most is that you can create the very best output regardless of the mode you’re working in. We are implementing certain principles internally to bring this vision to life.
Our Core Principles
To support this ethos and wherever practical, we have moved to having no permanent desks and provided the teams with access to multiple serviced office facilities where hot desks are accessible on demand. However, we will also have a clear and managed fixed schedule of when people are in the office and when they are not to ensure we keep the office humming across the week and generate some of those magical together moments. Zoom has also taught us that 30-minute meetings are often sufficient and we are strongly encouraging everyone to consider the rationale for having longer meetings, even if you feel guilty at having a 30-minute meeting after a 30 minute commute.
Technology in support
It’s becoming increasingly clear that managing truly hybrid working will require the right technology tools to act as a bridge between home, office and truly remote working. As ZAG, we have been lucky enough to meet start-ups entering this space as well as learning from our partners, clients and ventures as regards tools they are finding useful. Without any specific endorsements, we wanted to create a simple list of tools we have come across, split across three specific categories –logistics, collaboration and staff engagement
With staff working in multiple locations, it becomes increasingly important to help colleagues connect and plan around different modes of working, spaces to work in and tasks that need to be done. In no particular order, we have come across the following
Not including the obvious video platforms and established players such as Slack, there are numerous new platforms to enable collaborations in a hybrid environment
Large organisations often struggle to engage staff and in a hybrid environment, this challenge could be harder to overcome, just when creating a sense of community and culture could be more important than ever. This is a nascent area but various start-ups are emerging
Finding New Ways Forward, Together
2020 has been a catalyst for change and as a result the modern workplace is still very much work in progress. Zag is no better placed to navigate this period than any other company. And any new ways of working require a new level of trust, ownership and commitment between the leaders of a business and their teams. However, we do benefit from direct to exposure to start-ups that are pioneering use of technology and new ways of working. We have already seen some of our team working from Nomad hotels in exotic locations to ventures such as Ladder.io that are at the cutting edge of managing truly distributed workforces fully leveraging a range of tech platforms. However there are probably no singular answers and we are all on a learning curve. So in this spirit, how are you managing? Let us know!