It’s safe to say the modern office no longer resembles what many workers grew accustomed to. Scenarios from “The Office” remain relatable, but technology and staff preferences have reshaped work environments. Employees can’t expect everyone to be there each working day. And there may be cases where shared office space doesn’t exist at all because the team is 100% remote.
As companies continue to adjust to the effects of the pandemic and shifting staff needs, flexible work arrangements are increasing. Offices now have some employees working onsite full-time and others working remotely. Then there are the team members who work onsite part of the week and from home the rest.
A mix of schedules caters to each employee’s preferences and helps employers meet health and safety guidelines. But it can present challenges when it comes to productivity, communication and collaboration, visibility, and performance management. Fortunately, teams can leverage the same technology that facilitates remote work to keep a hybrid workplace cohesive and on track. Below are three types of applications that can facilitate blended schedules.
1. Collaboration and Communication Platforms
The nature of hybrid work schedules can create obstacles to effective collaboration and communication. Managers not used to overseeing a hybrid team can forget to centralize important project information and critical announcements. Employees who work in the office might overlook staff working remotely. Workers who come into the office on different days may start to operate like ships passing in the night.
As a result, some employees know enough details to successfully execute their assignments. Others receive a few disjointed snippets from their co-workers and managers. Another group gets left out of the loop entirely, and workloads become unbalanced. Software that facilitates centralized communication and collaboration between in-office and remote employees can fix these issues.
Such applications include discussion boards, project management software, videoconferencing platforms, instant messaging platforms, and file-sharing tools. With the collective use of collaboration software, employees can virtually work on projects together. It doesn’t matter that some can see each other over their cubicle walls while others are miles away.
With a project management solution, team members can view everyone’s contributions and assign and hand off tasks within a larger project. They can also make comments and suggestions on drafts and submitted ideas. This can be done by setting up separate project teams within the software.
Using individual discussion boards, employees can view shared documents and give feedback. Modified documents can be reshared in the same location so everyone can access them. Alternatively, employees can schedule a virtual meeting to discuss the work on a shared screen, making any adjustments together.
2. Office Capacity and Reservation Tools
When everyone’s not in the office at the same time, the need for space decreases. You don’t want desks and cubicles sitting empty and collecting dust most of the week. Your company might be able to consolidate conference and meeting rooms or get rid of them altogether. Organizations that rent several office buildings in close proximity may suddenly need to consolidate space.
With the increase in hybrid work arrangements, corporations are starting to eliminate unused office space and terminate leases. From a cost perspective, it doesn’t make sense for companies to maintain empty or underutilized space. However, reduced office space means that employees may not have individual desks or working areas. Departments or functional teams might have to share the same conference room instead of having separate meeting spaces.
This creates a need for organizations to implement capacity and reservation tools. Web-based reservation systems allow employees to designate which desk they’ll use on their scheduled in-office days. They can log into the system, view which workspaces are open on that day, and claim a desk. The system can also be set up so workers can cancel reservations if their schedule changes.
These types of systems reduce the potential for conflicts over workspaces when employees arrive at the office. Reservation tools also eliminate anxieties hybrid workers might have about finding private office space to remain focused. The same system can help departments see whether meeting rooms are available or whether they’ll need to adjust their plans. At times, functional teams may find it more feasible to use alternative spaces or videoconferencing software.
In addition, reservation software shows when an office is approaching or has reached capacity limits. This can accommodate employees who have concerns about social distancing and employers that need to abide by local mandates. As a result, managers will get a clearer picture of how to best arrange hybrid work schedules. They can work with their teams to adjust the days employees come into the office and work from home.
3. Digital Learning Systems
Computer-based training isn’t exactly new; some organizations have been using it to train and onboard employees for decades. But the availability of online learning and skill development tools has increased significantly. Your company can leverage everything from social media platforms that deliver learning modules to entire applications dedicated to knowledge transfer. Some CRM applications also have certification courses in skills like email and inbound marketing.
Digital learning systems mean hybrid workers can still get the training and skill development they need to succeed and grow. Since these courses are self-paced, workers can decide when it’s best to go through them. For some employees, that might mean designating part of a remote workday to courses. Others might find it easier to start a module while they’re in the office. That way they can immediately reach out to peers and managers with questions and discuss them.
Whether employees work in the office or at home, they’ll inevitably face periods of downtime. Online and virtual learning platforms ensure workers will have something to keep them productive when their task queues are clear. You won’t have to worry about scheduling in-person training, finding the space, and making travel arrangements for subject matter experts. Regardless of their schedules, all of your team members will have access to the same learning and professional development opportunities.
Flexible and hybrid work schedules are reshaping the way today’s office looks and operates. Smaller and shared workplaces are becoming more common, as is the need to rely on technology to replicate in-person conversations. Building working relationships with peers, collaborating on projects, and effectively using workdays and spaces aren’t impossible in a hybrid office. Managers and employees just have to rethink the way they go about doing these things.
Virtual communication, office space management, and learning applications are some of the tools that bring in-person and remote workers together. These technologies also become a way to head off potential chaos in environments where conventional scheduling norms no longer exist.