Focus on “safe workspaces” instead of “safe workplaces
In the past two years, the world of work has changed significantly due to the chaotic transition to telecommuting and hybrid work. Millions of workers around the globe have changed their careers, sending a clear message that the next chapter of the “Work from Anywhere” era has begun.
Absolute Software, provider of a zero trust platform for secure mobile data access, explains the influence of this development on the requirements in terms of cyber security:
If there is one thing that has become crystal clear, it is that the future of work will remain unclear for the foreseeable future and that in 2022 we will have to look at the workplace infrastructure – and its impact on the experience of employees – completely differently. In order to take full advantage of the emerging change and perhaps even benefit from it, employers need to rethink the broader effects of a widely distributed workforce and redefine what the “workplace” looks like.
It’s about connection, not about compensation
On the surface, “The Great Resignation,” which still dominates the headlines, may look like a battle over rising salaries and perks for employees. However, if you dig a little deeper into the matter, you will find that these are more likely to be employees who feel disconnected from their company because they have lost their personal attachment to the company and the meaning of their work. The individual makes more accurate decisions about what kind of work he wants to do and how it fits into his life.
Before the pandemic, we could all remember the occasional experience of being the only voice remotely on a call; it was the feeling of watching a conversation without actually participating in one. Then came the shift from more than 90 percent of work in the office to almost 100 percent digital remote collaboration. Suddenly, every interaction looked like a two-dimensional engagement that offered productivity but lacked real human connection. There was now limited face-to-face interaction, as well as new teammates and leaders who have changed since employees were sent home. Difficulties in taking on a task and a frustrating digital experience were the perfect formula for the potential loss of valuable employees.
If this is still the central work experience, it can be assumed that the employees find this unsatisfactory and are looking for another employer who “understands” it.
Digital experience as a primary experience
Before 2020, only seven percent of employees worked most of the time from home, but after 2020, 96 percent of companies are ready to offer flexible working hours to their employees. However, returning to physical offices in one form or another will increase the level of employee frustration as we evolve from an equal “one screen” experience to a fragmented one.
In this new world, we need to treat the digital as the primary experience, whether it is full remote work, personal on-site work, or a combination of both. Even if there are several people in a room, we need to focus on creating a common experience for everyone, regardless of their physical location. Otherwise, employees who log in remotely will feel that they are watching a meeting instead of attending it.
This year, the focus must be on building “workspaces” instead of traditional “workplaces” and on creating opportunities for employees to come together both digitally and physically. This cannot be limited to a conference room that serves for a team meeting once a quarter. Connection and cooperation must become a constant, daily event.
This is where a strong role model comes into play. Leaders should set an example of how to network and engage in a hybrid world. When the entire management team is in the office all the time, employees feel that one thing is being said to them, but another is being shown. Therefore, it is necessary to turn on the camera, use both digital and physical spaces for collaboration, and put energy into both sides of the experience.
Focus on employees as a person
As we transition to hybrid work, we need to be aware that the experience will – by definition – be disjointed. An important, albeit unintended, impact could be that employees are faced with the choice of either going to the office to stay visible, or staying at home but enduring a frustrating digital experience. The latter would give you the feeling of not being seen and losing touch. Neither is a good choice.
Let’s fast forward a few years: Will remote/hybrid employees feel like outsiders? Are you overlooked for promotions or projects because the connection is simply not there, or because your productivity is not the same as that of the employees on site? Have we created an entirely new (unwelcome) opportunity for bias? Those who choose to work remotely or flexibly may be afraid of missing out. Likewise, they see the danger of being overlooked on valuable occasions by those who decide to return to the office full-time.
This is a main argument, and perhaps even the most important point, why it is absolutely necessary to properly design the digital experience, the connection. Companies must ensure that they have created an environment in which all employees can feel comfortable, regardless of their location. And you need to look at each employee holistically as a person, understand his short-term and long-term goals, both personal and professional, and know what will enable him to be a well-functioning, valuable member of the company. In order to benefit from an inclusive, genuine “work from anywhere” culture in 2022 and beyond, companies must be prepared to adapt the experiences of their employees in a variety of ways.
The era of “working from everywhere” is becoming an era of “working from where you are”. This does not mean that we should wait for the end of the pandemic until we are mobile again or things are running “normally” again to try to achieve amazing things. Amazing things are already happening now. It is possible to have rich experiences, even in the face of uncertainty. Companies can take advantage of the advantages of personal collaboration and the efficiency of remote work and still build a well-functioning, highly committed team without making compromises.