Planning for the office of the future

The commute-free lockdown lifestyle will have suited some of your employees perfectly and others not so much... If lockdown has taught businesses two things, it was the fact an office was not an essential part of getting work done day-to-day, but also that for some employees it may not have been essential, but it was certainly highly desirable.

Simply, there are those of us that relish the peace and quiet of home and the extra two hours of productivity where previously we were stuck in traffic or sitting on the train or bus and those that have attended every virtual social, desperate to see the rest of their lovely colleagues face-to-face.

So, how do you come up with a plan for working arrangements, going forward, that suits everyone? When we say everyone, we’re not just talking about your employees. The plan has to suit your business too.

Is hybrid working the answer? 

Many companies are opting for a sensible compromise; otherwise known as hybrid working. This might mean working three days in the office and two at home, or indeed 5 days in the office for some and 0 days for others. For a lot of people that offers the best of both worlds with the kind of variety they’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy before.

So, if you’re expecting your people to return to the office part-time, full-time or none of the time, what do you need to do to ensure everyone is still working in perfect harmony?

Firstly, you’ll probably need to rethink your office space to make it work better for fewer people. Do you really still need that big conference room for 20 people? Or would it be a more sensible use of the space to convert it into four smaller rooms that can be used for video calls instead?

Video calls are sure to be a prominent feature of the new hybrid working model, and it’s worth remembering that many of us tend to raise our voices when we’re on a Teams call. Having a dedicated walled area or booths for video calls will prove popular for those involved, and even more popular for others, working in the open-plan area, who will be protected from the distraction.

Other issues you need to consider 

Reconfiguring your office space is one thing, but there are other important issues to address. Your HR team will be busy developing new policies and strategies more suited to the different ways of working. How do you handle your duty of care obligations around health & safety and welfare, for example, when employees are working from home?

Then, of course, you need to work out how the work is actually going to get done. You need to provide the highest possible levels of seamless communication and collaboration for teams dispersed all over the country (or possibly the world). The systems and processes you brought in to support remote working shouldn't be forgotten now that some people are back in the office, but they need to be refined and evolved to ensure they are fit for purpose.

Invest in the tools that have served you well

Most businesses would agree that these tools, called on in an emergency as a matter of urgency, served them and their employees unbelievably well. If they hadn’t, would remote and hybrid working models seriously be under consideration by many as the best ways forward for their companies?

Due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the digital transformation plans of many organisations suddenly went into overdrive and the benefits quickly became apparent. New digital technologies like Microsoft Teams made life easier, more productive and more cost-efficient for businesses, employees and customers alike.

That’s why you should continue to develop these tools, as the way we work evolves to make your people ever more efficient. As we’ve all seen, an agile working environment will successfully drive productivity while some employees are still working remotely.

Governance is a key topic here, experience tells us that the speedy roll-out of tools like Microsoft Teams at the start of the pandemic was often done with little thought to how they would be used. The result in many cases has been a sprawl of Teams channels that are becoming increasingly difficult to understand and navigate. This is the perfect time to work with a partner to wipe the slate clean and optimise the way your team collaborates.

Rebuilding team spirit and supercharging collaboration

To make things work as well as possible with hybrid working, you’ll need to address one of the big drawbacks that many experienced with enforced remote working during lockdown. That was employees missing out on the positive sense of feeling part of a team and the practical benefits of being able to collaborate around the same whiteboard or meeting table.

People don’t want to be left out of what’s going on when they’re working remotely, so you need to focus on new ways to bring your teams together with the latest collaboration tools. A good example of an enabling technology for successful hybrid working is Teams Rooms Systems.

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Teams Rooms blends the meeting experience to suit not only those who are physically present but also those who are attending remotely. It has the capability to transform meeting spaces from small huddle areas to large conference rooms with a rich collaborative Teams experience that’s simple to use, deploy and manage. As you start planning your ideal office of the future, you can find out more about Teams Rooms here.

Is your network ready for the way your team is now working?

Whereas once we spent all of our time in meeting rooms, as we transition to a hybrid working model it is likely that we will spend that time on Teams meetings. Conducting network assessments to ensure you are ready for 100’s if not 1,000’s of simultaneous video calls will be of critical importance.

On a similar theme voice and video quality is crucial to the effectiveness of meetings and general communication. Understanding if this is sufficient for high-quality meetings across all of your devices, locations and endpoints is a fundamental step in ensuring that you are ready for hybrid working.

Finally, security is more in the spotlight now than ever before, with business-critical data and commercially sensitive information now being accessed across a wider spread of locations and devices, in greater volume than ever before, your security policies must evolve to manage these scenarios.

Get support

With so much to consider, for many businesses, there is a real need to seek specialist guidance and support, as well as to implement relevant hardware and software solutions. This is where Resonate can help, our hugely experienced technical and consultancy teams are on hand to deliver everything from an end-to-end hybrid working solution to augment your existing team on certain tasks. Why not take a look at our hybrid working services here, or take our hybrid working readiness assessment to see if your office is future-ready.

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