Hybrid working is here to stay
Yassine Zaied, Chief Strategy Officer, Nexthink
Yassine Zaied

Member Article

Hybrid working is here to stay: how do IT teams ensure it lives up to expectations?

Whilst Covid-19 has introduced many uncertainties for businesses, it seems that one thing is for sure: the hybrid working model is here to stay. Reports show a quarter of UK businesses plan to close or downsize offices in favour of hybrid models. What started as a necessity due to mandated social distancing regulations has now become a preference for many professionals, with a recent report revealing that one in three people would go so far as to quit their job if remote working was no longer an option.

The success and longevity of the hybrid working model is not the only lesson that IT teams should take away from the experience of remote working over the past year. IT must recognise the key importance of Digital Employee Experience (DEX), in order to effectively implement this new model of working.

IT teams must consider DEX as a priority going forward, and many do - 96% of the technology executives surveyed agree that DEX is an essential part of what IT teams do, yet nearly half (46%) don’t measure their employees’ digital experience at all. By understanding the digital needs and preferences of all employees, and building a personalised remote workplace to meet these demands in a flexible and agile way, employees will be able to work with satisfaction, productivity and enjoyment, regardless of location.

Out with the old

By 2020, working from home was no longer a new proposition for businesses. For many years, plenty of companies, especially in the technology space, have offered various options for remote or flexible working. However, working from home (WFH) was mostly a periodic occurrence rather than the norm, with the in-office work remaining the expectation.

Covid transformed remote working from an occasional perk to a mandatory requirement, with businesses implementing a mass deployment of new technologies that allowed employees to stay productive and connected at home. Whilst there emerged notable challenges in shifting to a digital experience, the benefits of flexible working were felt by many, on both a corporate and a personal level. The pandemic proved that remote working was a feasible option for many businesses, and gave them the opportunity to evaluate how the workplace was operating.

Widespread reluctance amongst employees to return to the physical office, at least in the same way it operated pre-pandemic, proves the popularity of WFH. Workers have cited an improved work life balance, along with enhanced health and wellness, as positive impacts of virtual working.

With logistical advantages for companies, including reduced overhead costs, higher employee engagement and enhanced productivity, it is clear why many enterprises are adopting a hybrid working model on a permanent basis.

The challenges of remote working

During the rapid and total transition to remote working that many businesses experienced during the pandemic, IT leaders often failed to deliver a seamless digital experience in an out-of-office environment. With a lack of visibility and insight into remote systems, IT teams struggled to successfully manage the deployment of remote technologies, such as new collaboration and communication tools.

Nexthink’s Experience 2020 Report found that 70% of tech leaders reported spikes in their IT ticket and call volume during remote working in the pandemic. With the most recent survey showing that 83% of organisations are actively managing less than half of their employee-facing applications, and a further 71% aren’t gathering feedback on employee application usage, adoption and availability, the spikes in IT problems from employees is not surprising.

One of the main reasons why IT teams struggled with effectively rolling out new remote technologies is because they were rushing to implement a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to IT issues. Whilst the intentions of these organisations were to take care of employees who were working in a new digital environment, the reality was that employees were disappointed by a standardised system that didn’t take their individual work experiences into account.

This disparity is even further exacerbated by employees’ expectations of digital experience and the role of IT teams to deliver a seamless environment. This chasm amounts to what can be described as the “expectation gap.” Having worked remotely for a year, combined with the online capabilities that Millennials and Generation Z are used to, the workforce increasingly expects the same quality of digital experience out-of-office as they would have in the office. Despite this, their perception of IT remains negative. Many years of IT playing catch-up to employees’ problems has resulted in a failure to report issues: only just over half of all technical problems are reported to IT teams.

The negative impact that poor IT experience has on employees is tangible. New research from Citrix in April 2021 found that 45% of office workers felt disillusioned with their employer due to poor workplace technology, proving that DEX cannot be ignored, especially as remote working is by no means a temporary situation.

What IT teams must achieve going forwards is closing the expectation gap in remote digital experience, in order to foster a satisfied, engaged and productive workforce.

How to close the ’expectation gap’

A personalised and proactive approach to technical issues must be taken in order for IT teams to successfully adapt to a new hybrid working model. The past year has taught leaders that they must have insight into and visibility over digital experience regardless of location, rather than waiting for employees to report issues. This will go a long way in avoiding a slow, manual approach to problems which drains resources and productivity amongst employees and IT teams alike.

IT teams that simply provide a standardised digital environment, such as self-service IT directing employees to self-help articles, end up increasing frustration and time wasting from the employee side. Despite the assumption that a one-size-fits-all approach would be the easiest for IT teams and employees alike, this actually creates more work for IT to respond to individual requests. Instead, IT teams should have a level of visibility into all applications which enables them to take a targeted and specific approach to pre-empting and resolving problems, before the employee even notices.

Clustering employees into groups based on their day-to-day activities and technical requirements, rather than their job titles, is a good way to achieve a better understanding of the various needs amongst the workforce. This empowers IT teams to deploy targeted remote campaigns based on more specific needs, implementing quick fixes without requiring involvement from employees.

By identifying and resolving problems before they become service impacting issues, the risk of disruption and employee downtime is dramatically reduced. This enables optimum employee productivity whether they’re at home or in the office.

Making sure the gap stays closed

Once a proactive approach is implemented, it is crucial that the employee experience of this system is monitored, to ensure that the workforce is receiving the intended benefits.

During the transition from remote to hybrid working as lockdown eases, the betting firm Paddy Power used DEX monitoring technology to analyse if there was a difference between how employees scored the in-office vs. the remote digital experience. Without monitoring DEX, the value of a proactive and personalised IT approach is limited.

As the shift to more flexible working models becomes unavoidable for many companies, it is up to IT teams to adapt accordingly to make sure that this system is working effectively for employees. IT teams who fail to take a more specialised approach to the workforce risk workforce frustration and subsequent attrition.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Yassine Zaied .

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