While CCi Voice began preaching the gospel of work-from-home long before it became a mandated order born of the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies found themselves blindsided by the lockdown orders that came down in March of 2020. And now, with restrictions continuing to ease at a brisk pace, those same companies find themselves at a crossroads.
It’s safe to say that office culture was forever altered by the pandemic. When workers across the country “went home” in 2020, few could have forecasted that more than an entire calendar year later, managers and team members across nearly every business sector would still be dealing with the ramifications of the work-from-home movement. Those ramifications include the philosophical work-life balance debate, but also more practical questions regarding technology and how to efficiently manage a staff of employees that exist in two places at once—the traditional office, and the home office.
At CCi, we’ve been working full time or partially from home since 2005. This means we already had systems in place to accommodate full-scale remote access for all of our employees. And while some of our staff prefers to work in the office—especially the Long Island team members—having both in-office and home-based options means we are capable of handling anything that comes our way.
What Is The Hybrid Work Model?
In one way or another, companies have been engaged in the traditional office vs. home office debate long before the pandemic. Whether to save on overhead costs related to maintaining an office or to cast a wider net for potential employees, companies like ours decided to implement remote access more than a decade ago. Were there challenges? Sure, but it left us in an enviable position when work-from-home became mandatory.
And now that things seem to be trending in a positive direction, some enterprises have determined that the hybrid workplace model may be the best route, even after the pandemic fully wanes. Designed to support both in-office and remote employees, the hybrid workplace model consists of three variations: Remote-first, office-occasional, and office-first.
Office-first: This model maintains the office as the main place where employees work. While remote work is allowed and employees are encouraged to utilize the option as needed, the office is the standard. Here you’ll see leadership typically staying in the office, while some remote talent is recruited as needed.
Office-occasional: The true hybrid model, office-occasional encourages or requires employees to come into the office at least a few days a week and work from home the remaining days. The in-office or remote days could be determined by the employee, or via a company-wide mandate. Of course, with this model, most or all employees must live locally as they’ll be dividing their time between home and the office.
Remote-first: Here’s the model that most entities began using in the late part of 2020. In remote-first, businesses keep their office spaces open, but don’t expect employees to trek in everyday. Instead, the office is a resource or a headquarters—a space where employees choose to work, take meetings, meet clients, or spend quality time with colleagues.
The hybrid work model that’s right for your organization depends entirely on your business, management’s preference, employee capability and flexibility—but perhaps most importantly, your technological infrastructure.
Should You Implement A Hybrid Work Model?
If you’re anything like us, you’ve been way ahead of the work-from-home curve for a long time. For anyone else that needs a little more convincing, perhaps consider how businesses are trending when it comes to enterprises and other organizations that traditionally work out of an office.
World-famous professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recently published the incredibly insightful U.S. Remote Work Survey, which gives a window into the thoughts and concerns of both employees and executives. Some of their findings include:
- Organizations are overwhelmingly positive about hybrid models, with 83 percent of employers saying the shift to remote work has been successful for their company.
- The office as we know it will never be the same. Less than one-in-five executives say they will return to the office as it was before the pandemic. However, 87 percent of employees said the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships—their top-rated needs for the office.
- There’s a bit of a tug of war between employers and employees regaining days in and out of office, with 55 percent of employees preferring at least three days a week remote as opposed to 68 percent of executives believing employees should be in the office at least three days a week.
- Employers will have to recognize that workforce needs and desires have shifted due to the pandemic. They need to understand the concerns of their employees and work with them to build policies and approaches. The return to work will be effective only when employees are on board. If they’re not, companies should be prepared to lose talent.
The level of commitment you decide to put into a hybrid work model depends on more than the above factors. There are also infrastructure and technological needs that you’ll need to consider. If your team cannot communicate clearly with one another or with prospective clients and customers, your company won’t even have a chance to tackle the more abstract reasons for presenting employees with a work-from-home option.
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Technology to Consider When Moving to a Hybrid Work Model
Setting yourself up for success means ensuring a seamless experience between on-site and remote workers. The very nature of a distributed workforce means that not all of your employees will be in the office at once. In outlining your business’ hybrid model framework, you need to optimize the work environment to prevent communication barriers between remote and on-site employees.
Upgrade your video conferencing and communication infrastructure. All meeting rooms and workstations should be outfitted with all of the necessary video conferencing equipment. A good rule of thumb is to always assume that for any given meeting, at least one of your team members will not be in the office. Avoid the last-minute scramble to include your “work-from-home” employees by considering what tools are needed to keep all meetings on schedule.
Beyond meetings, you need to ensure that both your remote and in-office staff have a direct line of communication between them, as employees can’t walk over to each other’s desk to hash out a project. Tools like instant messaging and video conferencing are essential, as is software such as Sangoma Meet, a multi-party, video conferencing and desktop sharing, cloud-based service.
Then there’s VoIP, our cloud-based phone system featuring tools and capabilities to keep your team communicating with each other and with clients and customers. A cloud-based phone system easily supports mobility for these hybrid office setups. VoIP mobility features include:
- Desktop (Computer) Softphone App: This emulates a traditional handset on any desktop or laptop.
- Mobile Device App: Employees stay connected, regardless of location. They can answer calls and messages without having to provide a personal phone number and/or email address. They can also call out showing the main office (or direct) line instead of their personal cell number.
- Web-Based Switchboard: Many system features should be viewable and changeable on an easy to use, intuitive web-based “switchboard” app and/or user/manager portal.
Meanwhile a cloud-based phone system equips your work-from-home staff with all of the features enjoyed by the in-office team. These include:
- Auto Attendant
- Caller ID
- Call Queuing
- Call Recording
- Voicemail Forwarding & Access
Will The Hybrid Work Model Cost More Money?
It all comes down to cost, doesn’t it? After all, if implementing a hybrid work model is going to double the cost of your overhead, there’s no sense in even considering it! Here’s the thing: When you decide to allow some of your employees to work from home, while encouraging others to come into the office, the cost of your cloud-based phone system remains the same—with the final cost depending on design, implementation, and a needs-based subscription package. What’s more, most services should offer an “all-you-can-eat” usage plan that includes unlimited support and unlimited calls, to prevent unexpected spikes in monthly charges.
The best way to find out how much a hybrid work model will cost you is to reach out to us and let us walk you through everything you’ll need to synchronize your in-office team with your at-home team.
At this point in history, it’s difficult to sum up exactly what the hybrid work model is and what it will look like in the years to follow. And that's mainly because we’re still in the midst of these ever-changing times, and we don’t yet know the long-term ramifications of what the pandemic kickstarted in the business world.
However, one thing is for certain. Those of us who were able to either work from home temporarily or switch to an all-remote existence in the last year should acknowledge that many people in the workforce never had that option. We’re incredibly fortunate to have the opportunities that we do for even having the choice of where to work in this new hybrid era.