How to communicate in this emerging hybrid world
From the very first day of 2020, news broke from Xinhua News that the Huanan Seafood Market had been closed for cleaning and disinfection. By the end of the month, UK was already reporting their first coronavirus cases.
By 23 March 2020, the whole country was in lockdown to contain the pandemic.
Businesses across the country watched the news avidly, putting business continuity plans in place ready to keep businesses going if the economy and country came to a standstill.
How businesses reacted
Once the UK lockdown was announced, employees across the country had to work remotely. Some for the very first time.
As much as we like to think that businesses and people are up to speed with all the latest 21st-century technology, many organisations didn’t have digital communication technology and infrastructure in place for remote working. This meant it was a quick scramble to launch and embed this technology and train employees to use the platforms in the businesses.
In contrast, other companies were able to develop full communication campaigns and able to engage their employees, successfully transitioning to remote working with ease. Such as Nuffield Health, their Internal Communication team won the Best Crisis/Emergency Communication Award at the Institute of Internal Communication National Awards 2020.
New cultural changes
For the first six months of 2020, the country embraced remote working. The commute was gone, business attire wasn’t necessary, family time was prioritised. It helped people see what they were missing at home. Seeing their kids more, making great memories.
Now, it wasn’t all a walk in the park. While remote working came into force, so did homeschooling. It wasn’t only adults needing to stay at home. All schools were closed, meaning that families had to balance family life, working life, and school life all at once. Qualified teachers weren’t available every weekday anymore.
Thank god for Joe Wicks.
So, what did businesses do to try to help balance people’s lives?
- 24 hour working days – allowing employees to make up their hours within 24 hours rather than the set 9-5
- Encouraged kids and pets to join in meetings – this helped reduce anxiety around children and animals interrupting meetings and business calls
- Social video calls – sharing a drink or coffee over a Zoom call, helping to reduce the sense of loneliness
- Regular town halls with leaders – keeping everyone in the loop about decisions and actions
These new ways of working helped businesses to keep going, engaged their people to keep up the momentum, and reduced unnecessary anxiety as people became used to this new world.
Returning to normal
Over the next year, we saw the country survive two infectious Coronavirus waves, and now finally we are coming out of the latest lockdown. Fingers crossed the last.
This now means businesses need to think about how they want their organisations to operate. Do they want to return to what it was like before 2020? Do they want all employees back in offices? Do they want to continue with remote working? Do they want both?
Now, a lot of us may think this is an easy decision. People are used to this now, let’s keep it. But what you need to understand is that companies may still have long office leases. They may not have long-term robust technology hardware and software. Do they have the money available to invest in their systems? Does remote working fit the business operation and culture?
Some companies have already taken the plunge, like Nationwide, which told their 13,000 employees to work from anywhere.
Or others could follow Goldman Sachs and encourage all their employees to return to work in offices, as remote working doesn’t suit its culture.
A hybrid world
I believe that many businesses will try to offer both options. To create a hybrid working model. There have been some excellent blogs written about this topic in the last few months as this becomes the model of choice.
McKinsey & Company recently published their report Reimagine Work: Employee Survey, this gave detailed insight into what employees were saying about the future of remote work.
McKinsey & Company reported that over 50% of employees would prefer a more flexible working model post-pandemic.
With employees wanting a more flexible working model, hybrid working seems a great solution.
But what do we mean by this and what should businesses think about?
Hybrid working is combining different flexible working patterns in various locations.
So, some things you need to consider are:
- What working patterns will you offer?
- Will you offer the ability to work in any office locations, remote working and office working, only remote working?
- What will the purpose of your offices be? Will they only be for internal and external meetings, hot desking, client meetings?
- What communication channels will you use? What purpose do they have? What communication technology do you have in place?
There’s a lot to unpack and think about when considering hybrid working. But I do believe this is the future of business. With advancing technology allowing for remote and hybrid working it opens up greater possibilities, not just for communication, but also for recruitment, business scope and scale.
Watch this space, we’re living through history!