By Jane Doucet
As companies start to develop their plans to return to the office, the most pressing question employers are asking themselves is this: What form is that return going to take? Many executives believe that while fully remote setups have been successful in terms of getting the day-to-day work done, they can’t sustain company culture long term. In order to maintain a strong culture, then, how often should employees be in the office?
According to a PWC Remote Work Survey, roughly 30% of respondents indicated that three days a week of in-office employee time would be optimal. Fewer than three days, and more than three, ranked lower on the graph. In that scenario, employees would be working remotely—from home, a coffee shop, a hotel office space or elsewhere—two days a week.
“Meetings in a hybrid office will simply have to do more,” says Jim Love, Chief Information Office and Chief Content Officer of IT World Canada. “The consequences for not doing this are just too great. People who don’t have the option to work remotely are simply leaving their jobs and looking for ones where they can. It’s being called the ‘great resignation’—now employees have global options that weren’t available to them before.”
Creating a hybrid office model isn’t as straightforward as it seems, however—especially for companies that, before the pandemic, had few or even no employees working from home.
“There has been a fundamental shift in how we live, learn, work and play,” says Aurangzeb Khan, Senior Vice President of Intelligent Vision Systems at GN Jabra. “It’s an unprecedented time, and a very difficult time, but it also creates opportunity. Inclusive and flexible collaboration in hybrid work is the new normal.”
During the pandemic, 69% of employees worked remotely at least one day a week, according to a Microsoft report, and 83% of employers reported that the shift to remote work was successful for their company. The report also revealed that there was a 625% increase in Microsoft Teams daily active users from January 2020 to April 2021.
“Employers made investments in building scalable data centres that could adapt to demand,” says Khan. “Implementing new technologies enables employee interaction and collaboration, both for work and social purposes. This is a really exciting time to be in collaboration technology and trying to adapt to build new architectures that deliver.”
A FlexJobs Survey revealed that 73% of remote workers reported a better work-life balance, citing the lack of a commute to the office and being able to spend more time with their families. For Love, it means being able to have the freedom to go for a bike ride during the day to stretch his legs and recharge his brain. “When I do that, it means I have to come back and do the work at night, but I don’t mind,” he says.
Hybrid work environments have the power to leverage immersive, intelligent video and audio to include all workers in a flexible, hybrid future. “Enabling people-centred hybrid work practices and technology, and optimizing space utilization, is essential to increase the physical and psychological well-being of employees and to boost productivity and innovation,” says Love.