Although everything seems a bit uncertain right now, I feel very optimistic about 2022, writes Thibault Dousson, General Manager at Lenovo South Africa. There is an interesting future ahead, one that includes more possibilities for hybrid work models with a focus on technology as an enabler.
Last year, my colleagues and I predicted that the work-from-home phenomenon would accelerate. We’d always been focused on mobility, and user and customer experience, and the momentum around distributed work did indeed build. In 2022, however, I think we’ll become smarter and more flexible about it. Remote work will become hybrid and work-from-home will become work-from-anywhere as people and companies start to think beyond the office.
Lenovo research shows that 83% of IT leaders expect at least half of work in the future to happen outside of the traditional office and, as the next reality continues to take shape, technology will play a pivotal role in creating efficiencies and opportunities that transform our work and our lives.
For businesses leaders who understand that this is the way forward for the world of work in 2022, here are a few suggestions they may want to keep in mind when building their hybrid work strategies:
- Co-create your hybrid workplace with your employees
Companies need to decide individually what kind of hybrid work situation will work best for them – and for that they need employee input. Create opportunities for employees to share their thoughts around what kind of work situation would work best for them, what they enjoy about working remotely, what they feel is unconstructive about being at the office full time, and vice versa. These inputs can take various forms – anonymous polls, group discussions, or one-on-one chats. If hybrid is going to work, then those who work in your company need to help shape it (including those who don’t necessarily find working from home attractive).
- Get the best of both worlds
Another factor to remember when putting together your hybrid work policy is to ensure that you combine the best aspects of both remote working and the physical office. For example, many people find working from home means they can focus better on tasks without interruption. Working at the office, on the other hand, gives people better accessibility to one another, and work issues can be addressed in the moment.
In 2022, we’re going to see more products, solutions, and services designed for the employee experience. The office will be seen as a destination for collaboration, and the sense of personal space people have experienced when working from home will still be a priority. New office designs and audio/video technologies will pave the way for flexible meeting set ups and new ways to build social connections, so whether people are in the office or working remotely, they will be encouraged to engage in tasks that get better results in that environment.
- Put boundaries in place
An important element of implementing a hybrid work policy is to clearly set out boundaries and communicate these to your employees. Just because hybrid work presents employees with more flexibility, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be structured. Like any business policy, there are guidelines that need to be followed for hybrid work to be successful. And I think that, after the past two years, most people need as much certainty as they can get, so something as simple as work schedules can help employees feel more at ease, knowing what is expected of them.
- Use tech as an enabler
Finally, a key ingredient of a successful hybrid work arrangement is having the right tech and using it to its full potential. Tech was the engine behind the work-from-home era, but as much as it facilitated our experience, it also showed us where the gaps were. Businesses will need to invest strategically in a smarter work experience, as our devices become the connective tissue of a work-life ecosystem. New technologies will make the new hybrid workspace very different from our traditional offices. Considerable thought will need to be given to how companies can help make their employees’ switch from home to office and back again seamless and intuitive in terms of the technology they use. Security of data must also continue to be a priority.
Hybrid work is by no means a simple solution. It will be a learning curve, as we will need to acquire new skills, change our mindsets, and adjust to a different normal. But it’s definitely an exciting possibility for South African businesses, big and small, and will reap benefits for both employers and employees. I look forward to seeing how it evolves over the next year.