Hybrid work — the sweet spot between fully in-office and fully remote work — has become more popular as teams contemplate returning to office spaces. Employees of all stripes that set up home offices during the 2020 lockdowns are now advocating for flexible work from home policies that allow a combination of office and home office time.
While this means that many companies will retain or downsize their current offices, the logistical problems of implementing a hybrid work policy can severely limit the feasibility and practicality of these systems. Providing desks for employees who work fully in-office, ensuring available desks for hybrid workers, and guaranteeing sufficient IT resources for everyone is a tangled mess that some companies have decided they won’t fix.
We spoke with Brendan O’Neil, Product Marketing Manager at Robin, a desk booking software that’s attempting to solve the hybrid work desk reservation problem, about how technology can help companies smooth the transition from fully remote to a hybrid workplace.
SBC: How can technology improve our transition to hybrid work?
O’Neil: Hybrid work is a chaotic and unpredictable shift for workplaces, especially coming from the more predictable, default model where everyone had an assigned desk and was expected to be in every day.
Technology can help employees plan trips back, see what is available to them and coordinate group or team days. The top two reasons people want to go back to the office are to collaborate with teammates and to socialize, technology makes that easier.
Just as important, technology will greatly improve the collaboration between people who are meeting in-person and virtually. Better cameras, microphones and tools like digital whiteboards mean that distributed meetings are more effective.
SBC: What pitfalls have you seen while helping companies improve their hybrid work setup?
O’Neil: I’d suggest avoiding making strict policies like limiting people to schedules to the office or turning off badge access that is tied to a “shift”. The office is a resource and we all know how spontaneous and fluid ideas and collaboration can be. Build guidelines for the workplace and be prepared to adjust as you identify trends.
SBC: How, in particular, does technology contribute to the smooth transition from fully in-office to a hybrid model?
O’Neil: If you’ve done it right, people should feel drawn to the office and see it as an effective resource for them to use to get their best work done. Using the right technology makes that feel simple and straightforward. If people need to jump through hoops, feel constricted around what they can and cannot use or when they can go in, they say to themselves “well forget it, I’ll just work from home”.
The tolerance for going to the office is much more delicate, technology must help simplify that experience for the employee while helping inform the administration for usage and behavior so they can make the right adjustments.