Creating hybrid working experiences that enhance workplace culture
Your employees expect to have a choice of where to work—some may choose a workspace at home while others may choose the interactions of an office. Some may also choose both— Gartner states that by 2022, 45% of workers will be working from home a few days per week. Your challenge will be to facilitate both while creating a seamless and productive hybrid working experience.
The soft side of hybrid work
Does it make sense to recreate the “in-office” experience when working from home? From a technology perspective, probably. From a culture perspective, probably not. Tools and technology should be consistent regardless of working in the office or at home, but to maintain your company culture will require even more flexibility and effort. As Jonathan MacFarlane, CEO of PlaceOS, noted at the Meraki Network user conference, “You will need to rethink what communication changes are required to maintain and enhance your company culture.”
What impact does distance—physical, emotional, and operational—have on a hybrid work environment? One potential consequence is a widening of affinity distance—defined as emotional separation between virtual team members who have no personal relationships. It refers to the trust, compassion, connection, and accountability that successful teams build and has a direct impact on performance, innovation, and employee retention. Although affinity distance can exist with any work environment, it’s amplified by a hybrid work model.
Overcoming affinity distance
Technology can help resolve some of the issues created by affinity distance, but you will need to be aware of the emotional and mental impact hybrid work has on your teams. Look to proactively implement new ways to interact to ensure the well being of your employees, improve their collaboration, and drive consistent performance. Teams function best when there’s trust, communication, and a shared context for work. Research from Dr. Karen Sobel Lojeski shows a 90% difference in innovation between highly functioning remote teams and those that suffer from virtual distance. To close the virtual distance gap, you must overcome three components:
- Physical distance—two or more locations that have to work together
- Operational distance—processes and the way teams work and collaborate
- Affinity distance—how teammates connect emotionally and mentally
How to succeed with a hybrid workforce
Matt Cain of Gartner states, “Hybrid teams need to establish ground rules around unity and empathetic communication, flexibility on how and when work gets done, and a consistent set of tools, regardless of where you work.”
You’re looking to provide flexibility for employees to move seamlessly between on-site and off-site experiences, increased organizational agility and resilience, and greater productivity and employee engagement. To do this you need simple, seamless, cloud network connectivity to provide an “in-office” experience with secure and easy access to all resources, workloads, and applications, regardless of location.
Meraki empowers IT departments to overcome hybrid work challenges by reducing the complexity of networking, security, and IoT through technology solutions such as SASE that scale to meet the needs of your business. Starting from an intuitive cloud-based platform, users can access a comprehensive portfolio of easily deployable products, effortlessly integrate via open APIs, and deliver exceptional experiences at scale—anywhere.
While technology can help with the infrastructure, collaboration, agility, and trust are increasingly important skills that need to be developed for your employees to thrive in a hybrid work experience. For greater affinity, create opportunities for a shared purpose, deeper connections, brainstorming, and a consistent, seamless transition between the office and working at home.
by: Chris Gugger