How to Prepare for a Hybrid Workforce

car, electric car, hybrid car
No, not that kind of hybrid!

It’s okay to say it. We’re halfway through 2021 and many of us are still processing 2020.

In 2020, we watched fires rage in Australia and on the West Coast of the US. We lost Kobe, Chadwick Boseman, and RBG. We saw a teenager-led group stage a massive Twitter hack. We mourned George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police officers and rallied to fight for racial justice. We experienced all of this while coping with the life-altering circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the latter months of 2020, we celebrated the medical professionals and scientists whose dedication saved lives and produced Covid-19 vaccines. We benefited from their incalculable hours of hard work.

In the US, more than 50% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Slowly but surely, the world is finding its new normal.

It’s time to think about how to restabilize and thrive in the months and years to come.

If your organization went partially or completely remote during the past year and a half—as some 88 % of organizations worldwide did—you may be looking at a future of long-term hybrid work. You’re going to need a plan to make that happen effectively.

Hybrid and Remote Work Are the Future

[Psst… If you’re already a fan of hybrid workforces, you can skip to our favorite tools.]

Organizations that went remote have already encountered the challenges of a workforce transition. Existing processes and workflows optimized for an in-person environment don’t always translate to the remote setting where you’re blindfolded. That is, you can’t see what your coworkers are doing. Remote processes must be blindfold-friendly so that your organization can continue to run smoothly.

One of our clients previously used a color-coding system for their in-office organization. They put Post-it Notes of assorted colors onto documents to indicate where those documents were in process. The physical nature of this system couldn’t translate to the remote system, and the organization’s staff quickly found themselves spending an excessive amount of time on the phone, struggling to enact their existing method.

Aiding this client’s inclination to continue using their color-coding was the idea that they would, eventually, return to the office when Covid-19 lockdowns ceased. They thought that the lockdowns were the problem rather than their process. However, the prolonged time spent working remotely has changed how the labor force wants to work. Employees at this organization—and many others—want to work from home all the time or only work in the office a few days a week.

Opting to avoid a hybrid or remote environment by only hiring in-office workers isn’t a great option because it limits an organization’s hiring pool. For our client with the Post-it system, transitioning to a permanently hybrid workforce meant reassessing their processes. Using the old in-office Post-it Notes would mean that those working remotely would be (at best) out of the loop or (at worst) working inefficiently. So, what can be done in situations like this to optimize a hybrid workforce? The solutions depend on what kind of work needs to get done.

Addressing Hybrid Workforce Needs

  1. Co-authoring. Collaborative writing in a traditional office might look like sitting down at a table together or one team member leaning over the other’s shoulder while discussing edits. Working remotely, this process becomes inefficient when collaborators accidentally type over each other’s work or struggle to share the correct documents. In the Microsoft 365 suite, co-authoring allows collaborators to work together on the same document in real-time. Co-authoring is even easier when you use Teams or SharePoint to simplify shared document storage.
  1. Approvals. Your department wants new equipment, but you don’t know who to ask for approval. (Really should have paid attention in the onboarding meeting. Whoops.) In the traditional office setting, you bring donuts one morning and spend extra time in the break room, trying to win brownie points and casually bring up your equipment request. This method is tasty but not ideal. To make the process more efficient for traditional, remote, and hybrid environments, build a workflow using the new Teams approval feature. With the proper workflow in place, it should be easy to request and approve everything from equipment purchases to PTO.
  1. Signatures. Situation A: It’s 4:59 PM, and you are supposed to leave at 5, but you’re patiently waiting on your project manager to finish a meeting so they can sign a contract so you can finally go home. Your PM has a habit of not checking messages, so you have to wait it out. Situation B: Everyone is working remotely, and your coworker has chosen to do so from an island in the Caribbean, where they can lounge at the beach with a cool drink in one hand in their laptop in the other. There’s essential paperwork that needs to be signed and sent out today. Both Situation A and B are easily solved with e-signatures that can be integrated with contact management and stored in SharePoint for future use. (This feature will soon be in Teams too!)
Sometimes your coworker sends you pictures like this just to remind you he’s WFB (Work from Beach).

It’s Time to Make Moves

We know that establishing a hybrid workforce requires change, and change can be challenging. At the same time, we know that these changes are for the better.

As your organization looks to adapt to a hybrid workforce, creating effective digital workflows and instating the ability to collaborate beyond phone calls.

Every organization will have different goals to accomplish as the world re-stabilizes, and we enter this new chapter. If one of the tools we listed feels right for you and your goals, contact us today. We’ll be happy to get you started.

Or if you have another process that you need help optimizing, contact us. We’ll find the tool that’s right for you.