Now that many of us have been working from home for a while, we might have realised that working remotely might not be as fun as it sounds. While teleworking, employees are struggling with distractions, the blurred line between personal/professional matters, as well as the trouble in collaborating with colleagues effectively. With all these challenges, it comes as no surprise that many are desperate to get back to their old cubicles.
So, has working from home lost its magnet? If yes, what should employers do about it? To answer these intriguing questions, Gan Ta Loong, Managing Director, Barco SEA and Vice President Immersive Experience, Barco APAC sat with HR in Asia and shared his thoughts. Stay tune!
Question: According to Barco’s survey, employees no longer find remote working fun due to various reasons. So, what can leaders do if they want to make remote arrangements permanent?
Answer: Many organisations have benefited from their employees working remotely and, hybrid working arrangements will be the norm.
Flexible workplace schedules should be implemented to allow staff the freedom to work where they want, when local regulations allow, to achieve better productivity and engagement from employees.
Employers also need to identify technology solutions that add a human element to virtual interactions to improve collaboration between colleagues.
This needs to be accompanied by offline activities, when possible, to help reduce “Zoom fatigue”, which many employees are now experiencing due to the rise of constant online meetings. This includes organising regular team-building activities such as virtual celebrations and coffee breaks.
Question: Most respondents believe the ideal balance of hybrid model is 3 days in the office and maximum 2 days a week working remotely. What is your opinion on this arrangement? Will this ensure work efficiency while maintaining employee engagement?
Answer: It is critical to overall productivity for organisations to maintain a work arrangement that allows for employees to be remote or in an office. After months in quarantine, employees are interested in getting back to the workplace. The future work model will not be about working from home (WFH) or working from the office, it will be about balancing both. Employers must build their workplace strategy around this desire for a truly versatile, hybrid style of work to create a culture that empowers employees to work where they want depending on the type of work they need to do and individual circumstances.
This ensures that the hybrid workplaces are truly collaborative, inclusive and flexible no matter where the employee is working.
Question: What should employers take into account before implementing a hybrid workplace?
Answer: The hybrid workforce will be here to stay, and it is time to redesign and invest in safe, efficient, and fully-equipped offices and meeting spaces. Organisations should upgrade their workplace with more video-enabled meeting rooms, so in-house employees can collaborate with home office and remote workers seamlessly in the most effective way. This includes investing in user-centric unified communications tools and platforms that will enable employees to be engaged wherever they are working at. Employers also need to rethink their manpower allocation for hybrid working in the long term in a way that will be most productive for the employee and customers.
Question: In terms of health safety, do you think such arrangements can contain the spread of Covid-19?
Answer: While not conclusive, flexible working arrangements with safe distancing measures can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus in an office setting.
Hybrid workplace models are a means to keep employees safe because fewer people in the same space allow companies to abide by social distancing rules and the potential infection risk at the office is minimised.
Giving employees the option to divide workdays between home and the office gives people more peace of mind.
Question: Interestingly, the survey noted that today employees prefer formal meeting rooms and prefer scheduled meetings over impromptu ones. Why is that, and what does it imply about the future of collaboration?
Answer: Employees are expecting more flexibility in their work schedules to accomplish important tasks while working from home, particularly since it has blurred the lines between working and non-working times for many people. As a result, having scheduled meetings with clear agendas and objectives are more appealing. Compared to huddle rooms and other casual office spaces, employees prefer formal meeting rooms with conference technologies to facilitate more effective meetings.
Question: Based on your experience in managing remote teams, what are tools or solutions proven effective to facilitate virtual collaboration?
Answer: Companies hosting large meetings from office conference rooms, for example, are looking at how they can wirelessly connect peripheral cameras and microphone equipment to their screens in order to stream rich, audio-visual content to participants in various locations. Organisations must use technology to make collaboration and communications activities more effective. To achieve this goal, investments in video-enabled rooms and better video conferencing technologies are a top priority. Organisations can also enhance engagement by adopting new unified communication (UC) platforms or standardising solutions across the enterprise, incorporating software agnostic peripherals (SWAPS) in meeting spaces, investing in display and visualisation solutions, and enabling wireless collaborating.
As a result of COVID-19, the bring your own meeting (BYOM) trend, which has grown out of the bring your own device (BYOD) movement, is growing more rapidly, as the Barco survey results indicated with 58% of employees preferring to host video calls from their laptop versus in-room systems or smartphones.
The device or solution an employee prefers to use does not need to impact quality, security or compatibility. Integrated conferencing solutions allow users to easily integrate with other conferencing solutions while adhering to their company’s policies. This allows employees to use the tools they know and trust while ensuring that data is secure during interactions. Technology solutions adopted by organisations in the next year must address its security, connectivity and productivity needs to be effective.
Question: High expectations are put into technology-driven improvements. What’s the urgency of meeting this expectation?
Answer: The use of technology solutions have to evolve from its original applications to enable more immersive and interactive experiences for users, regardless of their location. The biggest asset to an organisation will be its ability to respond rapidly to the environment as it evolves.
To remain competitive, organisations must digitalise everyday processes and operations to ensure a seamless customer experience and that employees can be their most productive without compromising their morale.
Question: Finally, what are your expectations regarding the future of workplace collaboration in the post-Covid era?
Answer: Large organisations are reconsidering investing in large office spaces and exploring whether virtual interactions can support a shift in their corporate real-estate strategy. Headquarters in central business districts may close or downsize to make way for smaller, more versatile work hubs strategically located closer to internal teams and customers. These venues would offer a technology-enabled space for workers to network and interact with other office hubs. This would satisfy the need for human interaction and also provide a less-crowded space for people to congregate for key business events and meetings.
Businesses will need to consider their future workplace plan carefully. This includes addressing employees’ preference for a hybrid model that gives them the opportunity to work from a variety of locations and not feel they are sacrificing either productivity or collaboration abilities with colleagues.
Customer preferences, purchasing power, and employee needs have all changed, and it is important to reinvent the workplace to address these shifts.
As the Managing Director of Barco Southeast Asia, Gan Ta Loong is responsible for revenue and operational management at Barco Southeast Asia and Taiwan. While overseeing the business and operations focusing on the healthcare, enterprise and entertainment segments for Barco in the region, Ta Loong is also the Vice President for Immersive Experience for Barco across the Asia Pacific region. A seasoned professional with more than 27 years of strategic and business development experience in the consumer and enterprise technology industry in Asia, Ta Loong is recognised for his high performance team building and management skills.
Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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