How to unify and engage a hybrid workforce 

Before the arrival of Covid-19, most knowledge workers constructed their working lives in terms of time spent in the office versus time spent working remotely – if indeed they were allowed to work remotely in the first place.  

Now, more and more desk-based workers are finding themselves in the borderless and rather blurry world of ‘hybrid working’. They’re supposed to be moving seamlessly between office, home and remote environments, retaining their connectivity to colleagues, clients, systems and processes wherever they are. It’s a marvellous idea, and hybrid working has fast become a desirable organisational norm for a growing contingent of businesses. Our recent research into FTSE and Fortune 100 companies found that two thirds were on record advocating some form of hybrid working for their employees.

And yet, many businesses are currently struggling to move from concept to hybrid working reality – with individual employees losing out as a consequence. As one McKinsey report earlier this year noted, “A hybrid model is more complicated than a fully remote one… Leaders are a long way from knowing how it will work.”

To give just one example, when a business mandates that its hybrid workforce spends three days in the office and two days remote working per week, which teams come in on which days? Does everyone have to stick to the same days each week?

Herein lies the dilemma. Attempting to systematise hybrid working runs the risk of undermining its purpose, but failing to establish clear hybrid working processes risks ushering in confusion and chaos, with team members never in the right place at the right time.

Worse still, if those at the top still give precedence to the people who show up in person, the upshot could be the creation of a two-tier workforce and an all-out turf war for available office desks.

 The need to go beyond conferencing and collaboration tech 

As with so many aspects of business life, determining the right technology to use for hybrid working could offer a way out of this bind.

So far, most organisations have relied upon their existing conferencing, messaging and collaboration tools to support hybrid working. But these technologies don’t solve the core problems of unification and engagement. They are unable to ensure that all employees – regardless of location – get the same unified working experience. And they are unable to keep remote employees engaged. You’ve probably experienced for yourself just how difficult it is to sustain people’s attention indefinitely through a computer screen. Remote workers are always a click away from the exit.

Ultimately, while technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams demonstrated their usefulness in the lockdown, connecting small groups of two to four people in informal settings, their limitations have been exposed time and again within formal meeting contexts, for virtual events, or situations requiring team-wide participation and engagement.

Organisations must think in terms of day-to-day ‘events’ 

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of company events were hastily ported over to the online world as businesses attempted to prevent the wheels from falling off their customer, partner, employee and investor engagement activities. There was a mad rush to adopt bespoke event technology – a new breed of technology platform designed to replicate all of the core features of an in-person event in the digital domain.

What is now shining through with event technology is its versatility within organisations of all sizes. Once businesses have an event technology platform in place, they quickly find all manner of additional uses for it – from hosting daily team catch-ups to running learning and development programmes. Not only that, but the best event technology providers have already adapted their platforms to support ‘hybrid events’. This means providing the option for both in-person or online attendance at the same event, ideal for a post-Covid world in which people spend less time in the office and are less willing or able to travel far for work purposes.

The goal is to ensure everyone gets the same high level of experience and the same benefits from the event, irrespective of how they’re choosing to attend. And it is precisely because of this capability that event technology is now emerging as a surprise frontrunner in the race to solve the technology challenges of hybrid working.

An equally engaged experience 

With the right technology, businesses can operate hybrid meeting spaces that are available across the entire organisation on an ongoing basis. Some platforms even allow for total customisation, meaning that the hybrid spaces reflect the branding and general look and feel of an organisation’s physical real estate. For the first time, businesses can guarantee a positive, consistent attendee experience, because every hybrid meeting, team gathering, brainstorm, or customer presentation has become an ‘event’ in its own right.

The very best event technology platforms can also solve the problem of remote worker engagement by providing a suite of tools to help hosts and organisers create a more immersive experience – from tests and quizzes to polls, games and social integration. Meeting hosts can upload their content into the platform more seamlessly and organically, rather than having to resort to awkward screen-sharing. Every attendee experiences the content in its intended format, irrespective of how they’re attending, and everyone has the same ability to get involved.

While these tools were built with large scale company events in mind, it’s easy to picture how they can be used within a day-to-day hybrid working context to enliven a meeting, run a brainstorm, or ensure that everyone feels able to contribute.

Making the right hybrid working choices 

To truly unify the hybrid workforce, business leaders will need to make important technology decisions in the weeks and months ahead. Having survived for so long using technology that ‘connects’, now is the time for a pivot towards technology that ‘engages’.

Within this context, event technology platforms have emerged as the obvious choice for businesses that understand the need to do things differently and avoid the creation of a two-tier workforce. Going forwards, these businesses may well be the only ones that truly succeed in making hybrid working an operational reality.

Vanessa Lovatt is Chief Evangelist at Glisser, an award-winning technology platform powering unique company event experiences and meetings, anywhere.