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Figuring Out Hybrid Work: A Workplace Imperative


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To say that hybrid work has had a rocky start might be a gross understatement. As workplaces rolled out their return-to-office plans or experimented with an iteration of hybrid work, many confronted challenges, from employees' reluctance to actually go back into the office to less than ideal meeting experiences in conference rooms impeding collaboration.
To understand the needs and preferences of today's employees and find solutions to some of these workplace issues, Poly and workplace research company Worktech Academy surveyed 4,000 U.S. employees. At the core of the survey results, they found that many workplaces are dealing with an uneven hybrid work experience. For instance, 72% of U.S. employees think that their employer can do more to "create a uniform experience between remote workers and workers physically in the office," Poly reported.
Not only are employees looking for a uniformed work experience, but many organizations fear that if they don't get it right that they can lose out to top talent. Six out of ten firms surveyed fear losing new and existing talent if they don't figure out their hybrid workplaces, and less than half of all organizations are prepared with a hybrid work strategy.
Some other top takeaways from the survey include:
  • Workplaces got tactical about space and technology: 77% of decision-makers said that the pandemic forced their organization to get smarter about how they use space and technology, breaking HR, IT, and real estate departments out of their operational silos to solve hybrid work challenges, Poly said.
  • In-office voices got heard more than remote ones: 68% of 4,000 U.S. employees surveyed agreed that their employers are more likely to encourage or account for different perspectives when people are in the office.
  • Nearly a quarter of companies refitted their offices for hybrid work: 23% of U.S. companies have refitted their meeting spaces with video capabilities to boost hybrid work.
For anyone who’s been following the workplace trends of the last six months, these results show that workplaces have a long way to go before truly realizing their hybrid work strategy.
While the hybrid work-specific statistics are certainly interesting — and the real issue — it also highlights the need for different departments (HR, IT, real estate, and others) to come together to address employee challenges. Poly isn’t the only technology provider that has raised the importance of this cross-department collaboration. Cisco stressed the same point during the 2021 virtual Enterprise Connect event, pointing out that each department has a role to play in enabling hybrid work. During the event, Jeetu Patel, EVP & GM of security and collaboration business units for Cisco, also shared that out of “110 million meeting rooms and classrooms around the world, only 6.4% of them are video enabled.”
Out of all the issues facing workplaces today, video enabling meetings is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of getting hybrid work right. During the pandemic, employees relied on video meeting services like the ones provided by Cisco, Microsoft, Zoom, and others, and as they head back into the office, they are looking for the same easy-to-use and seamless experience that they grew accustomed to from home. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with the first iteration of hybrid work, many workplaces are having issues creating a seamless video meeting experience (as exemplified by the Poly and Cisco statistics). Some employees are also heading back into the office just to sit at their desks and join video calls all day.
Despite the snags that hybrid work has hit for many workplaces, it seems clear that workplaces aren’t giving up on this model quite yet. And as workplaces look to tackle the nuances of hybrid work, HR, IT, and real estate professionals will need to work in closer proximity to make it happen. Not only will this cross-department collaboration make their work easier, but it should also — over time — create a better in-office (and video meeting) experience for employees inside and outside the office.