Lockdown extinguished any lingering doubts about the readiness of remote working technology. Some colleagues in more rural locations may have struggled for a signal now and again. But most of the time, with the right investment the technology has been the simplest thing about working through the pandemic.
What this has highlighted is the age-old lesson of technology adoption: making the tech work is only ever half the battle. If we want to reap the rewards of the remote working opportunity, we now must focus on our culture and our processes.
What are the issues that have been most obvious? Working remotely doesn’t work for everyone. Some people’s home environment isn’t ideal for productivity. In some cases, it isn’t even safe. Some people need the life and camaraderie of the office. Others just need to be around more senior colleagues to learn and develop.
The combination of these issues means it is hard to imagine a workplace of any scale that can be fully remote, all the time. Smaller organisations might be able to be very selective about recruitment, only bringing on board people with the resources and experience to work solo. But any organisation that recruits and trains junior staff, or wants to build real diversity in its workforce, is going to need to maintain physical spaces.
This leads us to hybrid working. An environment where people have flexibility about where they work, and when. This offers us the best of all worlds: freedom to match work to your personal circumstances for the employee, and maximised productivity for the employer.
But this too needs careful management. How do you ensure that junior staff get sufficient access to their senior colleagues for development? How do you ensure that tasks are appropriately packaged, managed and measured? How do you create opportunities for serendipitous meetings and creative collaboration?
The potential rewards are great. A flexible, motivated, connected and cohesive workforce. But creating this environment requires both the right technology and the right investments in culture, process, and skills.
As we emerge from this period of challenge, now is the time to make these investments. To take the time to step back and look with an open mind at how we can work better. How we can create a hybrid environment that works for everyone?