In the rapidly evolving landscape of hybrid work, leaders are constantly seeking ways to support their teams effectively, whether they're in the office or working remotely. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Shannon MacKay, GM of Lenovo’s Smart Collaboration business group, about this very topic. Our conversation was rich with insights and practical advice for businesses navigating the challenges and opportunities of the hybrid work model.
The Power of Smart Collaboration
MacKay emphasized the importance of smart collaboration. This concept, she explained, must work everywhere, for everyone, and every time.
But what does "smart collaboration" really mean? According to MacKay, it's about more than just having the right tools. It's about creating an environment where every voice is heard, and every team member can contribute their best work, no matter where they are. This is a significant shift from traditional office-centric models, and it requires a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities of hybrid work.
Bridging the Gap in Hybrid Work
Despite the clear benefits of hybrid work, MacKay acknowledged that many businesses still struggle to integrate unified communications effectively. Connectivity issues, difficulties identifying speakers in meetings, and missed networking opportunities are just a few of the challenges businesses face.
To address these issues, companies must strive to create an equitable experience for all employees, regardless of their location. This involves leveraging collaborative technology and adopting new best practices for asynchronous hybrid teamwork.
MacKay pointed out that the challenges of hybrid work are not just technological, but also cultural. Companies need to rethink their approach to meetings, communication, and collaboration to ensure that all team members feel included and valued. This might involve rethinking traditional meeting formats, adopting new tools for asynchronous communication, or even reconfiguring physical office spaces to better support hybrid work.
The Digital Transformation Journey
Digital transformation and the adoption of unified communication (UC) tools vary significantly from business to business. Small and medium-sized companies, in particular, often struggle to allocate the necessary resources to overhaul their UC infrastructure.
MacKay highlighted the need for these businesses to reconsider their approach to collaboration. While short-term solutions like "bring your own device" (BYOD) can be helpful, they often lead to long-term problems with compatibility and data security.
She also pointed out that digital transformation is not a one-time event, but a journey. It requires ongoing investment, not just in technology, but also in training, support, and change management. And while the journey can be challenging, the rewards - in terms of increased productivity, improved employee satisfaction, and better business outcomes - are well worth the effort.
Future Trends in the Workplace
Looking ahead, MacKay predicted that businesses would continue to adopt flexible workspace layouts, open communication, and adaptable equipment. These changes, she argued, would help companies to maintain business continuity even in challenging times.
She also highlighted the importance of resilience and adaptability in the face of change. The future of work is uncertain, and businesses need to be prepared to pivot quickly in response to new challenges and opportunities. This might involve adopting new technologies, rethinking business processes, or even redefining the very concept of "work".
Optimizing Spaces and Technology
When considering the critical task of optimizing spaces and technology for distributed workforces, MacKay's emphasis on asking the right questions provides a profound framework. The goal is not just to equip the space with the latest technology but to delve into the very essence of the experience a company wants to cultivate. The questions should probe the desired interactions, productivity levels, and overall ambiance within the workspace. These factors, in turn, guide choices in hardware and software, as well as in furniture configuration.
The hardware and software choices need to be tailored to the specific needs of the team. For instance, collaboration tools should facilitate seamless communication between remote and on-site workers, and the choice of hardware should reflect the tasks and applications most commonly used. Understanding these needs requires a deep understanding of the workflows and a willingness to experiment and adapt as those needs change.
Furniture configuration and office layout also play a significant role. The space must be designed to foster collaboration and creativity, not just among co-located workers but also between those on-site and remote. Flexible seating arrangements, breakout spaces, and dedicated areas for focused work can create an environment that promotes creativity and collaboration. The use of ergonomic furniture minimizes physical strain and contributes to overall well-being.
However, the optimization of space and technology goes beyond the tangible elements. It also encompasses the human aspect of the working environment. Incorporating elements of biophilic design can create a more natural and inspiring workspace. Biophilic design involves integrating natural materials, daylight, plants, and other elements that evoke nature into the design of the workspace. This can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and well-being, as it taps into the inherent human affinity for nature.
Investing in such an approach requires a holistic view of the workspace. It's not about merely adding the latest gadgets or trendy furniture but building an ecosystem that aligns with the company's values, goals, and the diverse needs of the workforce. This may include non-traditional solutions such as virtual reality for immersive collaboration or leveraging artificial intelligence to automate routine tasks. The challenge lies in weaving these various elements together into a cohesive, effective, and inspiring environment.
By adopting a comprehensive approach to optimizing spaces and technology, organizations can create a supportive and stimulating environment for their distributed workforce. This strategy not only ensures technological efficiency but also fosters a culture of collaboration, creativity, and well-being, thereby enhancing both individual and organizational performance. It's a complex task that demands thoughtful planning, continuous evaluation, and a willingness to adapt to emerging trends and individual needs. But the rewards – a more engaged, productive, and satisfied workforce – are well worth the effort.
Effective Communication and Collaboration in a Hybrid World
For businesses struggling to communicate and collaborate effectively in a hybrid environment, MacKay recommended finding a UC platform that offers video conferencing, chat, whiteboarding, polling, and transcription. Familiarity with the UC platform can make it easier for employees to adopt new technology.
She also stressed the importance of training and support in ensuring the successful adoption of new tools. Employees need to feel confident and comfortable using these tools, and this requires ongoing training, support, and feedback.
MacKay emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for companies navigating the world of hybrid meetings. Each employee, team, department, and business is unique, and it's crucial to find what works best for your specific situation.
The future of work is here, and it's hybrid. By embracing smart collaboration, investing in the right technology, and leading with empathy, businesses can create an environment where everyone can bring their best selves to work, no matter where they are.
As we navigate this new landscape, we must remember that the goal is not just to survive, but to thrive. And with the right approach, we can turn the challenges of hybrid work into opportunities for innovation, growth, and success, as I tell the clients who I help figure out their hybrid work models.
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Image credit: Christina Morillo/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on July 9, 2023
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.
Disaster Avoidance Experts
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. A bestselling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut (2019), The Blindspots Between Us (2020), and The Truth Seeker’s Handbook (2017). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 400 articles and 350 interviews in Time, Fast Company, CBS News, Inc. Magazine, and CNBC. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training experience as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, along with over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, on Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, and visit https://DisasterAvoidanceExperts.com/GlebTsipursky to learn more.