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The tech of hybrid: Making hybrid working as productive as possible

In the wake of COVID-19, many organisations have shown they can keep working productively - and profitably - with staff no longer in the same location. But, as some organisations announce plans to permanently give up office space in favour of continued remote working, others continue to optimise a more hybrid approach. Embedding and maintaining productivity in a way that works for everyone is critical post-pandemic, particularly in the face of new challenges arising from a hybrid approach.

Female freelancer working at laptop on living room floor

Address challenges, to embed benefits

It should be noted that not everybody feels remote working has improved productivity. PwC research reveals a significant split, with 55% of respondents saying productivity had improved, while 44% say it has been negatively impacted. And even where overall productivity is maintained, collaboration can be a concern, raising questions about the impact of long-term remote working on creative processes, problem-solving or culture.

As such, it is critical organisations find a way to ensure all colleagues can remain productive and collaborate effectively wherever they are working. In line with this they must support leaders across the organisation to manage staff members effectively, whether they are meeting regularly in person or not. And they must enable live collaboration for hybrid teams.

Technology will be key.

Reassess your technology and its capabilities

Organisations already have the data they need to address productivity challenges and improve leadership effectiveness, but they must ensure they have the tools required to analyse it, understand what it tells them and draw insights regarding their hybrid strategy.

“Data is at the heart of every business today. But to derive real value from the insights it can provide, having the right tools and technologies to manipulate it is key.” says Mark Moffat, Technology Consulting Leader at PwC UK and EMEA. “Just as organisations invest in using customer data to inform how they service the market, they need to look in-house to enhance and transform their employee experience as well.”

Technology also provides many of the answers to reinventing hybrid collaboration, far beyond the video conferencing set-ups many of us have become accustomed to.

To be productive, all workers need a role-appropriate balance of focus time and interaction, and those interactions must be efficient.

Remote and hybrid working can be characterised by more scheduled calls and video conferences, and more emails and instant messages.

Learn from your data

Prasun Shah, Human Sciences and Future of Work Technology Leader at PwC UK, says:

“Surprising insights can be drawn from the data these interactions leave behind. Meeting attendance patterns, email and chat response times and even message sentiment can all indicate how healthily a team is functioning. Drawing behavioural insights, such as capturing the level of multitasking on emails during a meeting, rather than giving full attention to the discussion, can be very powerful.”

The purpose of such insights cannot be to ‘catch out’ individuals or be an overbearing employer. Rather the point needs to be to take action at a group level on excessive, low-value meetings and protracted email and IM exchanges, especially those which extend people’s days or eat into times when they don’t want to be working, as that will affect their mood, motivation and productivity in the long term.

“Organisations who are systematic in analysing and understanding this readily available data are best placed to shape productivity-enhancing policies and team behaviours, and convince the workforce with hard evidence of the case for positive changes that should benefit everybody,” adds Shah.

Develop a personal touch based on data insights

Data can also help leaders assess how effective they are in engaging their teams.

Personalised analytics can show how frequently and consistently they engage their team, whether the balance of sentiment in their communications is positive or negative and whether they are interacting with all team members equally. This latter point is critical in a hybrid environment where “out of sight, out of mind” is a real risk, as some individuals’ preferences or circumstances make them unlikely to be in the office frequently.

As each leader is only seeing analytics built on their own interactions, these insights and the behavioural nudges they provide, can be derived without compromising privacy.

Think beyond the video call

As video calls move from all participants joining individually from separate locations, to a hybrid world of some together in a meeting room and others remote, the time is right to mitigate the risk of two-tier collaboration. Standard technology could lead to remote participants feeling left out as they fail to read and react to the body language of those in the room, or struggle to inject themselves into the conversation.

However, numerous options including multiple cameras, auto-framing and auto-zoom have emerged to even out the experiences of “the room” and “the rest”, and the incremental cost can be modest relative to the overall fit-out of a meeting room.

Furthermore, virtual and augmented reality are now serious business, with the immersive collaboration experiences they create able to accelerate and improve creative tasks and decision-making. The momentum gathering behind these technologies pre-pandemic will only increase now.

Empower your people to protect productivity

In this critical phase of establishing the hybrid organisation, leaders must take the opportunity to define very clearly what is going to be different about how individuals and teams work.

Craig Hughes, global real estate & hybrid transformation leader at PwC UK, says:

“By acting now and using data to empower teams and individuals to be more effective, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with remote collaboration technologies, business leaders can bring much of the human connection of the workplace back into the hybrid employee experience. Combined with the positive effect of giving employees more control over where and when they work, organisations will benefit from greater motivation and productivity, helping them stay competitive as their sectors emerge from the pandemic.”

This article is part of a series that looks at the critical role technology can play in an organisation’s hybrid transformation.

Contact us

Mark  Moffat

Mark Moffat

CTO and UK & EMEA Technology Consulting Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7974 073221

Craig Hughes

Craig Hughes

Global Real Estate & Hybrid Transformation Leader, Partner, Corporate Finance, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7715 607 043

Prasun Shah

Prasun Shah

Workday Practice Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7483 365055

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