How did hybrid work become the norm?
The move to a hybrid office is fuelled by two key drivers, the pandemic and the resulting rapid increase in digital transformation.
When the coronavirus hit globally in 2020 and lockdowns began, it was immediately obvious that the big companies were prepared digitally – staff were armed with laptops, mobiles and were ready with the hardware they needed to work from home.
As the situation continued, digital transformation accelerated, creating 10 years of change in just a few short months. Digitalizing procedures through mobile apps, connected devices, and technology-driven employee platforms supported remote working worldwide as everyone adapted to a ‘new normal’. This wasn’t just keeping up with digital transformation, it was the survival of the fittest, and SMEs were being hit the hardest.
Why were small businesses left behind?
For large enterprises, even if their digitalization program wasn’t that advanced, they had the resources to adapt quickly and capitalize on the opportunity. SMEs weren’t so lucky as many weren’t digitally prepared. They struggled for several reasons:
- They didn’t have the policies and procedures in place to be able to adapt to remote and hybrid working environments.
- They didn’t have the necessary digital tools or immersive technology, such as intranet for small businesses, to support their remote, distributed, or hybrid team collaborating effectively.
- They didn’t have the technology, personnel, or internal communications platforms to provide a dedicated communications network.
- They didn’t have the time, money, or skills to transition to a digital environment
How can SMEs adapt to gain an advantage?
By offering a more inclusive, smart digital workplace culture within the company, SMEs are able to provide an enhanced employee experience. This culture didn’t always exist but with the learnings of the pandemic, it could become the real competitive advantage SMEs need.
During the pandemic, SMEs have had to become innovative, tech-savvy, flexible, and employee-focused quickly in order to stay in business. Whilst many SMEs previously started to adopt digital technology – most had a website and/or at least one social media avenue – the crisis highlighted the need to rethink the way they worked, not just in servicing their customers but also in how they could deliver the same small business collaboration and employee experience when working remotely.
But adapt they did and whilst some small businesses didn’t survive, two-thirds of small and medium-sized businesses did and flourished.
Why should SMEs continue with the hybrid office?
As the business world starts to return to normality and the big corporates are asking their employees to go back to the office, full time, SMEs have the unique opportunity to gain an advantage.
A global Accenture survey found that three-quarters of workers want a mix of office-based and remote-based working to become the ‘new norm’, with a 50/50 split considered the ideal balance. Employees, having had a chance to experience a different lifestyle without the daily commute, to have a better work-life balance, and moving out of the big cities into more rural, cheaper suburbs, are re-thinking how they want to work in the future. They not only want to be able to continue to work from home but are almost expecting employers to give them a choice, without the threat of being penalized.
A new, thoughtful approach to hybrid work is now critical to retaining and attracting new, diverse, and experienced talent. Employee experience is a key value in the new normal workspace and is driving a positive behavior change. Smaller businesses that can offer a smarter, flexible working culture through hybrid options are becoming a more attractive proposition to talent.
SMEs who are not always able to offer big salaries, bonuses, and other perks, such as health insurance, annual bonuses, or gym membership, can now compete against enterprises for the top talent thanks to the rise of the digital workplace. Since the pandemic, the perks of the job are no longer financially focused, such as annual bonuses and health insurance. Other factors, such as the ability to manage their work-life balance, feeling trusted by their employer, less stress, less time spent commuting, and a better employee experience, are now the top employee benefits.
Four key factors to create a successful hybrid office
Accenture believes there are four main areas where innovation is key in embracing a ‘new normal’ employee working environment:
- Technology – software solutions and apps, such as internal communications platforms, that revolutionize hybrid, work-from-home employee experience, and small business collaboration.
- Culture – designing positive behavior change and adapting their approach to virtual teams, including encouraging ad hoc communication between colleagues to prevent isolation.
- Control – establishing the right balance between ensuring remote workers perform their assigned tasks without the need for surveillance software, or implementing cybersecurity without breaching personal privacy; it comes down to trust between employer and employee.
- Talent – SMEs really do have the opportunity to gain an advantage. The more they are able to support remote working and offer the new, expected employee perks of home broadband, office furniture, and even care for children and seniors, the benefits of having access to a wider talent pool become a reality.
However, whilst the pandemic created opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to attract the talent large enterprises are letting go of, there are challenges that need to be overcome. To remain flexible in and nurture this level of employee productivity and engagement in a hybrid working environment, SMEs need to adopt the right strategies.
To help your SME make the move to the hybrid office a long-term success, we have put together the guide you need. You’ll learn how to overcome remote work challenges and overtake large enterprises!