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The Shift from Remote Working to Hybrid Working

Brought to you by Exclaimer

The COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 initially pushed many white-collar employees into fully remote working practices. Many of us are still grappling with how the pandemic has changed our work arrangements.

However, many companies are now offering their employees the chance to work more flexibly than ever before. In simple terms, this means allowing for hours to be split between working remotely part time and being in a physical office space. This has led to a dramatic increase in hybrid working becoming the de facto normal for many organizations.

But how is this now the case? Let’s first take a look at what office working was like pre-pandemic.

The evolution of the office workspace

1990s office space

Offices have often been seen as a second home for many employers and employees. After all, we would all spend a lot of time working in one every week.

Up to the end of the 20th century, the office set up had not changed much. Employees would commute from home, do their job, and leave for the day. Dress codes were fairy formal and there was no real flexibility when it came to working hours.

Then in the 2000s, the casual office trend began. This was spearhead by the rise of big tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Dress codes started to relax, moving beyond the conventional suits and ties of the previous century. It also saw the beginning of telecommuting, which is what we now call remote working.

Modern office space for hybrid working

The 2010s saw the rise of highly designed, bright, and vibrant office spaces. These were designed to increase employee engagement with the company’s brand and work culture. Technology became ever more present, with it more neatly woven into the fabric of an office space. From video conferencing equipment to interactive screens, the expectation was for technology to support the workplace experience.

In fact, as technology advanced, workers became ever more mobile. They could move more easily from their desk space to collaborate more freely with other team members. They also had more tools available to work from different locations such as coffee shops and restaurants.

However, these more flexible working practices were often only offered at the discretion of a company’s management team. In fact, even if remote and hybrid working was offered, there was still an expectation that people would work in an office a certain number of days a week.

As the 2020s began, there was no reason to suspect this would change. In fact, in a survey by CoreNet Global and Cushman & Wakefield, a majority of respondents said they had always followed an office-first approach, with less than a third having adopted a hybrid model.

The impact of COVID-19

The switch to remote working
Remote working replaced office working

In the early months of 2020, we all saw ‘10 years of change in one week’ as the pandemic struck. This was a huge shock to everyone. And everything changed from people working in an office to working from home practically overnight. It’s important to remember just how massive this sudden shift to remote working for everyone was.

However, when the first countrywide lockdowns happened, many employees working from home felt the situation was ever going to be temporary. It would only last until everything went back to ‘normal’.

But the shock of the pandemic continued longer than anyone predicted. New strains of COVID continue to impact on our everyday lives. Vaccination programs have rolled out rapidly across the developed world but are still lagging in third-world countries. And events still can’t be predicted.

At the same time, businesses now realize that they can’t panic over every new statistic, every new wave, or every new lockdown. This is why employees have been steadily returning to work in an office. More companies are now deploying technology in a more collaborative manner, enabling employees from different locations to “meet” more easily.

The move to hybrid working

There is now so much employee demand for some kind of hybrid working model that it has forced many business leaders to reconsider their options. Employees have been better able to maintain a healthier work/life balance working remotely. They’ve seen their productivity levels increase. They know they can work as effectively at home as they would in the office, so want to continue to work flexibly.

According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, over 70% of workers now want flexible remote work options to continue. At the same time, over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams. This essentially highlights that while people want to be able to work from different locations, they do miss the interaction that comes from face-to-face contact.

Moving from hybrid working from remote working

This is why 66 percent of business decision makers are now considering redesigning physical office spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. So, the data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid working will define the post-pandemic workplace.

At the same time, many managers have been surprised that employee productivity has improved outside of the traditional office environment. In fact, hybrid working models are now used by 63% of high-growth companies. Twitter made global headlines when it announced in May 2020 that its employees could work from home permanently if they wanted to.

No matter what anyone else says, we now inhabit two different worlds, the physical and the digital. So, with employees desiring greater work flexibility, it is important to find a balance between the two long-term. And that is why hybrid working is now the “new normal” and the future of work.

Hybrid working challenges for IT teams

So, given the ongoing pandemic, and the fact that so many companies are moving to a hybrid model of working, it’s understandable that IT challenges can and will occur. A lot of these issues are common ones that companies with a remote working policy have faced for years:

  • Ensuring remote employees don’t feel excluded as they not “in the room”
  • Not using the best collaboration technologies
  • Not providing appropriate levels of training
  • Shifting more security responsibilities onto individual employees
  • The surge in IT support requests
  • The increased threat to cybersecurity
  • Giving employees appropriate hardware to work from home and the office
  • Ensuring email signatures are consistent for all employees

The difficulties around email signature updates in a hybrid environment

It’s important to remember that email signatures have always been difficult to manage at the best of times; they have become even more so with the increase in remote and hybrid working. There are simply too many factors that work against administrators such as lack of control, time limitations, and a lack of visibility.

With so many working from different locations, an IT team also has too many other important tasks to deal with. They don’t have the time to focus on email signature updates. However, they can’t let everyone send out whatever they like. Email signatures need to be policed so that everyone uses the correct template.

This is why third-party solutions are often an attractive proposition. They make the task of managing email signatures very simple. And once they are under control, a marketing team can then leverage email signatures to open up new opportunities.

Some examples include:

  • Presenting a consistent brand identity
  • Turning email signatures into a cost-effective marketing channel
  • Engaging and empowering your employees
  • Maintaining customer satisfaction

Summary

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the business landscape. We all had to become remote workers in early 2020. However, employees actually found that they could be just as productive, if not more so, working remotely. This has led to an increasing shift to hybrid working as people began returning to the office.

Through all of this upheaval, IT departments across the world have had to rapidly adapt to their end users working from many different locations. This has come with many hybrid working challenges, with email signature management being one of them. That is why so many companies use third-party solutions like Exclaimer to get complete control of email signature templates.

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