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How to re-invent workspaces for the hybrid era

How to project your company into the new present by becoming innovative and attractive

Today’s hybrid workspaces are putting remote workers and those in person on an equal footing, whether it’s at corporate headquarters, at home, in a satellite office or an airport lounge. 

The right mindset can enable equal access for all; equal access for all will ensure greater work-life balance, meaning greater efficiency and productivity.

Can a workplace make you better?

It can and it will.

In the new world of hybrid work, teams and companies around the world can collaborate around virtual whiteboards, brainstorm in fully immersive environments, and work together as productively as if they were in the office.

The shift to hybrid work is underway. For many, it’s still a taboo or an enemy to be fought, but for many it’s an established reality driven by new tools and technologies that make virtual meetings easier and more inclusive, as well as allow for more flexibility in managing schedules, in favor of more effective working models.

Many people want to return to the office when they can, just as many want the option to work from home at least some of the time, while others may never want to return.

The workspace of the future needs to host them all

A year from now, hybrid meetings will be the norm. So the question becomes, how do we connect the pieces so that when we’re all in that hybrid room together, everyone has equal access to information and an equal voice at the table?

Shiraz Cupala

Product leader, Microsoft Teams Meetings Platform Innovation

Think team-based spaces wherever your team members are.

The shift to hybrid work doesn’t mean that offices will disappear: employees will still want and need a physical space to gather, but the offices of the future will move from cubicles and corners to collaborative team spaces in order to meet the needs of both remote and in-person workers.

We’re moving toward a team-based space approach where we’re giving employees a variety of spaces to use.

Michael Ford

VP di Microsoft, Real Estate and Security

Options range from conference rooms and smaller rooms with advanced audio and video capabilities for hybrid meetings to “Focus Zones” for one or two people. Within these spaces, technology enables smooth and engaging interactions between remote and in-office workers.

In-person meetings have worked for years; during the pandemic, Teams facilitated fully remote ones. The challenge with hybrid meetings is to create a space where seven people, for example, calling from home have the same interactive experience and access to information as five people in presence. Attendance and presence need to be posted on the same plane allowing everyone to be seen and heard, while enhanced features such as “raising hands,” chatting and reactions allow remote workers to participate in more natural and expressive ways.

Just as document dematerialization has created more efficient ways to annotate and collaborate and exchange information, new digital tools offer new and more effective ways to share content and information during the flow of a meeting.  For hybrid meetings, PowerPoint’s advanced features will allow attendees to see and interact with remote audience members, while those working from home will have better access to that content, thanks to features that promote inclusivity and interaction.

Brainstorming for the digital era

Whiteboards have long been essential to collaborative work, from notes and concepts scribbled on the physical boards themselves to spitballing on the fly and building on each other’s ideas happening around them. In the past, remote workers often couldn’t see the boards: either there was no video or the presenter was in the way. Now, both in-person and remote workers can tap into the same shared digital board. With Intelligent Capture, remote participants can see the images and text through the person writing on the board, and unlike physical boards that can be erased, these digital boards can be saved as a virtual artifact that can be recalled in the future and reworked.

Simplify office life with one-stop apps

In the office of the future, many of the most unnecessarily burdensome tasks will be simplified.

Tools like Microsoft Viva use machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide each employee with a curated collection of on-boarding resources, contextual explanations, tutorials, and continuous learning options from third-party companies. It can also leverage artificial intelligence to create a vast resource like a Corporate Wiki, pulled from relevant information from across the organization.

Smart companies will create a digital concierge that increases efficiency in ways big and small.

Offer employees resources to foster connections

One of the biggest complaints of the pandemic era was the loss of a sense of cohesion among colleagues, as well as the random sparks of creativity that happened during casual chats around the coffee machine or on lunch breaks. How can we capture the freewheeling nature of these informal encounters in the new hybrid future?

If we go back to the building and focus only on the people we see in person and forget the people who work remotely, it’s a loss.

Inkpen

This loss can be huge, both in terms of employee mental health and a company’s lack of innovation. Virtual chat rooms and Teams channels allow for more of these informal meetings for both internal and remote workers. In addition, companies can foster a sense of belonging with engagement tools like Viva Connections, which presents each employee with a customized assortment of resource groups, communities and conversations they might want to take part in.

Move workspaces to where people are.

Rather than returning to a mega-office, workers could spend more time in coworking locations closer to home or in satellite facilities built on a hub-and-spoke model. These solutions draw people to talent-rich locations away from corporate headquarters and will allow for more scheduling flexibility and shorter commutes for hybrid workers, as well as in-person collaborative work opportunities for those employees who might be working from home most of the time.

Another positive impact of a hub-and-spoke approach: the ability to “hire from anywhere,” expanding the potential talent pool for companies that in the past would have required relocating new hires or foregoing having key talent in-house.

Key points for companies looking to design their own: enabling collaboration, thinking about team-based spaces, and supporting workers at home and in the office.

Don’t build what you think your employees want, build what they need by communicating with them.

Ford

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