Hybrid workplaces are the future

When COVID-19 forced hundreds of thousands of government employees to work from home, it brought about one of the fastest changes to civil service working styles in a generation.

And while some staff are returning to the office, a mixture of remote and in-office working appears likely to remain the norm for months to come.

Although it has been disruptive, this period presents the opportunity to usher in a new way of working that combines the best of the office and working from home, something we might term ‘hybrid workplaces.’

What are hybrid workplaces and how can they help government departments?

What is a hybrid workplace?

A hybrid workplace blends together several existing types of workplace. We might normally think of the workplace in terms of:

  1. Traditional open plan or cubicle offices
  2. Digital workplaces – often delivered over the cloud
  3. Work from home
  4. Remote working anywhere there is an internet connection

A hybrid workplace is simply a workplace that combines two or more of these more established kinds of workplace. Most government departments will already have experimented with hybrid models in the past. If you have ever used a VPN to work from home for instance, you have experience in this area.

However, most central government departments have only implemented hybrid models in a disjointed or ad hoc manner. To create a genuine hybrid workplace, you need a consistent and coherent collection of policies, training and technology in order to create a genuinely hybrid experience.

What does the hybrid workplace look like?

In essence, a hybrid workplace is designed to enable smooth, seamless work regardless of where any individual employee happens to be physically.

Imagine a programme manager at a central government department that has implemented a hybrid workplace. Her line manager has agreed that she can work remotely three days per week. Whenever she is working from home, she simply logs into a cloud-based hub where she finds all her documents and can work in exactly the same way as if she were in the office.

One morning, she is at home but has an important meeting with project stakeholders so she calls in via Microsoft Teams. She appears on a large screen in the office meeting room where she can see (and be seen by) colleagues at the office, as well as other callers who are connecting remotely.

Later in the week she travels to a project site to review progress. Using a tablet device, she is able to immediately update the project status report and share it with colleagues – without having to travel to the office to file that information. This hybrid workplace means our programme manager can be far more productive and efficient, while also only travelling to the office when she needs to.

Woman working on her laptop while sat on the sofa with her dog

Four key benefits of hybrid workplaces and how to achieve them

Here are four of the most important benefits of creating a hybrid workplace:

Improve collaboration

By creating a hybrid workplace, you enable collaboration anywhere and anytime. Employees are not required to be in the same room to work together, ask questions or generate new ideas.

How to improve collaboration with a hybrid workplace

Your department needs a central hub that employees can use to connect with one another, organise spontaneous meetings or set up conference calls. Microsoft Teams is one of the most appropriate solutions here thanks to its use of chat channels, voice call and information management.

This can then be complemented with hardware like the Microsoft Surface Hub 2S, a high definition whiteboard-style screen which supports collaborative conference calls.

Improve communication

As civil servants begin to return to the office, social distancing guidelines will restrict the numbers allowed to be physically present at any one time. Many will continue to work from home on a regular basis. A hybrid workplace is designed to make communication as seamless as possible wherever employees are.

How to improve communication with a hybrid workplace

Effective communication is about using the right tool at the right time. In many cases, email is the best option, yet other times, a more informal chat tool like Microsoft Teams is appropriate.

Besides technology, government departments need to define policies about how to communicate when using these different technologies.

Improve mobility

A hybrid workplace allows government workers to be much more mobile than they have been in the past. This enables them to continue working when they visit customers, project sites or when working in other organisations’ offices.

How to improve mobility with a hybrid workplace

All employees need to be able to access information and tools over the cloud. Microsoft 365 is an online working environment which allows people to securely view documents, project information and business tools any time.

If your department already uses Microsoft tools (such as Office, SharePoint or similar), the move to Microsoft 365 will be relatively straightforward.

Helps reduce cost

One of the clearest benefits of the hybrid workplace for central government is the opportunity for cost savings. By facilitating work from anywhere, government departments can cut back the amount of office space they rent.

How to reduce costs with a hybrid workplace

Hybrid workplaces need to be effectively planned and rolled out. Simply reducing office space and creating a rota for who is expected at headquarters each day is not enough. Your organisation therefore needs to develop a sophisticated roll out plan which gets all stakeholders on board and sets metrics which track cost savings

Hybrid workplaces are the future for central government

As with so many other sectors, the experience of working from home has largely been a success for government departments. However, creating a true hybrid workplace requires planning, sophisticated deployment and continual reappraisal.

We are here to help and to get your started on your journey to the future of your workplace.

To find out more about hybrid working and improving employee experiences, download our eBook ‘Building business resilience in the UK Public Sector’

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