hybrid working

Reimagining home offices with smart space technologies

For some time now, global organizations have been seeking to reimagine their existing physical infrastructure with an overlay of smart technologies to transform the employee experience, create collaborative workspaces, enhance employee productivity while also aiming to become greener and more sustainable along the way.

However, post the pandemic, organizations are now focusing on investing in smart space technologies that are more conducive to hybrid work models. To ensure employee wellness and efficient collaboration, organizations need to empower employees to have a seamless experience of switching between home office and workplace that demands home offices to be setup as extended workspaces while being mindful of their personal space and private lives.

Though organizations obviously provide the necessary computation infrastructure to the employees, there are additional factors to ensure the success of hybrid working.

Productivity

If remote working and hybrid working are going to be a norm of the future, the home environment should offer employees the comfort of their homes because that’s a space they control but act as an extension of the workspace when it comes to productivity that it can offer.

The assumption that all the employees will have a workspace at home that is conducive to work is farfetched in India where a huge working population comprises of first-time white-collar workers coming from diverse backgrounds and countless young people who live out of shared accommodations.

Employees should be encouraged to evaluate their own work environment and conditions based on their individual preferences and their own comfort zone and set up their work environment – a proper table and an ergonomic chair to work on, proper desk lighting (augmented by smart lighting), comfortable temperature control/air conditioning, so on and so forth.

There are already conversations in the industry for organizations to step up and provision these to the employees. The setup and functionality of a home office can work to increase employee performance, allowing organizations to reap the benefits over the long haul.

Connectivity

Connectivity issues can be a huge distraction and massive productivity loss and hence, one of the primary employer considerations will be the available connectivity. From 4G dongles to fiber-to-the-home… what kind of speeds and capabilities are available?

Once reliable connectivity is ensured, organizations must ensure secure access and look for options like VPN, secure tokens. While organizations obviously cannot take control of home Wi-Fi setups, they can ensure standardisation of routers so that everything that’s going through is secure and encrypted.

Collaboration

Although several enterprises had already started their digital transformation journey in the last few years, the pandemic has only accelerated it. A hybrid working setup requires the right collaboration tools for file sharing, communication, video conferencing, et al… something like Microsoft Teams that offers the functionality of multiple different applications in a single dashboard. For employees, it becomes a virtual interface to an office workspace.

Apart from the usual computational devices, organizations must also look at providing tablets and smart whiteboards to employees, especially the design professionals. Shared whiteboard apps provide the perfect tool for collective brainstorming, they are also handy for visual discussions and annotations, something the employees are used to working on a real whiteboard in a physical conference room.

For technical employees— such as developers or testers—there is also a need for a centralized development environment that offers the same experience across teams and syncs in real-time allowing team members and project managers to stay updated on project status and track the progress of jobs assigned.

Summary

Because everyone’s online all the time these days on one of their many devices, there’s a concern that there is no distinction between personal time and office hours. Long hours in front of a screen, without the usual interruptions – like watercooler conversations, daily commute, and end-of-day unwinding – may cause digital exhaustion.

There is a need to maintain discipline and respect an individual’s ecosystem. Since there is no out of city travel or daily commute involved, the time available is often used for office meetings which eats into the personal time of employees. I also suggest that we should start looking at organizing some of the conference calls as audio-only to reduce screen time.

Often, I come across complaints about a crying baby or a street hawker in the background on a conference call. These are realities of life, and one should approach remote working with empathy and be considerate with diverse setups across home offices.

An open mind about remote working with empathy as an important pillar combined with smart technologies and organizational support will be vital for the success of a hybrid work model. We are only getting started in this journey, and there is a definite scope of improvement as businesses mature to ensure enhanced individual productivity and organizational efficiency while taking care of employee wellness.

The article has been written by Sriram Panchapakesan, Vice President and Head of Engineering Consulting and Architecture Services, Infosys

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