Workplace of the future: hybrid work and how to keep your employees happy

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace technology was transformed practically overnight. Desktop workstations became laptops on the kitchen table, in-person meetings around a table became video calls. Moving forward, companies are looking at the hybrid work model: what can you expect from it, how do you enable it, and how do you ensure you keep your workers happy and productive?

It is something of an understatement to say that a lot has changed for employers in recent times. In the MEA region, employees have become quickly used to remote working: according to one survey, 90% of professionals in the region expect remote working to keep on increasing, and 74% prefer jobs that give them this option.

Workers have cited homeworking’s flexible hours a reason for wanting it to continue. A survey found that 31% of MEA workers said working from home has helped them to enjoy increased well-being. So much so that 38% of MEA workers have said they would like to move to full-time remote working, with a further 32% wanting at least half of their working time to be remote.

Clearly the hybrid work model, where workers split their time between the corporate office and home or another remote work location, is gaining traction. According to Microsoft’s Work Reworked report, a massive 93% of MEA business leaders believe their organizations will adopt a more hybrid way of working for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, 83% said they have seen either equal or increased productivity from remote working, while 72% reported additional cost benefits such as reductions in spend on business travel. Hybrid working looks like it’s here to stay.

What can you do to enable workers better?

During the early stages of the pandemic, the shift to remote working was done as something of an emergency. Companies had to get employees working from home overnight and without any kind of plan or roadmap. Now you can focus on improving the end-user experience (UX). And in my view, one of the most vital elements of a hybrid work model is ensuring that workers have a remote work experience that is comparable to what they are used to in the corporate office.

It is needed because more than half of employees faced technology issues when working from home. Providing a more personalized, office-type UX wherever your teams are working has become essential. IDC research has found that organizations are stronger and more resilient when enabling workers with an intelligent digital workspace, while Gartner reports that a well-thought-out digital workspace enables new, more effective ways of working, improving employee engagement and agility.

There are benefits other than productivity, too. Companies that offer the most compelling UX generated 22% higher engagement among workers than those with a less compelling experience. It also increases loyalty, with those workers who have a compelling UX also four times more likely to stay in their jobs. Customer satisfaction is improved, with those companies with the best UX for employees seeing 12% higher customer satisfaction and a three-year revenue growth rate 2.3 times higher than average.

The importance of digital

It all makes the case for an enhanced digital employee experience in your company. Digital tools enabled the first wave of WFH last year, and they will be central to powering hybrid working, too. Orange was able to empower our customers with the digital solutions and services they needed to give workers at home a comparable UX to that they were used to in the office.

Solutions like Business VPN Galerie provides guaranteed performance when accessing cloud applications through corporate VPNs, for example, helping remote workers remain productive and secure. SD-WAN proved to be a great enabler, and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools empowered workers. UC&C tools are also a great way for remote workers to keep in touch, in general, to talk about non-work issues, just as they would over a coffee break in the office.

Tomorrow’s way of working today

In our MEA region, remote working is here to stay, and hybrid will be the model we transition to moving forward. According to Microsoft, 83% of MEA companies say they already have a defined remote work policy in place. And in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone, 70% of companies have already implemented a hybrid working model.

It is an interesting development in how our teams work, but one with challenges: as business leaders, it will be important to make sure workers do not feel disconnected from their colleagues and teams, and that can be done with a positive approach to management and by giving them a strong UX. A hybrid work model that mixes remote and in-office working will work best if you provide your teams with a digital workspace that fully enables them.

If you would like to talk about hybrid working, enabling remote teams, or anything else relating to digital transformation in MEA, please contact me on: sahem.azzam@orange.com.

Sahem Azzam
Sahem Azzam

Sahem Azzam is VP Middle East & Africa at Orange Business Services. He is an experienced senior business leader with extensive experience in the Middle East region and emerging markets and a strong track record of achievement in the information technology and services industry. Sahem has developed special interest and expertise in business and sales management leadership, partner management, go-to-market strategy development, infrastructure services, IoT, Big Data, Smart Cities, Blockchain and IT service management.