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The office of the future will be hybrid

The office of the future will be hybrid

Businesses need to have the technology to make work-from-anywhere productive

The recent necessity to work remotely has accelerated the natural shift towards a work-from-anywhere culture that existed but wasn’t prevalent, in businesses before Covid-19. While this has brought some inevitable challenges, organisations have realised, with the right tools and technology in place to connect teams and business workflows, employees can work extremely productively. As such, it’s not surprising that businesses expect a nearly 50 per cent increase in employees working remotely post Covid-19, according to Riverbed’s recent Future of Work survey. With many businesses planning to have a greater number of employees working from anywhere, this has suddenly raised a multitude of questions. What lies ahead for the future of the office and what exactly will the new “business as usual” look like?

Company offices will evolve
Whilst the pandemic has demonstrated that many businesses could continue to exclusively operate outside of the traditional office space, an office environment does provide employees with invaluable human interaction and collaboration. Many organisations, including Riverbed, are shifting towards a hybrid and flexible workplace environment, in which many employees split their time between the office and working remotely. In a hybrid culture, a team or business function may meet in the office two or three days weekly to collaborate on a critical project. Or a sales rep may schedule a day of meetings with colleagues and customers in the office each week, and work at home or travel to client locations the remainder of the week.

A hybrid work environment will help facilitate a sense of community amongst employees, while enabling the business to benefit from cost savings by reducing their physical office footprint. Additionally, a significant portion of a typical worker’s week being spent commuting, it will reduce the time spent in traffic and provide a better work-life balance for employees.

As work patterns evolve, so will the physical office space. Rather than traditional office set-ups with desks and cubes, there will be more break-out spaces designed to facilitate teamwork. This will mean that when employees are in the company office, their experiences will consistently be defined by strong, human interaction, and collaboration within the company at large will be strengthened.

Of course, there will be differences across industries. Whereas technology or professional services companies will be more likely to shift toward remote working, retailers or financial institutions will need to balance between front-facing employees that still need to be in stores or branch offices, and corporate employees who can work in a more hybrid environment.

Regardless of industry, organisations must develop best practices, benchmarking, and put measures in place to ensure work-from-anywhere engagement is as strong as it is in the traditional office set-up.

McBee: As work patterns evolve, so will the physical office space.

Anywhere can be an office, but only with the right technology

Alongside investing in employee engagement, businesses must also ensure they have the technological capabilities to make work-from-anywhere productive. According to Riverbed’s Future of Work survey, 69 per cent of business leaders said they were not completely prepared to support extensive remote work at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. And technology performance issues amongst their remote workers impacted both the individuals and business as a whole through reduced employee productivity (37 per cent); increased anxiety (36 per cent); and increased difficulty engaging with customers (34 per cent). It’s reassuring that 61 per cent plan to make investments over the next year to enhance remote work performance, but what should they be investing in specifically? To answer this question, we need to consider how working-from-anywhere has impacted the technology that organisations and their employees use daily.

One of the top challenges companies have faced during Covid-19 is connecting geographically dispersed people and business workflows. Many have turned to software-as-a-service and cloud offerings to deliver quick, cost-effective services that facilitate collaboration. Whilst these investments have helped to keep teams productive, they have made the corporate network increasingly complex; meaning it can be harder to ascertain where technological performance issues lie so they can be resolved.

To be able to monitor activity on the network and troubleshoot anomalies, many of our customers are investing in network performance management solutions that offer cross-domain visibility. This means gathering and analysing: all the packets across their applications, flows across the hybrid network and telemetry for every device in play. Armed with this insight, if a team reports slow application response times or an inability to effectively use the cloud, IT teams will be able to ascertain the cause and take steps to tackle it. For example, investing in application acceleration technologies can increase network capacity and overcome latency to deliver the best end-user experiences for both mobile or in-office workers and ensure high productivity.

Office environments of the future

As work-from-anywhere cements itself as a common business practice, offices will shift from being set physical spaces to a more hybrid environment. Yes, corporate offices will remain, but they will look significantly different in the coming months and years to their counterparts from the past decade. What’s more, they will be visited less frequently by staff who will increasingly operate ‘working from anywhere’ — such as their homes, coffee shops, or client locations — empowered by their employer’s investment in network performance management and application acceleration software to ensure user productivity and business performance. All of these changes will trigger a sizable cultural shift in companies across the world. We will herald a new business climate where greater emphasis is put on work-life balance, flexibility and connection between employees and the companies they work for. This will increase employee retention and engagement which will be key in a challenging post-Covid-19 environment.

Rich McBee is the CEO of Riverbed

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