Tariq Hussain, Senior Sales Director, UK Government and National Security, Dell Technologies, explores the critical factors for hybrid working to support the levelling up agenda, in this first of a 2 part series
With policymakers considering flexible working policies, including the potential to mandate the right to flexible working, it’s clear that business leaders must prepare for a future of hybrid work. This move needs to benefit all of us – businesses, workers, and helps to power the levelling up agenda by allowing people to live and work throughout the UK.
For over a decade at Dell Technologies, we’ve built a workplace culture based on the idea that work is an outcome, not a place or time. That mindset served us well during the early days of the pandemic. Before March 2020, 65% of team members worked flexibly on any given day, and 30% worked remotely. We took that to 90% in a weekend.
That isn’t to say we have all the answers. The last eighteen months have revealed their fair share of challenges. But we’ve learned valuable lessons about what works for our teams that will serve us well in the future of hybrid work. We also conducted the Civil Service Remote Working Survey 2021, gathering responses from more than 900 civil servants in more than 75 organisations. The results present a detailed picture of civil servants’ views and experiences over the last year.
Thanks to these insights and our own experiences, there are a few core focus points that I’ve found helpful as a business leader to ensure the future of hybrid working is a success for everyone – namely, culture and connection.
Cultivate a strong workplace culture built on choice and flexibility
It is desirable – and entirely feasible – to successfully work from anywhere without sacrificing family commitments. A significant factor in flipping the balance from work/life to life/work is the trust between a manager and their team members. If team members are trusted to choose how and when they work – whenever and wherever they are most productive – well, that’s game-changing. It’s the shift that will be the differentiator in a person’s dedication to a company and career longevity.
Business leaders have been given a rare opportunity to rebuild, reimagine and strengthen their company culture. I believe that opportunity lies in prioritising trust and employee well-being. So while the adoption of hybrid work may look different for each company, business leaders should empower employees to choose and embrace flexibility in a way that works for them.
Innovate through connection – no matter where you are
In our survey of civil servants remote working experiences, more than four in five respondents said they could perform their job just as effectively remotely as in the office. And almost three in five said they were more productive when working remotely. There may be enormous scope to allow civil servants to work away from Whitehall and gain the benefits of their increased productivity.
However, 30% of those same civil servants said collaborating or communicating effectively with colleagues when working remotely was a struggle. It’s, therefore, incumbent upon all leaders of remote teams to prioritise transparency, set performance expectations, and ensure employees feel connected, included and able to work productively and healthily.
Once sites reopen, organisations should allow team members to work from shared workspaces, and many businesses are now reimagining office space to boost connections and support innovative collaboration. The Government Property Agency has announced that it is pursuing workshop-style areas to encourage teamwork. At Dell, we’re leveraging technology to enhance our team members’ experience while on site. For example, we’re looking at having multiple facilities-based apps team members can use to find their “work neighbourhood” so they can sit by their colleagues in their part of the business and reserve a desk or meeting room.
The need to leverage technology to enhance remote productivity is arguably more vital. We’ve improved the overall team member experience of collaborating remotely with enhanced productivity tools. By selecting different apps based on their strengths, we have created a smooth and reliable experience for those working remotely. We also have a well-populated internal platform accessible remotely and from the office and on varying devices. Employees can stay up to date on work policies, share information and advice about working from home, access playbooks on virtual events and meetings, and even learn valuable skills for keeping physically and mentally well. The key is to create an environment, be it physical or virtual, that can support and encourage team members to make the most of their time together.
Whether an organisation has flexibility built into its culture or made the swift and decisive pivot due to the pandemic, there is no going back. In both the public and private sectors, more and more workers have seen that remote working can work and will ask for increased flexibility. Given the benefits up for grabs of a better life/work balance, increased productivity, and more opportunities available throughout the UK – now is a critical moment to embed hybrid working that works for everyone.
As we shift from response to recovery, it’s clear that the technological transformation spurred by the pandemic will reshape our future of work. As leaders, we need to give people the tools they need and offer flexibility as a permanent fixture where roles allow. We must remember that technology is an enabler, and by combining the right tech with the right culture, we can wholly realise the benefits of hybrid working. Flexibility is here to stay, and with it, a new era of business success.
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