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Hybrid Work Is Here To Stay - Samir Sayed, Managing Director, ASEAN & Korea, Poly

Updated: Dec 1, 2022 chats with Samir Sayed, Managing Director, ASEAN and Korea, Poly on hybrid work, what companies need to keep in mind when setting up business continuity plans, equipment required, work style evolution and more.

Samir Sayed, Managing Director, ASEAN and Korea, Poly

What are some of the factors and considerations companies need to investigate when redesigning workspace and reprioritising technology investment for hybrid working?

From the start of the pandemic until today, collaboration technology has shifted from being a "nice to have" to a necessity in companies’ business continuity plans. Companies' collaboration strategies are shifting from simply deploying audio and video solutions towards implementing a holistic and comprehensive collaboration approach that is geared at minimising business disruptions during times of crisis while being able to cater to the different work needs of a hybrid workforce.

It is important that businesses consider communications and collaborations platforms that are simple to use, work across different cloud platforms and environments while delivering a best-in-class experience supported by services to manage the complete deployment of devices.

Poly is the only vendor out there that has certification on both Zoom and Teams platforms for our audio and video offerings, and in fact, has the largest and most comprehensive portfolio of Microsoft Teams certified headsets video devices, phones and speakerphones available. This gives enterprises the freedom and flexibility to choose which communications platform to use, without having to spend significant money and time to rip-and-replace infrastructure that is already in place.

Amidst the changing nature of the office space in today’s hybrid work environments, there is a need to solve the imbalanced experiences for those inside and outside the office, especially during meetings.

For example, a remote worker may lack a dedicated home office, be ill-equipped with poor-quality audio and video gear and get distracted by children, pets and other family members working or learning from home.

Office-based employees face their own challenges too, whether limited access to quiet rooms for video meetings or lack of noise-cancelling headphones and microphones for meetings from their desks. At the same time, meeting rooms in the office may only have one video camera and microphone that cannot pan wide enough to show everyone sitting around a table, making it hard for remote workers to decipher who is talking or the nuance of what is being discussed.

Bottom line, the question is how employers can create working and productivity experiences that are the same for those in the room as those who aren’t.

For those working from the office, conference rooms should be equipped with large screens and video conferencing equipment for larger group discussions, while smaller sound-proof and fully equipped rooms can be used by employees to get into more intimate video calls when they’re in the office. To some extent, the small room audio and video setups in the office can also be duplicated for the home office; this can include better quality webcams, microphones, headsets and lighting. By making sure that your employees are equipped with tools, not toys, you can ensure meeting equality for those in the room and for those who aren’t.

What strategies and measures do companies need to put in place to improve collaboration between employees for improved greater efficiency and productivity?

How employees collaborate from the office may not necessarily be the same way they collaborate when working remotely. And as much as we’ve seen enterprises tout the success of the great remote working experiment over the past 18 months, it’s just as important to remember that not everyone works as well from home as they do in the office, or vice versa.

Business leaders need to understand the different types of positions they have in their company(s), the nuances of the work location and surroundings, the work styles of employees, technologies required to do their jobs and the opinions of employees.

While it’s not feasible for most companies to create a tech-spending strategy for every single individual employee, they can instead focus on developing workplace personas to help organisations build a scalable and defendable framework to plan for most of their enterprise employees and avoid problematic "one size fits all" strategies.

Poly has been studying workstyle evolution for nearly a decade and we’ve identified six distinct workstyles – often referred to as personas – which make up 92% of a typical enterprise. The most recent study identified six main types of worker personas: the office communicator, the office collaborator, the remote collaborator, the flexible worker, the road warrior and the connected executive.

These worker personas can then be used to help guide technology buying decisions, especially if consideration is needed for an increase in flexible work styles in the future. This should lead to higher adoption of technology, better return on technology investments as well as increased productivity for the people who are matched with the right devices.

For the second time, Singapore reverted to working from home by default after running hybrid work arrangements for a short period of time, in view of the surging number of COVID-19 cases recently. Do you foresee this to be the switch between WFH and hybrid work to be ongoing as we live with COVID-19 endemic?

The road back to the office continues to be a bumpy one. If anything, our experiences over the past 18 months have shown that while working remotely can work, it’s not for every individual or job role. At the same time, however, remote work is no longer an optional part of the job description.

Hybrid working has led to increased adoption of asynchronous work practices, as well as changes in how employees collaborate i.e. gatherings are done more on virtual grounds, instead of face-to-face in the office. An increasing number of job openings are being listed with remote work as a key requirement; according to the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, about a third of job vacancies in 2020 involved work that could be done remotely, largely for professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) roles.

At the same time, job seekers are increasingly searching for roles that are remote-first In Asia-Pacific, applications for remote jobs are growing, with strong growth being observed across key markets, such as China, India, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.

I don’t think there will be any switching between WFH and hybrid work, rather, hybrid work is here to stay and will continue to do so until governments and communities around the world figure out how to effectively transition to endemic living.

How should organisations view technology investments when it comes to matters of productivity, in this new age of hybrid work?

We feel that in this new age of Hybrid Work, employers need to think about how best to empower their employees to produce their best wherever they work, whether from the office or from home. These kinds of insights can come from workplace personas, which is an area that Poly has been studying for nearly a decade.

Simply put, how can employers best match workstyles and employee behaviours with the right devices and technologies to help improve productivity.

To start, the question to ask is this: Who will decide who’s coming to the office and who stays at home? For home-based employees, should businesses be paying to purchase the technology to support them? Different employees may have different work styles, even for the same role. Those working from home may need high-quality video cameras if they’re expected to participate in calls during work hours but aren’t able to use the commercial-grade cameras in the office.

To also state the obvious, those who have gotten used to working from home might not want to go back to the office. Some others prefer the relative peace and quiet of the office, compared to having to deal with children and partners studying and working from home. Some may find it uncomfortable working from the kitchen table because there isn’t room for a study area at home.

Employers, therefore, need to find out which work locations work best for their employees, and appropriately deploying technology such as headsets, video cameras or both, will help positively impact how their employees stay productive. Even better, by deploying professional-grade collaboration gear, employees can be better equipped to pick up the subtle gestures, expressions and body language cues from video calls, and help them feel more confident in their ability to be seen and heard from anywhere.

Are there any key trends around hybrid working we should look out for in the coming years?

A trend that we have been keeping our eye on since the start of the pandemic is the continued decentralisation of industries, and how the massive shift to hybrid working has only accelerated this trend as hybrid working is incorporated into business-as-usual (BAU) practices for the long run.

We have already witnessed the rise in telemedicine, the boom of e-commerce and digital banking, as well as the contact centre industry adopting decentralised work practices and processes, which enable continued productivity and BAU even for a larger proportion of the workforce working from home. In fact, Gartner believes that by the end of 2023, 40% of companies will use "operations anywhere" to combine virtual and physical interactions with customers and employees.

These industries will largely be driven by cloud technologies and services, spurred in part by the ongoing roll-out of 5G networks across the region in driving network latency lower, removing a key barrier in moving workloads to the cloud. In turn, businesses and organisations will tap into multi-cloud strategies to drive business continuity by tapping into services on-demand, letting them introduce new solutions into their workflow much more quickly, letting them scale deployments up or down as needed; a critical need to support BAU for organisations with hybrid working arrangements in place.

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