Work has changed exponentially over the past 18 months. Although one might argue that hybrid working was always the future, the speed of transformation has defied belief. After a period of adjustment, many leaders are now taking stock of what hybrid means to their businesses in the long term. At Citrix, we’ve worked in a hybrid model for over thirty years, since the company’s inception. Here are a few lessons we’ve learnt along the way.
The office environment needs a rethink
The role of real estate, in business, has been turned on its head with most offices being closed for more than a year. Consequently, we now face the challenge of revaluating the role the physical office will play moving forward, as we shift to a hybrid scenario of work.
Citrix has always been a proponent of remote and flexible working, and well before COVID-19, we had reorchestrated our offices to be comfortable, nurturing spaces. Instead of centring design around desks and meeting rooms, we constructed more collaborative working spaces, suited to a range of working styles. From couches to conference rooms, libraries to standing desks, there has been something for everyone, adaptable to whatever the task in hand.
As organisations enter a post-pandemic hybrid scenario, similar thought and effort needs to be put into what a permanent, virtual office might look like. It calls for fresh thinking and to get it right, we should be seeking input from everyone. It could be a company-wide challenge, led by HR and IT, to design the virtual workplace, utilising technologies already in play. How the virtual office will be laid out needs careful thought, to ensure we replicate the sense of community we would find in the real world.
How the virtual office will be managed needs consideration, too. At Citrix, our offices across the UK&I each have a site leader; perhaps the virtual office would benefit from something similar? This could be a great way of building stronger bonds between offices and remote workers.
Engage employees in the transformation process
Currently, we have five generations working side by side in some organisations, and we need to ensure that everyone’s voice is being heard, to avoid a disconnect between leaders and employees.
Engaging employees will be a key part of the process when developing this new working experience, and there are many ways to do this, from mentoring and reviews, to focus groups and surveys. At Citrix we recently published an internal survey to gauge sentiment towards the office reopening, and used the results to put guidelines in place around masks, capacity and vaccinations. We’ll keep checking in with our employees as circumstances change, to ensure we’re providing the best environment for them.
Measure employees by output, not attendance
Historically, presenteeism has dominated office culture. In a hybrid world, it is important that we shift our focus to output, focusing on the overall performance of employees rather than the time spent at a desk.
At Citrix, I believe we are doing a good job of training our people to act appropriately and to support this, we have created a ‘Competency Model’ for all members of staff, including leaders. Our competencies are measurable, observable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviours that are critical to the success of individuals, teams, and the company. Our metrics never focus on how much time an individual spends at work.
In a hybrid work scenario, where we may only be meeting in person occasionally, it is important to find the right people who share the same core values and competencies that are consistent with the organisation, and coach and nurture them to support collective success. However, it will also be important to come to the office to collaborate and socialise from time to time: there is certainly a time and a place for it, and leaders need to identify and demonstrate what that is, based on the needs of the business. It needs to be thought through and strategised for. I don’t think we have reached a point where we will never be seeing work colleagues again.
Offer a truly consistent experience between home and the office
Technology needs to react the same for those in the room, and those working remotely. If we think about the experience of the younger generations, who have grown up with technology and interweave the use of it seamlessly through their virtual and physical worlds, they are going to notice points of friction the most. In a hybrid work scenario, these problems will have exponential impact on their perceptions of an organisation, their engagement, and their desire to stay loyal to the business.
Security also needs prioritising. In the office, there are security parameters in place to protect the network and data; however, when staff are working remotely, there is a strong chance they will access work via an insecure connection. It is important that security and technical leaders recognise this, and make sure they have the right security measures and processes in place.
A new chapter…
It is a myth that you need to have everyone in the same room for ideas and innovation to flourish; rather, it is possible for a different form of creativity to happen virtually, where quieter voices can also be heard more clearly. There are many aspects of the virtual office that we all need to consider and develop, but I am confident that with consultation and collaboration at all levels, across all generations, we will get there, and be able to create something new and exciting.