HR needs good tech to make hybrid work

If HR teams want to meet employee demand for hybrid working options they must invest in collaborative technology, according to Margaret Sweeney, chief HR officer at LRN.

An internal survey of the educational testing service provider's employees found the vast majority of employees want to hybrid work post-pandemic.

Yet she warned the experience of a remote worker can be really sub-par if there is a lack of reliable tech or conference room technology is dated.

She said: “For example, if cameras aren’t set to capture faces, if software doesn’t allow for multiple streams of content, if audio is impossible, or if software licenses haven’t been set to allow for integration with office systems for content sharing.

“These types of challenges may impact the choices your team leaders make about when to be in the office and how to do meetings when some people are remote.”

During the pandemic, in-office employees lost 28 minutes of work due to technology issues, according to research by software company Nexthink. 

 If these issues aren’t addressed, Sweeney warned senior leaders would be more likely to say everybody must stay remote or everybody must come into the office.

“If you don’t have the technology or the acoustic environment to support quality hybrid work, it’ll be your employees who will pay the price,” she said.   

A lack of collaboration technology could also damage employee morale.

She added: “Good collaboration is among our top priorities for a hybrid workplace because it is having a direct impact on both productivity and employee engagement.

“When technology is a barrier to productivity team members can get frustrated by delays or the extra hours required to get to the same place.

“Multiple meetings may be required to gather necessary inputs or collaborations may be put off, for example, until the team can be all together in one place,” she said.

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Just as some companies aim for no meetings on Wednesdays or half-day summer Fridays, Sweeney said it’s about creating new rhythms and patterns that will work for the team.

She added: “Every team’s needs and work environments are a bit different. We think getting these rhythms right and allowing for flexibility will have a positive impact on employee morale.”

New work environments where some colleagues in a meeting are in the office, and others are remote, may also create problems for HR teams to solve.

Three-quarters of organisations (77%) said if it is used efficiently, digital communication such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, will improve their employee engagement, according to research by insurance company Gallagher. 

Just over half (55%) also said they will support collaboration between remote and in-office teams as much as possible post-pandemic.

When a team member is subjected to sub-par technology, Sweeney said they may perceive the company doesn’t value their contribution.

She said: “As HR professionals, we can help colleagues understand that hybrid meeting situations present special challenges for collaborators.

“Highlighting best practices for meetings, for example in a ‘tip of the day’ newsletter section, or on the company intranet, or in an all-hands meeting presentation about ‘new normal’ work policies, or in more formal training courses, is a great place to start.”