Workplace leaders are juggling a hot potato at the moment – the amount of time workers should be asked to attend the office – and trying hard not to drop it.
Some aren’t doing too well, like the senior minister who only this week anonymously suggested that civil servants who will not return to London offices should suffer a pay cut and will risk damaging their careers.
No 10 was quick to dismiss that contentious warning (The Times), and unions have stepped in to defend workers’ rights to flexible working practices.
So it’s fair to say that getting hybrid working right is likely to be keeping anyone in charge of a workplace awake at nights.
Industry insider Luis De Souza of NFS Technology – supplier of leading meeting planning software Rendezvous – says it’s clear that every organization needs to come to its own specific arrangements.
“The huge debate going on in the industry is caused by the very different circumstances of each organization – and often is also being fought by workplace leaders with firm ideas about what works,” he says.
“For instance, there are a couple of big players in the industry who have simply declared that working from home does not work, and is unsustainable.
“Perhaps this is true in their own particular circumstances, but their comments should not deter other workplace managers from weighing up the benefits of workplace transformation in their own business.”
Can hybrid working add extra value?
Luis is firmly of the opinion that it can, if done well, and points to benefits including:
Better employee wellbeing
Reduced real estate costs
“Hybrid working, offering the ability to work from the office and also from other locations including home, provides a flexibility that is enjoyed by workers and which also benefits the organization,” he says.
But there’s a but. And it’s a big one.
Hybrid working, if not organized well, can descend into chaos – and then all those benefits fly out of the window.
The secret, Luis says, is supporting the hybrid workplace with good scheduling and space booking technology, with meeting planning software of particular importance when it comes to creating the conditions where great collaboration can thrive.
How does meeting planning software make a difference?
No-one would argue that meetings are important for sparking ideas, settling policies and making decisions. That’s not to forget the teambuilding aspect, bringing coworkers together to enjoy a sense of shared purpose and camaraderie.
But, says Luis, sometimes organizing meetings can seem like more bother than it’s worth – and that’s even more so now meetings often need to bring together face-to-face and online attendees.
“This is where meeting planning software makes all the difference, by taking away the sometimes tedious admin surrounding the organization of a meeting,” he says.
Here’s how an employee organizes a meeting the easy way:
The employee opens up the meeting planning software app on their mobile device, laptop or computer, and enters the details of the required meeting.
The software finds suitable and available space – even across time zones – and the employee can book it in a click.
The software enters the details straight into Outlook and sends out automated invitations to all requested attendees.
The meeting planning software also ensures that requested equipment like video conferencing is available at the right times in the right place.
The employee can order catering for in-house attendees and even parking in the same transaction.
If any details of the meeting change, everyone (including the caterers and set-up team) are informed automatically.
Other benefits of workspace technology
That ability of technology to ease everyday strain is not just confined to booking meetings. With hot desking a major feature of hybrid working, it means workers can book a suitable spot via the same app even before they get into the office – and even locate their colleagues.
“With staying safe at work still a major issue, the software also provides updates on, say, when a desk has been cleaned,” says Luis. “It also enables touchless check in and out of work spaces by providing workers with QR codes when they book the space.”
Safely navigating the choppy workspace waters
All the detailed info captured by the system provides valuable data for any workplace leader, creating a complete picture of how space is being used so solid decisions can be made on how to take it forward.
Which brings Luis back to his argument that one size never fits all when it comes to workplaces.
“The debate about how to set up and operate hybrid working is going to carry on for long time as organizations test and try different configurations,” he says.
“In the end, each organization will come to a conclusion and way of operating that best benefits both the business and the individual – and good utilization data will provide the foundations on which to base that decision.
“We’re in uncharted waters now, and they are going to continue to be choppy for some time.
“But the organizations that make the most now of meeting planning software and the other benefits of workplace technology stand the best chance of maintaining a stable and appealing working environment in this transition period – and reaping the benefits long-term.”