Embracing Hybrid Work

Gordon McKeown. Image Supplied.

By Gordon McKeown

Hong Kong, Nov 18: As the ramifications and uncertainty of COVID-19 continue to unravel across global markets, one thing is clear, the pandemic has changed the way people work forever. This brings with it challenges as well as opportunities. With a new ‘hybrid working revolution’ underway, it is imperative that organisations build a culture of resilience and business continuity. Hybrid working isn’t just about combining remote and office working, it’s about blending both into an entirely new way of working that is beneficial for both the organisation and its employees.

The challenges of adopting a hybrid working model

The future of work is constantly evolving and many organisations underestimate the challenges faced when trying to fully adopt a hybrid working model. Cultivating connectivity and a sense of community in a remote work environment, can kill not only productivity, but also a company’s culture and spirit. Some organisations will see listless employees, miscommunication and dropped balls -if the transition to a hybrid working model is not handled correctly. 
One of the major challenges is that the technology needed to create a seamless hybrid office experience is not yet available. When the majority of workplaces were forced to work virtually in early 2020, the tools and technology they needed already existed. However, for a workplace where some employees are together in the same office or workplace, and some aren’t, there’s still a huge gap in communication, productivity and engagement tools – especially for those who work in highly regulated industries such as financial services, aviation, and healthcare. The majority of existing workplace technology meets the needs of organisations with either an all-remote or all-in-person staff, there aren’t many options for a primarily hybrid workforce.
Other challenges that have emerged as employees continue to be dispersed, are gaps within digital infrastructure and cybersecurity, as well as the need for a greater culture of compliance. Governance, Risk and Compliance software have helped businesses to address this challenge. For example, companies in the Fintech sector need to enable remote workers, teams and businesses to remain connected, collaborate efficiently and securely across multiple industries whilst also adhering to security and regulatory compliance standards. 

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Adapting to business change

Alongside the challenges that need to be addressed, opportunities have also arisen. The pandemic has led to a growth in the e-commerce market and facilitated the adoption of AI and automation. In select areas, businesses are being forced to embrace automation. For example, many manufacturing plants have been forced to consider how to keep their plants open whilst managing with less workforce density. We have also seen rises in robotic shipments around the world, alongside stock prices of companies that produce automation-related products and services start to rally. Aviation has arguably been impacted the hardest during the pandemic, the effects are profound and will be felt even after the pandemic has subsided. Staggering debt levels will lead to ticket price increases and a larger role for government in the sector. We have seen this happen in Hong Kong, where the government provided HK$30 billion to bail out Cathay Pacific for a six per cent stake in the company. Going forward, the Aviation industry will increasingly adopt digital in to their service offering, particularly in curating a customer’s end-to-end journey with an airline.
The Financial Services industry experienced workplace disruption prior to COVID-19, banks have had to grapple with the reality that some of their back-office functions could be fully automated as time goes on, quantum computing taking over from traders. The pandemic has been a test to see whether the banking’s traditional work model could survive remotely. This scenario presented opportunities for those in the software industry to provide financial institutions and its workers with the same level of compliant connectivity platforms to conduct their work. 

Improving employees’ experience

As organisations transition to new ways of work, the number of organisations in Asia Pacific prioritising employee experience has increased significantly, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, a leading global advisory, broking and solutions firm. The 2021 Employee Experience Survey found almost nine in 10 APAC employers (88 per cent) said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organisation over the next three years compared with just 52 per cent indicating it as important prior to the pandemic.
However, while employers acknowledge adapting to the new reality will take time and require a hybrid work model, many are not ready to meet the challenges. The study reveals that just over a quarter of organisations (28 per cent) have no defined approach to the employee experience, with a further 36 per cent only having a basic approach in place.

Embracing technology to meet the demands of a hybrid work environment

Ultimately, businesses need to embrace technology, put technology first, and think about what competitive advantage technology gives them. Companies then need to reengineer their business model and workforce on that basis. Choosing innovative software that meets the needs of hybrid teams will be a crucial focus for a large proportion of organisations over the next few years. 
Employees now expect a greater degree of flexibility and choice around where and how they work. Firms across industries are facing challenges in hiring and retaining talent, including both white-collar and frontline workers. Technology has a huge role to play in giving employees a voice in building this hybrid culture, that supports a hybrid way of working. 
Undoubtedly, the transition will be disruptive, however organisations who do get it right will reap a multitude of benefits. So, too, will the technology companies that can fill gaps in existing remote work technology.

About the Author: Gordon McKeown, Head of Audit, Risk and Compliance (ARC) Products at Ideagen Plc​. As a technology professional with over 20 years of experience, Gordon is an expert in the audit, risk and compliance world. Heading up the ARC division at Ideagen, Gordon is responsible for driving product strategy for the company’s leading Pentana software solutions. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

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