Support a hybrid work model with these 4 best practices

We’ve analyzed industry-average and industry-leading companies and found a large disparity between the two. Now, we turn our attention to hybrid work.

IT teams are starting to support a hybrid workforce for the first time while figuring out best practices. It’s difficult as employees are dependent on scattered technology, inter-company communication is challenging, and IT teams can only do so much in a day. 

Companies are exploring the hybrid work model best practices, and we’ve distilled the four main things industry-leading enterprises are doing to create a seamless transition. 

1. Integrate employee-facing applications

Whether or not we call it a recession, 2022 has been a difficult year for the economy. The US has seen the highest inflation since 1981. The S&P 500 is down 23%, which would be the fourth largest annual drop since the Great Recession era.

This economic volatility puts a lot of pressure on CIOs, who are no longer expecting their technology budgets to increase. Clearly, now is the time to think hard about where is the most valuable place to put dollars. According to CIO's 21st annual State of the CIO survey, industry leaders are using this budget in two big ways:

  • Building a digital headquarters.
  • Investing in automation.

Build a digital headquarters to support hybrid work

Employees need one place where they can get help — remote, in-person, or hybrid. The solution we've seen ground-breaking companies turn to is a digital headquarters. The digital HQ is a starting point for everything employees do at work, from holding meetings to sharing files to requesting support. This is different from digital tools, which are meant to support a particular task, such as Google Calendar for scheduling.

Having analyzed numerous industry-leading companies, we know that the best of them use an enterprise collaboration hub as the foundation for their digital HQ. Hybrid work best practices for building a digital HQ includes these concrete steps:

  • Organize your collaboration hub.
  • Bring all your employees into the digital HQ.
  • Build seamless integrations between your digital HQ and your digital tools.

Industry leaders recognize the inequality of IT support within a global workforce — after all, not even the largest IT team can support every single employee, in every location, in every language. As employees decide to return to the office — or not — companies need to prioritize giving them everything they need to do their best work. A digital headquarters helps to make that transition effortless.

For a seamless transition to hybrid work, invest in automation

Across the globe, a crucial hybrid work best practice is investing in automation. Leaders are hesitant to grow their IT teams. Instead, they're leaning on automation to ease their existing IT team's burden, drive efficiency, and improve company productivity at the same time.

AI and automation can be your ticket to ensuring that your IT teams feel supported and not overworked while also offering white-glove support to your employees. Your AI tool of choice should allow you to:

  • Enable seamless onboarding
  • Provide personalized help according to your users' locations, roles, and permissions
  • Allow employees to return to work or successfully pull off hybrid work

The first step for technology leaders is to address IT-facing automation opportunities. Developing automation tools and scripts leads to substantial time savings, as proven by the CIO of Equinix, Milind Wagle. Where industry leaders rise to the challenge, however, is by paying careful attention to the final step of automation: enabling self-service for employees.

Successfully solving for self-service can and does take many forms. The core of the challenge — building out a knowledge base, empowering employees to take this new route, and reducing dependency on IT agents — remains the same. The results can bring significant cost savings. According to HDI, a support call can cost as much as $22, while self-service is $2 per incident.

Automation lets companies do more with less — support more employees, and increase the efficiency of a smaller IT department.

2. Send targeted employee communications by geography

A hybrid work best practice is to battle communication exhaustion. Industry-leading companies are telling employees exactly what they need to know and meeting employees where they are. These two seemingly small shifts in strategies have shown to have monumental effects on employees and the business.

Tell your employees exactly what they need to know

Employees are laden with messages — from their peers, their direct reports, managers, etc. There's a very likely chance that company-wide alerts get lost in their inbox, buried in portals, and overlooked due to irrelevancy.

To combat this, industry leaders are choosing to send out hyper-targeted messages based on their role, department, distribution lists, type of employee, location, and any other information that might be relevant to the communication.

Secondly, they use these hyper-targeted messages to drive action. They lead employees to exactly where they need to go. Need people to update their personal information? Add a link to the portal where they can do that. Innovative IT teams make it as easy as possible for people to complete an action.

In an era of hybrid work, meet your employees where they are

More and more employees are spending the majority of their time on enterprise chat platforms. Slack and Microsoft teams have been the primary mode of immediate communication, while portals and emails have the reputation of being overlooked.

When employees need IT support in a hybrid work environment, they often don't have the luxury of walking over to their favorite IT agent. They have to muster thorough often chaotic backends.

With the shift to enterprise chat, industry leaders can:

  • Improve response time. This becomes crucial with any security issues that come up when employees are at home. Employees are much more likely to check their chat than emails or other portals and respond.
  • Enrich ticket workflows. Communicating via chat allows you to unblock your workforce by giving everyone — from support teams to employees — real-time information and access to what they need.
  • Manage software licenses at scale. Employees may hold many different software licenses without using all of them. By reminding them about unused licenses and providing a way to resolve the issue right away, you can create a frictionless experience and save money.

3. Connect back-end systems

At home, people are used to Netflix's personalized recommendations and Spotify's curated playlists. This lies in stark opposition to their experience at work — disjointed, clunky processes that largely wait for IT agents to comment on tickets.

Qualtrics research found that only 30% of employees say that their experience with their company's technology exceeds their expectations.

Hybrid work threw this problem into a new light. Across industries, companies were seeing a massive uptick in tickets as remote work began in March 2020. Now, as companies start to define hybrid work best practices, they're starting with back-end systems.

Updating back-end systems

In large organizations, there are an increasing number of tools and portals that employees can use to their advantage. Except, employees don't know what to use. Industry leaders approach this problem at more than just the surface level.

The real problem lies in the disarrayed back-end systems. In automating and connecting the many back-end processes that exist in organizations, you can provide a cohesive front to your employees. And because your back-end systems will be ingesting information from every tool, you can drive adoption and usage across every software.

4. Create an experience your employees need

Data suggests the average enterprise uses 288 different SaaS apps across the board. Industry leaders optimize to reach the full potential of each software. So how do you ensure that employees have everything they need?

How to optimize for employee adoption

We know that the most common place employees work and engage today is in enterprise messaging platforms, like Slack and Microsoft Teams. We also know that other employees prefer enterprise portals that they've been navigating for ages. Others like the dependency of email.

Proper employee adoption requires a multifaceted approach. Here are the three pillars to your success:

  • Create one place to go to for everything. Don't make employees remember dozens of passwords to different portals. There's plenty going on in their roles without having to learn a new system every time they want to put in PTO or upgrade their laptop.
  • Make the user experience enjoyable. In a hybrid work environment, employees are overloaded with messages, emails, and alerts. Don't add to that cognitive load. Instead, tell your employees only what they need to know. Give them exactly what they ask for.
  • Think long-term. Partner with a strategic team that's dedicated to creating behavior change. It won't happen overnight, and setting unrealistic expectations will cause your project to fail before it fully takes off.

Each company will evolve its own hybrid work best practices, but industry leaders will address each 4 of these concerns in their foundations in order to better serve their employees.