In the post-pandemic world of work, many businesses are taking the opportunity to evolve their office spaces
This is largely due to the change in attitudes to virtual collaboration, giving companies more flexible real estate options. Often this means their employees are more spread out – whether due to global expansion (with barriers to international collaboration lowered by digital platforms) or the creation of teams that are no longer restricted where employees live.
Whether the aim of these changes is to reach a wider pool of talent, or access customers in a new region, the office evolution we are going through brings with it a unique set of challenges for IT teams. This is particularly true when it comes to establishing a collaborative culture between employees that are increasingly seated in different locations.
IT and facilities leaders have their work cut out for them to enable meaningful collaboration in a multi-office organisation with a hybrid workforce. Not only must they implement digital platforms and hardware to meet the organisation’s needs, but they must ensure they have the right skills and vendor resources necessary to ensure successful implementation across all locations.
More offices, more challenges
The shift to a hybrid, multi-office setup has a number of clear benefits. Following the pandemic and the realisation that work doesn’t have to rely on a traditional workplace office, many organisations are opting for a more decentralised approach, setting up smaller offices in distributed locations.
While this has its merits, it’s important to remember that collaboration is still a key part of productivity. This means ensuring employees are working in tandem when they’re not in the same place. You then have to factor in the extra strain or demand that this places on your technology stack. Therefore, for a multi-office setup to work, having a clear strategy around defined goals and the right equipment in place is essential.
IT leaders who are responsible for enabling this collaboration between multiple offices and remote workers have to grapple with much more complexity than their colleagues who oversee a single location. Security, VPN’s, firewalls, bandwidth, storage, licence management, laptop upkeep…. the list goes on.
Finding the right IT staff
Those responsible for tech infrastructure should first objectively assess whether their team has the skills required to support the collaboration needs of the organisation. After all, what worked well for a single location will not necessarily be appropriate for a multi-location scenario.
For example, if an organisation’s IT team does not yet have strong in-house network administration skills, it will be essential to bring these on board. Although videoconferencing technology has been a fundamental tool for multi-office businesses, it is resource intensive from a network bandwidth perspective – with video and audio connections suffering if latency or lag arise. This can disrupt successful collaboration, so whether through hiring, training existing staff, or working with a third party, it’s important that IT teams have the right skills to troubleshoot.
Make your team feel connected
For those not accessing a main office where employees gather, remote work can feel isolating and, at times, lonely. Collaboration tools are essential for bridging this gap and helping employees in multiple locations feel connected to the life of the organisation—this is key to developing a culture of meeting equity. At the same time, IT and facilities teams might initially struggle to manage the increased volume of requests coming from multiple locations. By providing self-help resources and training staff on how to use new tools, IT professionals can empower their remote colleagues to work more efficiently. This, in turn, reduces the burden on often overextended tech teams.
Establish partner relationships
IT and facilities teams sometimes rely on strong third-party relationships to enable multi-location collaboration. This often means having a good relationship with a telecommunication service provider (or providers, depending on the internet services available in the various locations), complete with a service level agreement that specifies the exact network performance standards to be met.
Likewise, it’s essential to have built trust between all the companies that deliver the organisation’s collaboration technology, whether hardware or software. It may also be that IT teams rely on local managed service providers to provide on-site support on their behalf.
There is no one size fits all approach
Collaboration, and the technology that enables it, has become a core tenet of the post-pandemic workplace – but it means different things to different organisations. Sometimes, it’s about internal communication using voice and videoconferencing, messaging, and webinars. Perhaps these integrate with an office productivity suite or customer relationship management software, enhancing productivity and communication with colleagues, clients, or prospects. Other times, it’s about implementing the best solutions for your office space. Creating fully integrated meeting rooms with videoconferencing tech installed is a big part of it, as this can help people collaborate more effectively with their colleagues in larger meetings.
Effective collaboration has never been more important than it is now, but it’s also complicated for organisations that are increasingly distributed. With this in mind, IT and facilities leaders have a difficult job creating a collaborative hybrid working environment. With the right combination of technology, skills and relationships in place, they can make sure their organisations have everything they need to collaborate effectively and efficiently.
About the Author
Martin Bodley is Director & Global Head Bose Work at Bose Professional. Martin is an expert in the hybrid working space, overseeing the development of Bose Professional’s VB1 Videobar conferencing device, which was launched last year – offering premium video and audio in any meeting space to enable hybrid working. Previously, he founded a startup, ZiipRoom, which developed a more straightforward and mobile-first meeting experience solution before being acquired by Bose.
Featured image: ©Green-Butterfly