• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Making hybrid work accessible, beneficial for Nigerians

Making hybrid work accessible, beneficial for Nigerians

One of the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic globally and in Nigeria is the increased preference for remote working.

Before the pandemic, most employers and staff didn’t rate remote working very much because they preferred to be under the same roof where everyone could interact and get tasks accomplished, supposedly, speedily. However, the pandemic changed that and opened people’s eyes to previously unknown benefits of remote work.

Now, many people value working from home at least part of the time – and it is understandable. For residents of a megacity like Lagos, not having to commute and being able to choose more flexible hours are benefits they would rather not lose.

Rather than try and push staff back to the office, business leaders would do better to equip and empower people to perform at their best, wherever they may be. The good news is that many organizations are doing this already, by adopting hybrid work models with the expectation that this mode of operation is here for good. IDC Worldwide reports that investment in ‘future of work’ technologies reached $656 billion in 2021.

However, making hybrid work, well – work, is not as simple as just buying innovative solutions and waiting for productivity and well-being to magically maximize themselves. It is a unique management challenge that creates both problems and opportunities.

For instance, the HP Nigeria office is open every day, but we operate a ‘flex’ Hybrid Work Model. This means we allow employees the flexibility to blend work from home and work from the office, in a way where we encourage strategy, collaboration and social connection in the office while still leaving open the option to complete individual work that requires focus and privacy, remotely from home.

This tells us that remaining competitive and building a resilient workforce in the modern marketplace requires a commitment to inclusivity, something that must be reflected in all an organization’s hybrid work tools, processes, and solutions. It is the only way to ensure every employee is heard, feels connected and is set up to succeed.

Great companies will accept that it is their job to deliver a high-quality hybrid work experience for staff. This is how employees feel too: a majority of workers believe it is their employer’s responsibility to provide any materials they need to get the job done. Doing so will help attract and retain talent, because most employees – when searching for new positions – are looking for companies that facilitate hybrid work environments.

Meeting staff expectations is as much about the physical environment as it is the digital tools provided.

Today, research shows that most Nigerian employees feel that working from home is a work style that they would prefer to continue post-COVID-19. The findings also show that most agree on the positive impact of working from home. In this vein, technology that helps bridge the physical distance between team members and co-workers is critical.

For instance, at HP Nigeria, we have collaborated and reached many business milestones while working remotely through fantastic tools like Zoom, Teams, Webex, etc., and with cameras switched on (even though the electricity, spontaneity and connection of an in-person face-to-face experience remains palpable).

There are great advantages to the Hybrid Model in Nigeria where man-hours lost to traffic, challenges in power and Internet connectivity, among other factors, are a constant in everyday life.

Switching from remote to office work in a coordinated fashion as the need arises becomes a key advantage in the marketplace. And the team in Nigeria are embracing this new reality in a very pragmatic and efficient manner.

The criteria have also changed for the tools our product research and development specialists are building – to help overcome the unique technical challenges arising from hybrid working. For example, we’ve created a new video conferencing solution called HP Presence, a portfolio of collaboration and conferencing systems that help bring everyone into the room, ensuring all can be heard by automatically adjusting volume levels.

All too often in hybrid meetings, the people joining remotely can be drowned out by those who are in the same room at the office – with the effect in meetings that the loud get louder and the quiet get quieter.

Adjusting the volume of remote attendee speakers means that their contributions to the discussion are heard, which encourages more people to participate. These are the kinds of issues – and more inclusive solutions – we must remain mindful of as our hybrid ways of working continue to evolve.

Read also: Logitech unveils products to help organisations work smarter

Prioritise inclusive collaboration – We cannot allow barriers to emerge

Supporting both collaboration and communication, given their role in driving creativity, will be top of mind for me in 2022. If we are not careful, hybrid work can make all three more difficult, given how well physical offices can help employees brainstorm and problem-solve together, in real-time. In fact, most Nigerian employees see the negative impact of working from home on office/social interaction and work-life balance to be average (but significant).

Collaboration is just too important not to tackle this head-on

If needed, we must be willing to rethink organizational and team structures and get the most out of modern technologies and cloud applications that can bring new levels of agility and real-time communication to hybrid work.

For example, giving one person the responsibility to help steward online meetings by paying attention to comments in the chat and inviting people who have ‘raised their hand’ to speak, can go a long way to creating a more inclusive environment.

Given prior research shows how women and people from minority groups have often felt shut out from meetings and interrupted in group settings , we should all be excited about the opportunity hybrid work offers to help us contribute more effectively.

At HP Nigeria, Hybrid is not an entirely new concept. We have constantly had to collaborate with a large on-field sales force and teams that connected remotely from different parts of the world at every given time.

As such the physical office had always been a part of a more intricate system of connections. And this made the transition to remote working a little easier to navigate initially. And so, in terms of the drive towards a more inclusive Hybrid Workplace, we have had to double down on:

Sharing information intentionally across onsite and offsite channels; Inclusive Hybrid meetings; Structured and regular 1-1 sessions (on top of the informal stop byes in the office), and training and retraining leaders to function effectively in a Hybrid setting.

At HP, we believe the technology industry has a critical role to play in easing and facilitating the transition to a hybrid work culture – if we maintain a laser-like focus on building human-centric and intuitive employee experiences. The steps that business leaders take now will define, in the months and years ahead, whether their people struggle or thrive in the workplace of the future.

So, let us work together to get it right, for everyone.

Asika is country head at HP Nigeria