The Future of Return to Work: Adapting to Hybrid Work Environments

Work as we know it has undeniably changed and most businesses have had to adapt to working remotely. However, with the future still unclear, it’s important to adjust your business to fit working remotely indefinitely, returning to work, or a mix of both. And while this means new challenges such as a lack of visibility on employees, possible productivity issues, and even risks to security and safety, businesses must focus on their core principles, seek out unified technology solutions, and adapt to rapidly changing work environments of the future.

For businesses that cannot survive remotely, safety and security measures must be in place before allowing employees to return to work. Along with remote work challenges, many businesses have obviously experienced financial downturn. Based on an SMB Group study, “53% of SMBs’ revenue has decreased since March when the COVID-19 pandemic began.” This means organizations need to re-think traditional models and cut ineffective processes to survive. Understanding that no one knows what’s to come, it’s critical that businesses use this time to develop updated strategies and implement new technology, learning from businesses who are thriving during this difficult time.

Avi Levinson, director of property management at Royal York, has found new ways to thrive including embracing remote work with no plans to return to the office. Royal York specifically handles property management for single-family homes, meaning they work with a large amount of homeowners and tenants. As a business reliant on in-person engagement, it’s hard to imagine a world where Royal York can succeed without conducting in-person showings—human connections are critical in this kind of business. Yet, they’ve defied the odds by creating new processes and using technology to empower their workforce. Instead of continuing to operate the way they used to in an environment where it clearly wouldn’t work, Royal York utilized technology to quickly adapt. Through automating various pieces of their customer journey and enabling staff with the information they need both in the office and while working with customers (through virtual showings and more), they’ve been able to reinvent traditional property management and increase internal productivity so they can handle more business with the same amount of staff. This increase in revenue has allowed them to expand business and even hire new employees to keep pace with growth.

Royal York was able to take their entire business remote, putting extra emphasis on collaboration and communication processes and tools. For companies that are unable to go fully remote, collaboration is still key and tools need to be integrated with relevant business applications to ensure teams have the right context to be effective. Fully integrated tools can automate manual and repetitive tasks, whether that’s automating project management or your customer journey. For example, if you’re using spreadsheets to track sales or a project and you have to update details and notes separately in your CRM, this will contribute to low-value time sucks and hold your business back from operating leaner. Continuing to automate customer touch points throughout their lifecycle will also help with retention and revenue growth.

For businesses choosing to return to work, their model must mold to fit both an office workplace and employees still working from home, but collaboration tools are just one piece of the puzzle. Most businesses are finding that their employees are still successfully communicating and collaborating, but their technology needs to go beyond and contribute to business results rather than simply productivity. Royal York was able to do this by using collaboration software in the context of a new work paradigm that brings collaboration, productivity, and communication tools into other business processes.

It’s critical to look beyond the surface-level capabilities of these tools and make sure they integrate well into whatever ecosystem your teams already use, extending access to the information and tools they need – where they need them. When your sales team is viewing a customer record in CRM, for example, they should be able to see more than just customer information. They need to have a clear picture that includes everything from their last payment and any open support tickets to the last time they were on your website to what they rated you in a recent survey. By providing this information all in one place, you’ll not only automate processes, but you’ll help employees do their jobs better, especially if they’re remote.

It is completely understandable to be overwhelmed with new hybrid work environments and what’s to come. However, whether your business chooses to return to work in the office soon or work remotely indefinitely, collaboration and productivity tools in conjunction with a dynamic strategy to improve employee experience and productivity will enable growth. It’s apparent that collaboration software is at the forefront of aiding hybrid work environments, but let’s look beyond that. Using this technology in the context of a new work paradigm to establish consistency of data throughout your organization will allow for easy adaption and new growth in a shifting work environment.