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The technology helping businesses transition to hybrid work

Companies are embracing a wide range of technologies to reach and engage their dispersed workforces.

February 11, 2022

On a recent JLL event on the future of workplaces, Webex, a web conferencing tool, told participants to please wait while it installed the app. Webex was “hanging up the whiteboard.” Then it was “grabbing some chairs.” Finally, it was “preparing the room.”

The emulation of the physical preparation for a meeting was a novel approach to making sure participants were engaged from the very beginning. Because, as the shift to hybrid work gathers pace, ensuring staff are engaged in the future workplace where the physical meets the virtual is critical to success – and business continuity.

“The lessons learned during the global pandemic are ushering in one of the biggest workplace change programs the business world has ever seen,” says Nathan Sri, senior director for solutions development at JLL. “Online platforms and tools are the only way to bring together dispersed staff and solicit the detailed feedback required to understand their and the business’ needs, to then inform a successful workplace strategy and design.”

Aspiring to engage all employees in the shift to a hybrid workplace, companies are embracing a wide range of technologies, according to the JLL paper, Technologies Enabling Workplace Change Programs.

From 3D fly-throughs and live video events to the placement of cameras and screens in boardrooms so that everyone around the table can be visible are the types of considerations being given to new workplace change programs to foster engagement and interaction.

In one instance, a ‘Facebook Live’ style event was used to broadcast live feeds of senior executives visiting their new office and describing how it would eventually come to life.

Augmented reality inductions are also allowing staff to immerse themselves in the virtual experience to gauge the feel and functionality of a workspace.

Tactile understanding of the workplace-to-be is helping employees comprehend how they will work within their new workplace ecosystem.

“Regardless of which approach is adopted, these tools provide opportunities for staff to immerse themselves in the new office designed for hybrid working well before they physically walk in,” Sri says.

Equalising the experience

In Australia, where the government’s quick response to the pandemic led to one of the lowest death rates in the world, user adoption of digital technologies in the workplace advanced five years in approximately eight weeks, according to the Australian Public Service.

And while the workplace is the enabler of these new ways of working, technology is the catalyst for success, UBS’s head of group corporate services for southeast Asia, Shao May Peh, told the JLL Future of Workplaces Webex event.

One of her most recent projects, UBS’s flagship APAC office in Singapore incorporates office design philosophies for the future workforce including flexible, agile working spaces to enable collaboration or privacy as needed.

The hybrid model of employees working individually outside the office and coming together in a virtual office space changes how they interact and intersect with physical spaces and virtual platforms.

“The biggest focus on new workplaces to futureproof for hybrid work is equalising the experience between home and office,” says Sri. “Organisations are investing in technology so that individuals aren’t disadvantaged by attending remotely.”

Sri points out that connectivity issues are still a big factor for remote work and one of the biggest reasons driving staff back to the office.

“Numerous organisations are seeing staff returning to the office for important virtual presentations,” he says. “Their connection is not strong enough at home and this isn’t limited to regional areas.”

Simon Backhouse, director of business development - Australia and NZ for JLL Technologies, agrees that more work needs to be done in some fields, including conferencing technology.

It’s lucky the major shift to work-from-home occurred in 2020 and not five years earlier when the technology simply wasn’t around to support an effective hybrid model.

“There is plenty of room for improvement and the tech giants have to work very hard and fast to solve some of those issues,” Backhouse says. “This is a prime example of where technology has to catch-up to the demands of enterprise.”