Even for those companies that are eager to return to the office, there’s one word that defines success in this new era of work: flexibility. Employees want it, clients expect it, business models demand it. To maintain resilience, and to bolster recruitment and retention, flexibility is everything.
During the pandemic, companies had to adapt to hybrid work — fast. This shift happened so quickly, that today, many companies are finding themselves with a cobbled-together tech stack that’s cumbersome and inefficient. As we settle into a world of permanent flex work, with 79% of the C-suite permitting staff to go hybrid, I frequently speak with tech leaders about how best to step back, review what they’ve built on the fly, and select the right hybrid workplace tech: thoughtful, customized solutions that not only offer the flexibility talent needs and wants, but that are also manageable, cost-efficient, and sustainable for the long haul.
Twenty-eight percent of CIOs worry about not having the right technology tools to support hybrid work. –PwC
So what does it take to build the best hybrid tech stack for your organization? Here’s what I’ve learned after collaborating with clients on building new hybrid workplace strategies and solutions to keep up with the future. These top considerations provide the framework for selecting the right hybrid tech for your business.
One of the first things executives consider when evaluating hybrid tech is security. With so many tools, platforms and services woven together, vulnerability lurks at each connection point. That’s especially true when you have workers distributed between an HQ, home offices, and coworking spaces.
These risks include leaking of proprietary company data, hackers gaining access to internal systems with phishing, or even unintentional breaches of confidentiality when working remotely. And, just like the traditional tech stack, your hybrid tech stack is only as strong as its weakest link. If a new tool provides a backdoor to hackers, it can make your entire organization vulnerable.
Do this: Create a training program that uplevels staff in their understanding of the increased risks in distributed work. Partner with IT to do risk assessments of any tool under consideration.
Integrations can not only be lengthy and expensive, they have an ongoing maintenance cost as well. When a new tool doesn’t integrate well with others, you not only spent money upfront — but now staff suffers with dysfunctional tech.
The top issues with interoperability I tend to see among Upflex users looking to build more sustainable, streamlined hybrid work solutions are:
- Accuracy. If there’s a lag in data syncing across tools, staff may be working from different data sets. That can create confusion and missed opportunities.
- Standardization. Data must also be standardized in a way that translates across tools. Otherwise, data generated in one place won’t be readable or portable.
- Interface. Multiple logins and different experiences can make it impossible to efficiently take advantage of multiple tools. With proper interoperability, each component of your hybrid tech stack seamlessly interfaces so that there’s no usability issues or downtime.
Do this: Add metrics, like data sync uptime, to your SLA with new service providers. By including those metrics, you’ll ensure that instead of many moving pieces, you have a harmoniously streamlined workflow that gets the job done without gaps or friction.
Ease of use
The one thing I hear over and over from executives building their hybrid workplaces is that it’s complicated. While there’s truth to this — staff working from different locations, increasing the need for better communication across a variety of work styles — it’s also an opportunity to edit your stack based on user experience.
Ease of use is a critical consideration for two reasons: 1) Employee adoption of new tools requires those tools to be as straightforward as possible; and 2) actual ongoing usage by staff is the only way for hybrid tech to reach its full potential. Otherwise, staff just shrugs off new tools, stymying your overall strategy.
Do this: Shop for simplicity, such as a single interface so staff don’t have to log in to multiple tools. At Upflex, we heard repeatedly from enterprise clients that they wanted white label technology to brand their hybrid workspace platform with their own company branding, so we built solutions to accommodate these needs. It’s about making the experience more cohesive, comprehensive and streamlined.
Getting staff input is critical for the successful implementation of hybrid work tech. Without that buy-in, you risk low adoption. At the worst, staff will feel unheard, which leads to dissatisfaction and low retention.
As you bring together a hybrid tech stack for your company, choose tools and platforms that make it easy for employees to control their work lives, such as how, when and where they work. With tech that enables flexibility, employees can enjoy the autonomy that makes remote work so fulfilling while still benefiting from the consistency of the office’s best-in-class technology.
Do this: Ask for feedback. It’s not just about giving staff any tools they need to do the work. It’s about giving them the best tools for the work. Listen and observe to determine the best way to bridge company needs, budgets and staff preferences.
Where to start
When it comes to hybrid work, there is no one-size-fits-all. There’s not even a one-size-fits-most. After countless conversations with clients of all sizes, I keep coming back to the same advice: start with your staff. By engaging your employees in the process, you’ll not only surface their needs but also identify problems to solve with your hybrid work tech.
- Define the scope. Start with a clearly defined brief that frames what needs to be done by your technology.
- Focus on the needs. Outline the specific needs/problems that your tech stack should address.
- Design for staff. Build around your staff so that you’re not over-complicating things and wasting money on tools people don’t need (or want).
- Prioritize for flexibility. Autonomy is a staff motivator; every tool should be evaluated against its ability to give staff flexibility.
- Pilot for fit. Don’t go all in until you’ve had a chance to pilot for fit and flexibility. Once it’s proven, then go all-in.
With recruitment and retention top of mind, the workplaces that are most employee-centric will win out. Don’t rush the process. Build a tech stack customized to your company’s unique collaboration, productivity and unified communications needs.
Your hybrid tech stack is an investment — but the flexibility enabled by hybrid tech provides outsized dividends that make your organization more competitive and resilient in the long term.