Making hybrid happen: six principles for technology integration

Many companies have adopted new technologies to support hybrid collaboration without alignment to strategic intent. ET Group proposes six principles to support a more integrated approach

Hybrid collaboration has become central to the new world of work, forming a backbone for how organisations operate, generate new ideas and connect with colleagues.

But getting this aspect right so that all meeting participants share a high-quality experience, irrespective of whether they are joining in-person or remotely, is proving a challenge for many companies.

In this article series, Canadian workplace technology designer and integrator ET Group and WORKTECH Academy have been exploring how different aspects of the workplace must be reconsidered in order to create effective hybrid collaboration.

Our first article in the series presented a core hypothesis that neither investment in new technology nor redesign of meeting space could be sufficient on their own to move the dial; instead, the issue of meeting equality was linked to underlying social interactions and organisational values.

Our second article validated this hypothesis in an online workshop with a group of 30 international companies drawn from WORKTECH Academy’s membership network. This confirmed that three out of four barriers to hybrid collaboration identified by workplace professionals are ‘below the waterline’ and deeper-rooted in company culture than the more visible and tangible aspects of technology and space.

Our third article in the series encouraged company decision-makers to orient themselves for strategic action regarding hybrid strategy and provided a ‘hybrid rainbow alignment tool to help them do so.

Focus on technology

In our fourth and final article, we look specifically at technology. For many organisations, investment in new technology has been their way to the move towards hybrid working. But integrating new technology into hybrid workspaces demands a nuanced approach that values the intricacies of distributed work.

Sometimes, these investments have been made without in-depth strategical thinking about the distributed working policies of the organisation, as well as the needs and wants of their staff. Companies can then get stuck with technologies that remain static for years as they are not adaptable to the company’s needs as it iterates and grows.

ET Group’s ‘hybrid rainbow’ , visualizing the distributed work spectrum, is a straightforward and effective tool for arriving at a suitable approach to distributed working; it not only highlights the diversity of strategies that are possible, but also helps carve out the approach that is the best fit for any individual team or organisation.

But irrespective of your team or organisation’s chosen path, we propose that there are six principles – made up of two trios – that can help support the ways in which companies adopt and integrate new technologies into their workspaces. Following these governing principles, companies should be empowered to make better technology decisions for themselves, thereby boosting the effectiveness of their hybrid collaboration.

The initial trio focuses on technology implementation specifics, while the latter trio encourages a broader perspective. These principles are based on ET Group’s ‘four pillars’ of hybrid collaboration, which highlight the interaction between technology, space, social interactions and organisational paradigms.

Six core principles

  • Principle 1: Unified Platform and Interoperability

To ensure a consistent and frictionless user experience, organisations should opt for a singular unified communication platform for all of their internal communications. Ensure this platform can interoperate with other platforms that your key clients and partners use, thereby facilitating seamless collaboration beyond organisational boundaries.

  • Principle 2: Human-Centered Design

Embrace a human-centered approach to technology design. Acknowledging the diversity of user needs based on their role, location, and relationship to the organisation is critical, depending on how individuals choose to work, how they engage with the technology that you provide will differ.

Prioritise a frictionless, simple, and flexible user experience that fosters inclusivity, paying close attention to video, acoustics, lighting to support clear participation for all. You should also consider the new collaborative practices you are trying to enable and any challenges that your teams currently face with your collaboration to see how you might overcome them.

  • Principle 3: Prototyping and Learning

Don’t skip the prototyping and testing phase! It is important to see new technologies at work in controlled environments. Getting into the practice of testing can increase the confidence with new technologies, not just by IT experts but by a broad spectrum of users. This would allow you to adapt more swiftly to technological advancements and ensuring a smooth transition to broader implementation.

  • Principle 4: Comprehensive Support Programme

Develop a support programme that includes proactive assistance, remote monitoring and specialised help. Technology should serve as a cornerstone of the hybrid work strategy, facilitating collaboration and productivity in diverse settings. This involves not just providing technological support but also supporting employees as they adapt to new teaching and working styles, in order to maximise the benefits of hybrid meeting technology and ensure psychological safety.

  • Principle 5: Awareness and Accountability

Cultivate awareness and responsibility among team members, especially those working remotely, to maintain a high standard of interaction. All the efforts for meeting equity and the like become obsolete if remote participants do not assume accountability for the tech they use. Employees need to grow their awareness for using proper audio and video equipment when working from remote. In addition, using a lack of bandwidth for turning off video should start a conversation on whether the remote setting is the best to use. Add to it the background setting, and you have the ingredients for creating awareness and considering accountability. Encourage an environment where every interaction, whether in-person or remote, is hosted with the highest regard for quality and participant engagement.

  • Principle 6: Embracing the human elements of technology adoption

It’s important to recognize how new technologies affect not just the technical aspects of our work, but also the social dynamics and organizational paradigms that exist within a company. It’s about recognizing that when new tools are introduced, they can and most likely will change the way people interact with each other and how work gets done. By being mindful of these dynamics, companies can proactively navigate the evolving landscape of hybrid work environments. This might include cultivating new ways of managing distributed teams, renegotiating expectations, identifying shifts in power dynamics, and re-evaluating foundational beliefs about work and productivity.

‘Being mindful of these “hidden” interdependencies and impacts on collaboration is crucial…’

To conclude, as we navigate the complexities of integrating technology into hybrid workspaces, these six principles serve as a helpful set of guidelines. They encourage not just mindful technological adoption but also a holistic re-evaluation of working practices, organisational culture and interpersonal dynamics in order to foster a truly inclusive and effective hybrid working environment.

ET Group is a Corporate Member of WORKTECH Academy. This article is the fourth in a series on improving hybrid collaboration. Read the first article here, the second article here and the third here. Contact ET Group to learn more about its ‘Hybrid Orientation Experience’, based around a one-day workshop, that gives companies clear recommendations on hybrid technology strategy. Learn more here.
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