Are we moving towards a digital-led world of work, where offices become focused on people and the head office is digitalised?

Many employers want to impose a stronger level in forcing a return to workplaces but employees are expecting more flexibility in how they work and it has led the shift towards hybrid working. However, can a hybrid model be a success at every organisation?

The counter argument is that there is increasing feedback from employees that they feel isolated and desire stronger social interaction within their teams and companies. They are asking for stronger cultures to be built, far stronger than those which did exist before the pandemic.

EP has long argued that the issue which lies behind the slow return to work has had more to do with underinvestment, over two decades, in internal cultures and team building than with a desire to stay at home. Digital advancement empowered the employee and they have very clearly said that they did not want to return to how work cultures were pre 2020.

The stats from both the US and UK are suggesting that the numbers of employees who believe that they can work from home is in fact increasing despite the above stated feelings of isolation and vulnerability.

So what can be done?

Research is also suggesting that people want more personal service and it is interesting to note that service levels across many disciplines have improved quite markedly in the last year. Service seems to be sitting at the heart of business process once again; both for the client and for internal employees. In fact many companies are asking the question “how do we change the hybrid dynamic and give people – clients and employees – a reason to visit?”

The answer does not lie in mandating greater attendances but in creating new solutions which service to bring people together through choice; it is about creating environments where people do not feel like they are silos and where employees can share knowledge, culture, and find both identity and purpose.
One of the problems has been that too many leadership teams see culture and identity as soft issues when, in truth, they are a central pillar to building success. There is fair and good reason why productivity was falling year on year between 2010-2020 and why people have been hesitant to return to the workplace. If one does not listen to the issues, then one can not blame the growth of hybrid systems – they have been the result of disengaged teams who have asked for better.

The real shift today is that many physical Head Offices have moved online and companies need to reimagine their offices to become centres of knowledge share, collaboration and cultural interaction. It changes the purpose of the office and in the role of digital advancement.

It is obvious that the traditional, command-and-control management style of leadership will no longer work effectively in the modern landscape. It has created its own demise and failure.

Today success will come from those which change and create more agile, open structures which share knowledge openly to build a stronger culture. This is why there is a new balance to be found between a digital centre where knowledge can be found and the office which brings people together to grow, learn and find purpose.

Rather than threatening traditional services, it empowers services to evolve, change and be more productive. Service once again becomes central to making people feel welcome and productive. Leadership teams need to focus on purpose and building teams in a way not seen for many years.

It will need all to think differently but could be the start of a new era.