The desire to work from home or from anywhere has only increased as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers. Employees cite a number of reasons why they prefer to skip the office, including cutting commuting times, being more productive, caring for family members and exploring new locations. People are increasingly comfortable with remote interactions and the new technology tools that have sprouted to support the work-from-anywhere trend. On average, employees said they want to work from home 2.5 days a week, according to a monthly survey of 5,000 Americans, while 73% of employees seek hybrid work environments where they have some flexibility in where and when they work.
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant also prevented employers from enforcing a full-time return to the office. As a result, the new normal for today’s workforce will remain hybrid at best—a few days in the office and a few days working at home. We are a workforce in transition. For many companies, this has put an unnecessary strain on their digital transformation initiatives.
A question remains: How can companies continue to innovate and execute on their software development initiatives with their employees separated from their teams and offices? Here are some of my recommendations for helping organizations to continue their software development projects in today’s hybrid work environment:
Hybrid workforces require a highly inclusive environment. As a nearshore IT partner that works with hundreds of clients remotely, we ensure that our teams have the same access to managers, HR and the technology necessary to succeed on projects and to productively engage with clients. For example, we have learned that the best way to be inclusive is to take either an all-virtual or all-in-person approach during client meetings. It’s also critical to train your managers to provide the same advancement opportunities to employees regardless of whether they are in or out of the office. From the executive team on down, everyone needs to support employees, regardless of where they are. The same goes for onboarding new employees and partners—a mostly virtual process over the past 18 months. Increasing online mentoring and onboarding platforms to connect employees and to manage client projects while the workforce is hybrid is another significant approach we have taken to ensure everyone feels included and engaged.
Collaboration and Knowledge-Sharing
Employees were abruptly forced to transition away from the office where they were used to frequent impromptu meetings and lunchroom chats. For many, this shift had a negative impact on brainstorming, collaboration and knowledge-sharing and thus, innovation. We give our teams the flexibility to use different technology tools to make up for what they miss most in an office environment—regular, casual human interactions. Our teams use a variety of communications tools for frequent check-ins to connect with clients and their co-workers. As a result, our people say they are more engaged with team members and clients than ever before. They are doing more impromptu chats and “instant” meetings with colleagues and clients as if they were in the office. We also migrated to video conferencing as our communication channel of choice. Video conferencing tools increase engagement and allow team members to join virtual meetings anywhere from their preferred devices. The ability for teams to interact, share and collaborate wherever they are is essential to developing cutting-edge teams and software.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 34% of employees felt that their supervisors “expressed a lack of confidence in their work skills,” and an even more significant number of workers reported feeling that they needed to be constantly available to prove themselves. Sentiments like these highlight a lack of trust, impacting development outcomes. Employers need to trust that their employees are working diligently and consistently throughout the workday or whenever they can successfully complete the tasks at hand. For example, working remotely allows individuals to work when they feel most productive. Organizations need to recognize individual productivity cycles and understand that different team members may be productive during different times of the day, including outside of normal business hours.
Being transparent, forthcoming and open about expectations are keys to building trust with employees. Successful digital transformations and innovative software development are only possible with the right team and people. From a client’s perspective, these are the types of IT partners they want on their side. Technical aptitude and an environment where all employees feel valued, trusted and motivated to do their best are critical for developing effective digital solutions.
Employees have made it clear that they don’t want to be back in the office full time. For many organizations, a return to normalcy centers on developing a hybrid workforce that can work effectively with digital development partners. Creating the right environment and strengthening employee relationships are keys to ensuring software development projects can continue successfully in today’s new normal.