As we enter the third year of this pandemic, many businesses have made the shift to a hybrid work model – a mixture of on-site and remote work.
There are good reasons for this shift. If executed properly, companies can enjoy a wealth of benefits from hybrid work, including improved efficiency, better employee satisfaction, and even a reputational boost. These benefits explain why 97% of business leaders and decision makers worldwide are comfortable with a hybrid work model, according to a recent survey.
Despite the advantages, actually implementing such a model is a delicate and complex process – with no guarantee of success. “Poor execution of the hybrid work model can threaten a company’s existing culture, endangering their relationship with clients,” said Ian Pascoe, CEO and Managing Partner at Grant Thornton in Thailand. “Moreover, most businesses have no prior experience going hybrid, so the likelihood of making mistakes is high.”
So, how can companies ensure a smooth transition to hybrid work? While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every workplace, it is worth reviewing some key strategies for struggling businesses to follow. The following tips can help your organisation embrace a successful and sustainable hybrid work model, to prosper throughout the remainder of this pandemic and beyond.
Preserve your company culture
It is well known that company culture is crucial for business success, but preserving this culture becomes a challenge when employees begin working remotely. How can business leaders help their staff retain the same shared goals, beliefs, and team spirit after switching to a hybrid work environment?
Benjawan Phinjirapong, Associate Director of Business Consulting at Grant Thornton in Thailand stresses the importance of employees believing in the company’s mission, and feeling personally invested in its success. “With a geographically distributed workforce, business leaders must prioritise well-structured internal communications, whether through weekly video conferencing or in-office meetings, to ensure that your company’s values, mission, and vision are clearly circulated on a regular basis,” she said. “With all employees remaining in regular contact, and closely aligned on shared company goals, your personnel will continue to function as a team, regardless of where and when they work.”
Look after your employees’ wellbeing
Articulating the right culture won’t be enough if the mental health of your employees is not properly addressed.
Although a well-designed hybrid work model should provide more flexibility and alleviate the constant burnout associated with remote work, employers should also consider the many stresses associated with a change in routine. Are the employees ready to return to the office? Will changing employees’ work locations or schedules affect their mental health?
Department supervisors should take extra care to remain supportive, and understanding of their team members’ concerns. “It’s the small gestures that count,” said Ratna Wright, Partner of Business Consulting at Grant Thornton in Thailand. “Ask your team members, ‘what can I do to help you adapt to this hybrid work environment?’ Remember to have empathy, and do everything in your power to understand your team members’ situation. Then come up with the right solutions to help them move forward.”
Kesanee Srathongphool, Audit Partner at Grant Thornton in Thailand, likewise highlights the importance of employee health and wellbeing. “Poor job performance often stems from overwhelming stress and anxiety during these difficult times,” she said. “To foster a positive hybrid work environment, make sure all office staff have access to the resources they need to manage stress and deal with personal issues.”
Invest in the right technology
Communication and cybersecurity are always important, but even more so as team members go remote. Not all companies are ready to rely so heavily on their digital infrastructure – and the consequences of any failure in this area could be severe.
For on-site and remote teams to work together smoothly, companies need to invest in digital communication tools and video conferencing equipment. “Communication technology lets businesses achieve greater productivity at a reduced cost when transitioning into a hybrid work model,” said Adulpol Charukesnunt, Financial Advisory Services Director at Grant Thornton in Thailand. “When employees can reliably gain remote access to their projects, and communicate with each other in real time, that’s when work collaboration starts to become seamless.”
Tanva Mahitivanichcha, Tax & Legal Partner at Grant Thornton in Thailand, points out that cybersecurity and data privacy take on renewed importance as organisations move toward a hybrid work model. “Internal data and client data are especially at risk when companies go digital,” he said. “Investing in top-tier security software can minimise cyberattacks and cyberthreats – dangers that all business leaders should take very seriously.”
Restructuring internal and external operations is no easy task when transitioning to a hybrid work model, as the sheer number of moving parts is often greater than what most companies can handle alone. In such circumstances, a sensible approach to outsourcing can be tremendously helpful in simplifying the transition.
It should come as no surprise that outsourcing has increased during the pandemic. In Thailand, for instance, 46% of the mid-market businesses we surveyed have begun outsourcing various functions of their business, such as administration, sales & marketing, and IT, since the pandemic began.
Jean-Paul Binot, Director of Business Process Outsourcing at Grant Thornton in Thailand, explains the value of strategic outsourcing, as opposed to relying solely on in-house capabilities. “Departments such as human resources and finance can be wildly complex – especially when companies are still settling into their hybrid work models,” he said. “By outsourcing non-core functions, businesses can devote their full attention toward optimising efficiency in key areas, all while reducing costs during this difficult economic period.”
Taking the first step
The hybrid work model is enormously valuable in helping businesses adapt to the current environment. Still, the task of rewiring one’s internal operations is never easy – especially in companies that weren’t designed for hybrid work in the first place.
“A smooth transition to hybrid work will put a great number of businesses on the path to success,” said Chris Cracknell, Chairman of Grant Thornton in Thailand. “To do it right, business leaders should focus on their employees, upgrade their digital technology, and proactively seek outsourcing assistance.”
As a leading professional services provider, Grant Thornton in Thailand can help your organisation make a smooth transition to a hybrid work model. Contact us today, and we’ll show you the way forward.