Prior to March 2020, all work was done in the office. Few companies were pioneering flexible work strategies, and many of us were used to commuting to work five days a week. Of course, this has been turned on its head, and we are now dealing with questions concerning the purpose of the office in today’s modern workplace.
The cost of leasing premises can be a significant part of any organisation’s operating costs and comes with a significant commitment. Lease agreements in Kenya often require companies to sign a six-year lease. In response to the growing interest in hybrid work, Kenyan businesses are increasingly inquiring about flexible office solutions. With this in mind, it is critical for business leaders to define the role of the office in the eyes of their employees.
Purpose and intentionality are quickly becoming one of the most pressing issues that organisations must address in their hybrid work strategies. This is evidenced by Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index study, which polled 31,000 people worldwide and examined trillions of productivity signals in Microsoft 365. According to the index, 38 per cent of hybrid employees are still unsure about why and when they need to come into the office.
This confusion becomes more apparent when less than a third (28 per cent) of respondents say their leaders have a clearly defined team agreement for in-person office visits. With 42 per cent of employees in Africa working remotely one day a week, business leaders need to make the office worth the commute. To do this, organisations need to take a considered approach that prioritises culture.
Data suggests companies are making progress on investments in space and technology, but there’s more work to do on culture.
According to the Work Trend Index, more than half (54 per cent) of leaders are redesigning meeting spaces for hybrid work, or plan to in the year ahead, but 43 per cent of remote employees and 44 percent of hybrid employees say they do not feel included in meetings.
The right cultural norms in an organisation will help to create an engaged and connected workforce. This, however, is not a one-size-fits-all type of solution. Kenyan organisations and their teams will need to experiment with what works for them and formulate their new norms and team agreements. A good place to start is by determining the purpose of the in-person meet. Is it for a formal meeting? Brainstorm? Collaboration? With this clear purpose in mind, teams can determine how often and when they need to meet in-person.
This intentionality also extends to hybrid meetings. According to the Work Trend Index, only 27 per cent of companies have created new hybrid meeting etiquette to ensure all feel included and engaged. Making hybrid meetings a great experience for everyone requires investing in three things: hardware, software, and culture. Start by using existing hardware and augment it with AI-powered cameras designed for the people not in the room.
Adding larger screens to the room can give everyone a seat at the table and create a canvas for collaboration. Using Microsoft Teams, have everyone join the virtual meeting – even those in the room – to create a shared experience. Finally, establishing a set of new meeting culture norms will help everyone feel included and able to contribute.
Adopting a hybrid work strategy requires business leaders to reimagine the role of the office and create clarity around why, when, and how often teams should gather in person. These new cultural norms will ensure the office is additive to the employee experience – helping all employees feel connected, engaged, and able to innovate and do their best work.
Hoda Younan is the Marketing and Operations Director for Microsoft Middle East and Africa